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Eliot's Mess

For most of this decade, Eliot Spitzer has been one of the liberal media's favorite public servants. Before being elected governor of New York in a landslide in 2006, he was hailed as the nation's most powerful state Attorney General, the scourge of high finance. At "60 Minutes" on CBS, he was the "Sheriff of Wall Street." In the pages of Time, he was on their list of "Heroes and Icons" as "The Tireless Crusader."

While Spitzer was toasted by the national media elite for pursuing Wall Street chicanery, he'd also prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state's organized crime task force. The New York Times recalled Spitzer "spoke with revulsion and anger" over a high-end prostitution racket uncovered in Staten Island in 2004.

How ironic that the Times would break the story that federal authorities had caught Spitzer on a wiretap, involved with a very high-priced prostitution ring called the Emperors Club. He was suddenly known simply as "Client #9." On a business trip to Washington last month, he registered at the posh Mayflower Hotel under the name "George Fox" (a donor of his) and arranged for a call girl to meet him there in a room on the eighth floor.

Spitzer's adulterous transaction had a juicy, horrible twist: it ended a few minutes into Valentine's Day.

The cable news channels kicked into gear, with anchors mostly carrying a tone of disappointment at the wrongdoing. Then the liberal pundits began spinning furiously. Start with James Carville, who quickly suspected a vast right-wing conspiracy on CNN: "I smell a rat here! This thing has gone really overboard. I wonder who is behind the information."

When Wolf Blitzer protested that Spitzer had done something illegal, Carville stepped into overdrive, spinning that that law-breakers make great law-makers: "A lot of people do a lot of things that are illegal. I don't think this strikes at the core of his ability to serve the state. Okay? Just like I think if someone got a DUI. It's a horrible crime. I don't think they need to resign because of that." And then he went back to imagining nefarious conservative leakers.

Over on MSNBC, Alan Dershowitz raged against American prudishness: "Big deal, married man goes to prostitute! In Europe, this wouldn't even make the back pages of the newspaper. It's a uniquely American story. We're a uniquely, you know, pandering society and hypocritical society, when it comes to sex." Thus, Spitzer's lying and adultery and illegal cavorting with prostitutes across state lines is all America's fault. We wouldn't have hypocrisy if we could just jettison our primitive morality.

Carville and Dershowitz and other liberal adultery-dismissers were quite clear that the worst thing wasn't Spitzer's behavior. It was, to quote Carville, "all these moralizing and self-righteous jerks on TV" suggesting Spitzer had crossed an ethical line.

The Democrats were elected in 2006 running against a Republican "culture of corruption," claiming this kind of corrupt financial and sexual behavior was in the DNA of the Republican Party, and with new sheriffs in town it would be a thing of the past. Now it's not partisan. Then, the networks and the news magazines made Congressman Mark Foley instantly infamous in the last weeks of that campaign for sending inappropriate messages to male teenage pages.

Guess who was a "moralizing and self-righteous jerk" on that scandal? Meet James Carville. On September 29, 2006, there was James on CNN, suggesting the Republican Congress was cooked due to Duke Cunningham in jail, Bob Ney pleading guilty, and "You have got Foley resigning because of that - because, obviously, not allegations, something untoward with a young male, underaged male." He wasn't skeptical of a left-wing conspiracy or partisan glee.

On October 4, he repeatedly demanded on "The Situation Room" and on "Larry King Live" that GOP Speaker Hastert had to resign because he'd failed to expose Foley's behavior. He also mocked Foley going for rehabilitation: "You know, every time these guys go to rehab - you know, I'm 61 and I went to LSU, I've gotten pretty loaded - I have never wanted to hit on a 16-year-old boy, as drunk as I got."

But that's how one treats Republican scandals. How about Democratic scandals? If you rely on the media, you may not even know it's a Democratic scandal. They are once again practicing the infuriating art of dropping the party label out of their reporting. As the story broke, ABC and NBC couldn't even mention the word "Democrat" in their Spitzer stories. ABC put a "D" next to Spitzer's name on a screen graphic. NBC couldn't even do that.

If Spitzer's not going to get an "F" on the media's report card, at the very least they ought to give him a "D" in their story.