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Left and right agree: Eliot Spitzer must go Update: "At least six years and possibly for more than a decade;" Update: Spitzer plays "Let's make a deal"

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By Michelle Malkin  •  March 11, 2008 04:56 AM

Scroll down for updates…NYPost reporting Spitzer used the escort service at least six years and possibly for more than a decade…”…Spitzer does deal-making before the resignation…

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Don’t miss this campaign ad flashback as Eliot Spitzer follows “Trustworthy Turnpike,” past “Honesty Road” and “Integrity Lane,” ending up at “Responsibility Road.”

Make a U-Turn–and you end up at the Mayflower Hotel.

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1hono.jpg
Cover of today’s NYPost.

A survey of this morning’s lead editorials in the NY press shows a bipartisan consensus: Eliot Spitzer has to go. Both left and right bristled at Spitzer’s brief, arrogant, remorseless, and dishonest statement yesterday apologizing for his “private matter”–a very public matter of alleged law-breaking, breach of electoral trust, and political self-destruction. The NYPost shreds the Naked Emperor. The Newsday concludes: “The decorum of the office can’t withstand this man’s abuse of it.”

The NYDaily News snarks: “Hit the road, john.” And even the NYTimes, which broke the story, acknowledges in its lead editorial that “it is hard to see how he will recover from this mess and go on to lead the reformist agenda on which he was elected to office.”

Spitzer’s got a history of exempting himself from the rules everyone else must follow, and then attempting to downplay his transgressions by classifying them as personal. I found this passage in a New York magazine profile from last July, recounting how he lied about his father financing his attorney general campaign, quite telling:

Spitzer easily won the 1998 primary. In the general election, against incumbent Dennis Vacco, he spent more than $8 million, almost all of which he said he personally lent to the campaign. Vacco suspected that the money from his first campaign and now this one really came from Spitzer’s father, which seemed to violate campaign-finance laws—a family member can’t contribute more than $260,000. Spitzer claimed he’d mortgaged eight apartments his father had given him at 200 Central Park South, a building Bernard developed, and raised $5 million. “No one else has guaranteed the loan,” Spitzer said in an affidavit.

And then, days before the election, Spitzer came clean to the Times. His father had, in effect, financed the campaign. Bernard was really paying off the co-op loans; Spitzer was supposedly repaying his father, which permitted Spitzer to claim the money was technically his. Spitzer said the scheme was legal. If so, he had lawyered election and tax codes close to the line.

Perhaps Spitzer’s clearer infraction, though, was that he misled—some said lied to—not only the public but also his closest campaign aides. “People were disappointed and shocked,” says one aide. Spitzer was remorseful—“He felt bad,” says the aide. He won the election, but barely.

Later, I asked Spitzer, now the state’s ethical crusader, whether he regretted this deception. “I just would have been completely transparent about it,” he tells me. “I didn’t realize how necessary it was to be transparent about every personal financial transaction.” It’s difficult to hear the word transparent and not think that the more precise word is honest. Spitzer once told me that he’d learned at the D.A.’s office there are some fights in which, as he put it, “you can never concede errors because you just can’t do it.” Maybe this is one of those.

Didn’t learn anything from that episode. And once again, he refused yesterday concede the basic public errors and transgressions he has committed. It wasn’t the sex, it was the suspicious financial transactions–and the ABC News report from yesterday is worth repeating:

As recently as this past Valentine’s Day, Feb. 13, Spitzer, who officials say is identified in a federal complaint as “Client 9,” arranged for a prostitute “Kristen” to meet him in Washington, D.C. The woman met Client 9 at the Mayflower Hotel, room 871, “for her tryst,” according to the complaint. Client 9 also is alleged to have paid for the woman’s train tickets, cab fare, mini bar and room service, travel time and hotel.

The suspicious financial activity was initially reported by a bank to the IRS which, under direction from the Justice Department, brought kin the FBI’s Public Corruption Squad.

“We had no interest at all in the prostitution ring until the thing with Spitzer led us to learn about it,” said one Justice Department official.

Spitzer, who made his name by bringing high-profile cases against many of New York’s financial giants, is likely to be prosecuted under a relatively obscure statute called “structuring,” according to a Justice Department official.

Structuring involves creating a series of financial movements designed to obscure the true purpose of the payments.

As for those few delusional apologists who want to argue that Spitzer engaged in a victimless crime, here are four of Spitzer’s innocent victims. Looking at that beautiful family makes the utter lack of remorse and humility in Spitzer’s appearance yesterday all the more mind-boggling.

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Jules Crittenden can’t help looking at the trainwreck.

Did Spitzer have a taxpayer-funded bodyguard with him? The NYSun:

Governor Spitzer, in the wake of the disclosure that he patronized a prostitute last month, now risks criminal prosecution, legal experts say.

For now, federal prosecutors are likely launching a wide investigation into Mr. Spitzer’s finances to determine whether any public funds, property, or employees were used during any encounter between Mr. Spitzer and a prostitute, several former prosecutors say. The investigation might include establishing whether a taxpayer-funded bodyguard for Mr. Spitzer was present nearby. Law enforcement officials are also expected to try to contact any prostitutes whom Mr. Spitzer patronized, as well as interview Mr. Spitzer’s inner circle about their knowledge of his conduct, former prosecutors say.

The WSJ weighs in:

The stupendously deluded belief that the sitting Governor of New York could purchase the services of prostitutes was merely the last act of a man unable to admit either the existence of, or need for, limits. At the least, he put himself at risk of blackmail, and in turn the possible distortion of his public duties. Mr. Spitzer’s recklessness with the state’s highest elected office, though, is of a piece with his consistent excesses as Attorney General from 1999 to 2006.

He routinely used the extraordinary threat of indicting entire firms, a financial death sentence, to force the dismissal of executives, such as AIG’s Maurice “Hank” Greenberg. He routinely leaked to the press emails obtained with subpoena power to build public animosity against companies and executives. In the case of Mr. Greenberg, he went on national television to accuse the AIG founder of “illegal” behavior. Within the confines of the law itself, though, he never indicted Mr. Greenberg. Nor did he apologize.

In perhaps the incident most suggestive of Mr. Spitzer’s lack of self-restraint, the then-Attorney General personally threatened John Whitehead after the former Goldman Sachs chief published an article on this page defending Mr. Greenberg. “I will be coming after you,” Mr. Spitzer said, according to Mr. Whitehead’s account. “You will pay the price. This is only the beginning, and you will pay dearly for what you have done.”

Jack Welch, the former head of GE, said he was told to tell Ken Langone — embroiled in Mr. Spitzer’s investigation of former NYSE chairman Dick Grasso — that the AG would “put a spike through Langone’s heart.” New York Congresswoman Sue Kelly, who clashed with Mr. Spitzer in 2003, had her office put out a statement that “the attorney general acted like a thug.”

These are not merely acts of routine political rough-and-tumble. They were threats — some rhetorical, some acted upon — by one man with virtually unchecked legal powers.

Eliot Spitzer’s self-destructive inability to recognize any limit on his compulsions was never more evident than his staff’s enlistment of the New York State Police in a campaign to discredit the state’s Senate Majority Leader, Joseph Bruno. On any level, it was nuts. Somehow, Team Spitzer thought they could get by with it. In the wake of that abusive fiasco, his public approval rating plunged.

Mr. Spitzer’s dramatic fall yesterday began in the early afternoon with a posting on the Web site of the New York Times about the alleged link to prostitutes. The details in the criminal complaint about “Client-9,” who is reported to be Mr. Spitzer, will now be played for titters by the press corps. But one may ask: Where were the media before this? With a few exceptions, the media were happy to prosper from his leaks and even applaud, rather than temper, the manifestly abusive instincts of a public official.

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Update: Impeachment?

Update: No resignation today? Plus: How long was Spitzer Client #9?

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