The Times treated one of its long-time favorite pols, former crusading Democratic governor Eliot Spitzer, as a tarnished knight in a long profile for the front of Thursday Styles section by Jan Hoffman: "Eliot Spitzer's Long, Winding and Slightly Bewildering Road to Redemption."
The former Democratic governor of New York, who pushed for drivers licenses for illegal immigrants as well as gay marriage, gained office by riding a wave of lawsuits against businesses, filed while he was New York Attorney General. But he resigned in disgrace in 2008 after revelations he was "Client 9" in a prostitution ring - a story broken, fair is fair, in the New York Times.
Oddly, the word "Democrat" doesn't appear in this long article on the disgraced former governor of New York. Even taking into account that it's a Style profile and not hard news, that's a major omission.
Here is Eliot Spitzer on MSNBC with the host Ed Schultz, railing against fallen Wall Street titans who regain power ("absolutely insane"). There he is on Fox's "Good Day New York," taking swipes at Andrew Cuomo ("he has to answer the hard questions") and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand ("I don't like politicians who vacillate"). He's lunching regularly at power restaurants like Michael's (telling the waiter, "Silda wants me to have the salad"), holding hands with his wife at charity galas, attending a private salon at Tina Brown's. Writing his twice-monthly Slate column, "The Best Policy." Teaching undergraduates at the City College of New York, lecturing at Harvard about ethics, parsing the meaning of love on BigThink.com.
"Most people faced with that kind of disgrace would disappear off the face of the earth for a longer period of time," said Howard Rubenstein, the public relations impresario. "But there is a lot of curiosity about him. And he is a publicity steamroller" - a reference to Mr. Spitzer's expletive-garnished self-description as a "steamroller." "In time people will remember his strengths and his intelligence," Mr. Rubenstein said, "and what he's showing now: determination."
Eliot Spitzer's swift return to the bully pulpit may say as much about us - a scandal-fatigued public's diminishing expectations of its officials - as it does about Mr. Spitzer's restless inability to stay gone. And though he professes not to have a specific strategy of image rehabilitation in mind, whatever he is doing may be working.
In June, a poll by The New York Times, Cornell University and New York 1 News found that 26 percent of New Yorkers had a favorable view of Mr. Spitzer; only 21 percent held favorable views of his successor, Gov. David A. Paterson.
26% approval rating? I wouldn't print up the bumper stickers just yet.
What remains of Mr. Spitzer's base remains unclear. But as lurid memories of black socks fade, Mr. Spitzer may be the beneficiary of a perfect storm: the populist rage at Wall Street, the troubled administration of Mr. Paterson, and other recent sex scandals.
"There's a dumbing down of our expectations," said Mr. Muzzio. "When you've got Mark Sanford and Rod Blagojevich, and other criminals in state houses, what Spitzer did doesn't look as bad. Given the barrenness of the terrain, he may stand a little taller."
Jeff Greenfield, the CBS political analyst, who is to interview Mr. Spitzer at the 92nd Street Y on May 2, distinguishes the former governor's scandal from the more recent ones, like those of Mr. Edwards. Mr. Spitzer, he said, took swift responsibility and did penance.
"This was legitimately a private failure," Mr. Greenfield said. "A serious one, that made him no longer able to be governor. If he were trying to talk about moral rearmament, it would be appropriate to say, 'Hold it.' But he is talking about how to prevent another financial meltdown, and he's in a pretty interesting position to talk about that."
While the Times was on the alert for sexual hypocrisy, it didn't consider other possible kinds: Spitzer, a man of vast family wealth, lecturing and harassing business while posing as a populist crusader.