Hey, MSM! Where were you when Spitzer was merely abusing his power? Posted by: Billy Hollis
on Wednesday, March 12, 2008
It's a natural libertarian impulse to take pleasure in seeing authority-abusing office-holders get brought down. The Spitzer case, though, goes well beyond that. He has been well and truly hoist on his own petard. As a consequence, he's furnished some delicious schadenfreude for people across the entire political spectrum. He's in his own class in that regard; so much so that John Derbyshire came up with the term "spitzenfreude" to describe it.
It appears that nobody really likes the guy, even his nominal allies. Derbyshire says:
It's not just that nobody likes him now; nobody has ever liked him, that I can recall.
There was not one iota of sympathy for our Governor to be found at that table, even among the liberals. Every second person in the neighborhood works on Wall Street — and no one — including the apolitical — had missed the ruthlessness and utter vindictiveness with which he prosecuted minor and ambiguous offenses, and in the process destroyed companies and lives.
That doesn't surprise me. He always struck me as a holier-than-thou, moralizing... well, I'll stop right there before I get too vulgar. Let's just say he's a thoroughly unlikeable cuss.
Journalists have spent the past two days asking how a man of Mr. Spitzer's stature would allow himself to get involved in a prostitution ring. The answer, in my mind, is clear. The former New York attorney general never believed normal rules applied to him, and his view was validated time and again by an adoring press.
. . .
He was the one who deserved as much, if not more, scrutiny as onetime New York Stock Exchange chief Dick Grasso or former American International Group CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg. . . . What makes this more embarrassing for any self-respecting journalist is that Mr. Spitzer knew all this, and played the media like a Stradivarius. He knew what sort of storyline they'd be sympathetic to, and spun it.
I'm too busy to get into an extended debate with the "no, the press isn't biased, they're just sloppy" crowd today. But I'm quite fed up with the malleable principles of the modern mainstream press. They claim it's their duty to be intentionally and consistently adversarial to politicians. When it comes to Republicans, you can bet that take that principle seriously. Yet a Democrat has to get caught with his hand in the cookie jar, crumbs on his face, and a dozen unimpeachable witnesses that will testify that he's been stealing cookies for years before the press seems interested in finding anything bad to say about him.
Why couldn't they have been sitting outside Spitzer's house for days when his cases against various Wall Street types began to come apart?
Unless, of course, it's about sex. Then our mature, sophisticated, cosmopolitan journalists transform instantaneously into circus barkers. They camp out for days to get one more shot of the aggrieved wife. They relish the most sordid details. And, after the, um, orgy is over, the inevitable navel-gazing begins. "Did we go too far? Was our coverage relevant, or just salacious? Whither political journalism?" Which is nothing more than an exercise in self-delusion to make themselves feel better, because come the next sex scandal, they'll be right back at it.
Why couldn't they have been sitting outside Spitzer's house for days when his cases against various Wall Street types began to come apart? Well, that's obvious! He was taking down wicked corporate types! They deserved it! This is the southern sheriff stereotype of "Of course he's guilty... of something." mentality transplanted to Wall Street.
If Martha Stewart deserved prison for her transgressions, which looked rather mild to me, then Spitzer certainly needs to spend some time there too. One gets the strong impression he would have been perfectly happy to serve in various authoritarian regimes in past history. He's not the only one, of course, and such people need deterrence lest they apply their worst impulses. Let Spitzer provide some by example.
The press needs to learn some lessons from this episode also. However, I strongly suspect they will not. The next Spitzer that comes along and jumps on rich people or corporations, no matter how groundlessly, will get them fawning again.
They've demonstrated that they don't really care that much about abuse of political power, no matter how much they claim otherwise, as long as the power is being used against people they don't like. Unfortunately, the next authoritarian politician that "plays them like a Stradivarius" may have enough sense to keep his pants on. That will give him license to abuse power as long as he likes, at least if our vaunted mainstream press has anything to say about it.
You know what the sad part of it all is? All the media is doing is creating an atmosphere that when some power-mad politico goes after them, and tries to curtail press freedoms, I can see lots of people not really caring. These guys have flushed lots of credibility down the toilet....
That newspaper reporters seem to countenance abusive law enforcement practices probably has more to do with reporters’ timid natures and work ethic than any political leanings they might be harboring.
After all, law enforcement agents and prosecutors routinely abuse their breathtaking power under both Democratic and Republican administrations. And they do so without fear of MSM exposure unless and until the Spitzer factor (major league scandal) kicks in.
I retired last year after a 32-year career as a daily newspaper editor and assistant professor of journalism.
Cop/courts reporters typically fall into one of two camps: cop groupies who see their role as helping to take down bad guys or spineless hacks who fear challenging authority would cost them access and make their jobs more difficult.
No better example of MSM complicity in the abuse of power exists than coverage of the Justice Department’s "mortgage fraud crusade."
A mountain of evidence suggests lenders bear the lion’s share of blame for the housing/credit crisis rippling through the economy.
When the market was hot, some lenders routinely OK’d loans without proper underwriting. Some lenders encouraged brokers to operate in procedural gray areas in order to keep the loans flowing and take full advantage of the hot market. Lots of lenders then bundled the untested loans and sold them on Wall Street without disclosing the inherent risks.
Yet the Justice Department portrayed lenders as victims and embarked on a major campaign to demonize and prosecute mortgage brokers, appraisers and others involved in the loan origination process—including many who were simply doing business as usual with no inclination they were engaging in illegal activities. Some brokers were targeted, imprisoned and then sued by "victim" lenders for merely following lenders’ instructions in the preparation of loan documents.
In the course of several highly publicized roundups of loan originators in Kansas City in the summer of 2005, a major "victim" lender in one of the cases, ABN Amro, paid a token fine after conceding its employees "forged" underwriters’ signatures to thousands of loans in at least four states. No criminal charges were prusued against Amro or its employees who forged underwriting documents. No further government effort was made to determine whether of thousands of other loans were mishandled in the other 46 states.
A six-paragraph story about the Amro fine appeared on an inside page of the KC Star’s Business section without any effort to link it to front page stories running almost daily about evil, abusive predatory brokers and appraisers being marched off to prison.
Throughout the crusade, MSM papers around the nation continued printing press releases from U.S. Attorney’s offices feeding the fiction that the fall guys were the true villains.
The upside of the Spitzer affair is that at least one jaded, ruthless, hyper-ambitious prosecutor is about to get a big dose of his own bad medicine.