OFF THE GRID

God, Rather Than the New York Times, May Have to Save New York State

Mar 1, 10 | 8:18 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Do I have sympathy for David Paterson? Does anyone?

And what of Eliot Spitzer? Practically nobody in the world had sympathy for Spitzer. But now, surely, many people feel that for the sake of the New York State commonwealth, it would have been better to have overlooked his transgressions. From the point of view of the public good, Spitzer’s form of moral turpitude is surely preferable to Paterson’s outright incompetence (not to mention his form of moral turpitude).

It is the New York Times who helped force Spitzer, the elected governor, out of office and made possible the various calamities of the unelected next governor. And it is the Times that has now made it impossible for Paterson to do his job—even if, in fact, he was competent enough to do it. Paterson will shortly have to go, or exist in a grievous power vacuum until his term is up.

From almost any reasonable measure, we are now in a significantly worse-off position then we were before the New York Times turned its attention on the governor’s office.

So how much is the Times to blame for the present mess? What if, for instance, as is reasonable to assume, the Times, with regard to both governors, was the tool of their enemies?

Spitzer was an intemperate and undiplomatic and personally obnoxious threat to some of the most powerful people in the land. Does anyone truly think he was not deposed by his enemies, that the Times was not their tool? And Paterson? He was publicly asked to renounce his candidacy by his own party’s leaders—by the president of the United States. He demurred and, post haste, was otherwise dispatched.

Of course, these two are, like all of us, particularly weak specimens. Still.

My 84-year-old mother doesn’t walk so well anymore and has a home health-care worker who she has become quite dependent on, as the blind governor no doubt became dependent on his aide, David Johnson. My mother says she would push the envelope for her aide, too, if necessary. And, in my mother’s view, there is a churlish unwillingness on the part of a sanctimonious media and public to understand the exigencies of the handicapped. That is a kind of sympathy.

As for Eliot Spitzer, and his penchant for prostitutes, the truth is that if he had been willing to endure another month or so of the rankest humiliation, or if the cheerleader for this daily humiliation, Col Allen, the New York Post’s editor, with his own particular history, had been more sympathetic (or fearful about inviting his own exposure), Spitzer would likely still be governor now.

Anyway, this is a small bit of advocacy for the human, rather than venal, frailties of politicians, and a suggestion that there is a story behind the story of how and why the Times came to dispose of two governors.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.

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OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

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