Trusting in Spitzer


While this city’s reporters continue to whine on about why they don’t like Howard Dean while feebly raising the prospect of a presidential run by John Edwards, a new Democratic political hero begins to emerge.

His name is Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York, who is often viewed by professional politicians as the next likely governor of the state and sooner or later a presidential candidate. Just who is Spitzer? At a packed National Press Club appearance recently, the attorney general came on as a new Teddy Roosevelt, the legendary tamer of trusts. Spitzer already has won victories against investment bankers, the mutual fund industry, drug companies, and the insurance industry. He has even been asked to take a fresh look at 9-11.

Recalling Teddy Roosevelt’s stance of 100 years ago, Spitzer told his audience, “What we have on one side is a business leadership that cloaks itself in the language of the free market, but really wants to preserve an ossified system, and they want to act against those who really support competition, transparency, and integrity.” This is a message that Democratic politicians have shied clear of issuing, save during moments of desperation.

Of course, there is another way to look at TR, and that is as a president who made possible the rise of the modern business conglomerate, putting down small holders in favor of supposedly more efficient large-scale industrial enterprises. It can be argued that TR’s efficiency ideas resulted in some of the worst environmental nightmares of the 20th century, as mining, timber, and railroad giants laid waste to the continent.

Additional reporting: David Botti and Nicole Duarte