OFF THE GRID

I’m Loving the Eliot Spitzer Story

May 21, 10 | 7:23 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Eliot Spitzer, when he was a politician, never seemed born to the job. He was impatient, antagonistic, hostile, petty—and public about it. Now that he is as far from being a politician as any politician this side of indictment can be, he seems smooth, deft, canny—a veritable Matisse of the art of the possible.

The latest development is the sudden flurry of rumors—obviously encouraged by Eliot himself—that he might get an anchor job on CNN. If you think about it, disgrace itself might be better than that job. But it’s not the job that’s the point, it’s the sense of possibility and interest and, even, demand—I want my Eliot—surrounding Spitzer.

It’s not about rehabilitation in a classic, dutiful, sense either. He’s not a prosaic comeback kid.

Rather, I think he’s having the time of his life as the most public bad boy in America. Spitzer, with vast personal wealth, a super-striver’s intelligence, and an almost pathological competitive streak, was, for several years, regarded as the nation’s most shamelessly ambitious politician—which is saying something. That was likely part of his problem; he thought ambition was his job. The more he put it on display, the more successful he thought he was. Well, he’s still spit-in-your-eye ambitious—with an even bigger challenge. Before, he just wanted to be the first Jewish president. Now he wants to be the first openly bad-boy Jewish president.


(AP Photo)
 
The playbook for this sort of thing—scandal, that is—is that you isolate it, and, over time, and, in the reflection of good works, hope it seems ever smaller and that people are willing to let sleeping dogs lie. But Spitzer keeps bringing it out, letting people glimpse it, showing it in detail to an ever-growing group of intimates—books, interviews, documentaries. He wants to talk about it.

He is such an egomaniac that he thinks that just because it happened to him it is necessarily interesting, meaningful, and cute.

Or he is so psychologically adept (there are a lot of shrinks in his neighborhood) that he understands if you don’t contextualize the experience and make it your own it will forever haunt you.

Or he is a marketing genius, understanding that there is, in his unfortunate fall, the potential for one of the great shared, humanizing jokes of our time—an ultimate lemonade. (In political terms, you have to seize control of the joke—to be your own punchline rather than someone else’s.)

All American politicians, at their best—and at their most endearing—become as though figures in greater or lesser novels. If not a Jewish president, then, at least a Jewish Willie Stark.

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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