Skip to comments.Ex-friend tries to explain Spitzer
Posted on 03/09/2010 5:42:46 PM PST by neverdem
A new book by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s ex-best-friend offers to fill a gap that has frustrated analysts of Spitzer’s aborted career: A grand unified theory of Spitzer’s spectacular fall, which ended with his resignation and disgrace nearly two years ago. Three years earlier, as Spitzer was cruising toward the governorship, Constantine had been a behind-the-scenes figure and a sought-after quote for reporters seeking to deepen the public understanding of a politician who seemed built in only two dimensions, intense and driven but lacking in an ounce of doubt or neurosis. That was an image Constantine, at the time, shared. Spitzer “never thought it would come out and had it completely compartmentalized,” said another close associate, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity, but who offered the more conventional theory that Spitzer had difficulty adjusting from being a freewheeling, independent Attorney General to a governor dependent on a strong, hostile legislature.
Lloyd Constantine, a Spitzer mentor who became a close friend and top deputy, believes that Spitzer’s “compulsion” to use prostitutes began to twist his friend’s character during 2006, the year he was elected.
Spitzer came to office knowing he was doomed, according to Constantine, and acted irrationally from the moment he arrived - his time in Albany punctuated by bad decisions, strange outbursts, and a lingering sense of shame that could only be explained by the illicit liaisons
“The secret things Eliot had been doing and [the] certainty that Eliot understood that they inevitably would come to light and bring him down, and all of us with him, had been steadily dripping venom into his mind,” Constantine writes.
This altered personality transformed “the brilliant, dedicated and decisive man I had known and loved for more than a quarter century” into someone he called “the Imposter.”
The recent presidential campaign was a stark reminder of the importance of leaders’ private character in the public world. Hillary Clinton and John McCain were defined publicly, to a degree, by their private flaws and John Edwards destroyed himself in covering up a private sin. Constantine’s book is an ambitious, though not always convincing, attempt to explain another great political fall, and to understand the connection between private and public lives. “Journal of the Plague Year” is due out Tuesday from Kaplan Publishing.
The book has ended the friendship between the two men that began when Spitzer, during a summer vacation from Harvard Law School, was Constantine’s intern at the office of the New York State Attorney General, where Constantine was a top aide.
Spitzer later used a perch at Constantine’s successful anti-trust litigation firm to run for governor, and brought Constantine into his administration as a senior adviser with a special responsibility for a cherished project, higher education. The two men were tennis partners and family friends, two tightly-wound, athletic, generally unreflective lawyers at the very top of their game. And when Spitzer learned that his use of prostitutes would become public, he asked Constantine to call him.
“As of now you are my counsel,” Spitzer told him tearfully, Constantine writes. “I have to resign.”
“He’s very smart, but he’s very simple,” he told this reporter of Spitzer in February of 2006. “There’s a kind of tedium and boredom about him. He always orders the same thing at restaurants. We play tennis. He serves and volleys. Hard serve and he comes to the net. If I pass him five times, he’ll come a sixth time.”
Constantine doesn’t think he was deceived: He believes Spitzer changed.
“Although I don’t know and haven’t asked, exactly when his patronage of prostitutes had begun, he must have been engaging in this conduct throughout 2006,” Constantine writes. “I ‘know’ if for no other reason than because of a distinct personality change that I and others close to him noticed throughout that year, his last as attorney general.
Constantine writes that this altered personality, “the Imposter,” manifested itself in various ways. There were wild bursts of temper, with Spitzer shrieking at one point that he would fire Constantine and most of the rest of his senior staff, and another time berating the state’s respected Chief Judge, Judith Kaye.
Other times, Constantine recalled in an interview with POLITICO from Punjab, where he is currently on vacation, there were equally bad days when Spitzer was strangely “serene.”
Most strikingly, Constantine writes, there was what he saw as unearned bouts of public shame, most strikingly when he responded to what Constantine – as combative a trial lawyers as his friend – sees as a lame and flawed report from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on a scandal over the Spitzer Administration’s use of the State Police to keep tabs on a political enemy. Constantine argues that the report basically exonerated Spitzer.
“His embrace of the Cuomo Report had been total, unconditional, and shamefaced,” Constantine writes. “It should have been technical, lawyerly, and aggressive.”
The latter would certainly have been more in character.
The consequence of Spitzer’s demons, Constantine argues, was an administration off-kilter, and on fast-forward, rushing to complete initiatives on issues like the environment and housing, as though the governor knew he didn’t have 8 or 12 years, but only one or two.
“Eliot had to have known that the day of reckoning was nigh,” Constantine writes. Spitzer spent the final months of his administration “sprinting, and a good athlete like Eliot doesn’t sprint unless the finish line is in sight.”
Many in Spitzer’s circle don’t buy Constantine theory linking the former governor’s difficult months in office and the scandal that brought him down.
Spitzer declined to comment on Constantine’s theory, but the associate said the governor’s circle views it as “b.s. unfair amateur psychoanalyzing” and the book as a strange ego trip aimed at excusing Constantine of blame for the whole train wreck.
The evidence is also mixed on the theory, and particularly on the question of whether Spitzer in fact began seeing prostitutes, or began seeing them more, in 2006, something Constantine seems to attribute in part to his having given up tennis for the busy campaign. But another forthcoming Spitzer biography, by Fortune editor Peter Elkind, will reportedly assert that Spitzer saw prostitutes earlier and more frequently than previously known.
The behavior was consistent with a consistent pattern in Spitzer’s character: An enormous appetite for risk. From his high-profile confrontation with titans of finance to his haphazard, unvetted choice of David Paterson as his lieutenant, Spitzer always seemed willing to calmly bear the chance of things going horribly awry.
Now Spitzer has returned to a semi-public life, though he recently told Time that he won’t put his family through a political campaign, something associates say he’s considered. He’s been trying to retain a kind of measured privacy, and reacted with fury to reports of Constantine’s book, whose content came as a surprise to him.
According to Constantine, the two men last spoke after Spitzer read about his forthcoming book in an interview in the New York Post that Constantine had expected to be on a different topic.
“Eliot was livid, and I think justifiably so,” said Constantine. “You dumb f--, don’t you know if you talk to the New York Post this is going to happen to you,” he told him.“I was ashamed that I had allowed myself to get into that,” he said.
Spitzer reacted angrily to a recent New York Times story about some of the details, and the score-settling, in Constantine’s memoir.
“What Mr. Constantine has written is little more than a self-serving and largely inaccurate interpretation of events mixed with unfounded speculation,” Spitzer said in a statement, appearing to reject the book’s thesis (though he wouldn’t elaborate in an email to POLITICO).
“That such a close adviser and confidant of my family and member of my administration would choose to write such a book is a fundamental breach of trust.”
Constantine, who writes that Spitzer was his “closest friend,” said he still hopes their friendship revive, and said that he’s in indirect touch with his old friend through their families, “like the kind of communication that goes on between Israel and Yemen.”
“I believe that when the dust settles he’ll understand that his was an act of love,” Constantine said in the interview. “It would be tough love, but it’s an act of love in a way. I felt loving as I was writing it.”
A new book by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s ex-best-friend offers to fill a gap that has frustrated analysts of Spitzer’s aborted career: A grand unified theory of Spitzer’s spectacular fall, which ended with his resignation and disgrace nearly two years ago.
Three years earlier, as Spitzer was cruising toward the governorship, Constantine had been a behind-the-scenes figure and a sought-after quote for reporters seeking to deepen the public understanding of a politician who seemed built in only two dimensions, intense and driven but lacking in an ounce of doubt or neurosis. That was an image Constantine, at the time, shared.
Spitzer “never thought it would come out and had it completely compartmentalized,” said another close associate, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity, but who offered the more conventional theory that Spitzer had difficulty adjusting from being a freewheeling, independent Attorney General to a governor dependent on a strong, hostile legislature.
© 2010 Capitol News Company, LLC
Spitzer is a WATCHER of others.
Where are the films? Albany?
Nah, he was just a horny ba$tard.
Deja vu all over again in N.Y.? Massa's 29th CD
FReepmail me if you want on or off my New York ping list.
Wow, it looks like Constantine delivered quite an “Et tu?” back stabbing!
Thanks for the ping!