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Why Libertarians are Dancing on Spitzer's Grave

Eliot Spitzer has been brought down for a crime most libertarians don't think should be a crime, by federal prosecutors who should not be involved even if it were a crime, and using techniques, such as enlisting banks as government watchdogs of private behavior, that stretch the Fourth Amendment almost out of recognizable shape.  So why are we libertarians so happy?

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.

As I wrote before, the real crime here is that despite all his history, he was until two days ago a press darling labeled as "Mr. Clean."  In reality, he has always been Mr. Abuse of Power and Mr. Personal Vendetta.  I am happy to see him brought down, even if for the wrong reasons.

Update: A lot more here

Posted on March 11, 2008 at 01:22 PM | Permalink

Comments

live by the sword, die by the sword.

i have little doubt that the details of this investigation that are surfacing so quickly and splashily in the media are the result of leaks and positioning by spitzer's enemies, who are legion.

he has certainly done the same to his opponents/targets in his time, so i agree, it is difficult to muster much sympathy for him now.

Posted by: morganovich | Mar 11, 2008 1:51:12 PM

Living out here on the Left Coast, I had no idea that Spitzer was the thug that he was. He makes Tail Gunner Joe look like a piker. Sometimes a little vigilante justice is a good thing!

Posted by: Doug | Mar 11, 2008 2:29:35 PM

"Eliot Spitzer has been brought down for a crime most libertarians don't think should be a crime"

What non-crime are you talking about - laundering money? I think you mean buying sex which Libertarians seem really keen on legalizing. In fact, the thing I associate Libertarians most with is legalized prostitution and legalized drugs. I think Libertarian's biggest philosophical problem is that they can't understand or at least don't seem to really accept the idea of a community wanting to have some say in the way that most of them want to live. Yes, yes it is going to happen anyway (sex, drugs, and maybe even rock 'n roll) just like theft, fraud, and murder. Now that we have legalized pornography and have franchised or sanctioned other forms of essentially anti-social behavior we can see the tip of the "as long as you don't bother anybody else" Libertarian iceberg.

Posted by: Rocky Mountain | Mar 12, 2008 10:18:52 AM

Rocky, I understand the idea of a community wanting to have some say in the way that that community wants to live. I just think that that idea is wrong. Individuals should be able to decide how they want to live. It is also not the Federal government's job to decide on these types of community issues. Even if individual communities have the right to make these kinds of decisions. It should be a lot easy for other individual communities to legalize drugs and prostitution.

Posted by: States-Rights | Mar 12, 2008 10:54:52 AM

I guess it all comes down to how one defines "community." If you're actually in the Rockies, and I'm in Manhattan, are we in the same community? Do you really give a damn who I sleep with all the way across the country? Should I really care about what you buy for consumption in your home 2,000 miles away?

Posted by: M. Hodak | Mar 12, 2008 9:08:35 PM

What is the Libertarian (or libertarian, if you'd rather) position on hypocrisy? From my reading of the news, it looks like he is in trouble for money laundering (taxpayer's money?) not prostitution.

But in any case, hypocrisy is the crime he committed and the situation is a lot like nailing Capone for tax evasion.

Posted by: Larry Sheldon | Mar 15, 2008 9:13:47 AM

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