Did AIG, the insurance company that got over $100 billion in bailouts, play a role in bringing down Eliot Spitzer?
Nov 3, 2010
"Client 9": The Eliot Spitzer case: How we were bamboozled
An intriguing new movie dissects the thicket of money, lies and rumors around the governor's downfall
By Andrew O'Hehir
Perhaps you've noticed this lately: It's remarkably easy to distract people from substantive issues by telling them entertaining stories, whether or not they bear any relationship to the truth. (E.g.: "The Muslim socialist raised your taxes!" may be a lie from beginning to end, but it has a lot more narrative appeal than "We're the people who let the bankers steal your grandkids' money, and we'd like to do it some more.")
Unfortunately for former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the stories his enemies got to tell about him were true, at least in part. But the fact that Spitzer must take the blame for his own misdeeds -- and for his hypocrisy -- should not obscure the more important fact that the media and the public got fatefully bamboozled by the Spitzer story. "Politician caught with pants down" and "White knight has feet of clay" are stories we're all drawn to, almost by primal instinct. They satisfyingly confirm all our worst suspicions about human nature. But that primal satisfaction was used, in this case, to distract our attention from the takedown of one of the few American politicians devoted to fighting corporate power and ruling-class privilege, an act that in retrospect looks an awful lot like a political assassination...
As irresistible as the Ashley and Angelina material may be, that stuff is really the icing on Gibney's cake, which is an elegantly told New York fable about a smart, arrogant guy who made a whole lot of the wrong kinds of enemies. "Client 9" builds a forceful, if circumstantial, case around the disclosures that led to Spitzer's downfall. Avowed Spitzer haters like investment banker Ken Langone, former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg and ex-New York Stock Exchange head Dick Grasso were clearly seeking any opportunity to take the governor down, and Langone has made murky comments to the effect that he knew about the prostitution scandal before the news broke. (See, a friend of his was in line behind Spitzer at the post office ... No, really.)
Notorious right-wing political trickster Roger Stone has claimed to be the initial source who told the FBI about Spitzer's dalliances with hookers (and he's definitely the source of the scurrilous knee-socks allegation). Although Stone was an aide and confidante to state Sen. Joe Bruno, one of Spitzer's biggest Albany foes, Stone says he heard about the whole thing on his own, at random, from a hooker in a Miami nightclub. (Given Stone's background and reputation, that part of the story is strangely believable.) Add up all these billionaires, rogues and past and future indictees -- along with a scandal-plagued Justice Department at the tail end of the George W. Bush era, eager to claim the scalp of a leading Democrat -- and the whole thing looks overdetermined, as the Marxists say.