Hardballin’ With Eliot Spitzer

Three years ago, metropolitan peoples hopped aboard their stationary bikes, opened up a copy of New York magazine and read the cover story about Gov. Eliot Spitzer, “The Steamroller in the Swamp.” The article’s title derived from an angry boast/threat he allegedly made to an opposing lawmaker. “I’m a fucking steamroller,” he said. “And I’ll roll over you.”

Of course, most assumed that the ‘fucking’ in that sentence was an adjective. But one year and prostitution scandal later, maybe he had really meant it as a verb? (I’m a FUCKING steamroller!) In the wake of his March 2008 resignation, the same magazine had a smiling picture of him on its cover once again, but this time with a red arrow pointing to his junk, indicating in big bold letters where Eliot Spitzer’s brain could be found.

Now it seems that Spitzer has no brain at all. In the years since he resigned in disgrace, similarly shameful governors—David Paterson and Mark Sanford—have clung to power for the entirety of their terms, while U.S. Senator David Vitter, the prostitute-patronizing Louisiana social conservative, is even seeking reelection. (And he’s winning!) There are plenty of politicians who should have packed away their wares but instead hunkered down, hoped they wouldn’t get indicted and hung in there. Spitzer, on the other hand, is left with late afternoon cable television.

Such was the case the Friday before Memorial Day, when the former Governor and one-time “Sheriff of Wall Street” filled in for Dylan Ratigan on MSNBC’s 4 o’clock hour. Spitzer’s been a regular guest since last summer, and a second-string anchor since April. A safety net is present in the form of NBC 4 New York reporter Lynn Berry, but he’s the main attraction. Come and get your news from the man who launched call girl, recording artist and Fox News contributor (!) Ashley Dupré into the national consciousness.

Even with his many appearances over the last year, it’s still kind of surreal to see Spitzer with a bustling newsroom in the background, talking about the news of the day rather than being it. The man was at one time thought destined to be the first Jewish president. Now he has the holiday shift.

The first topic was the BP oil spill and his guests were a scientist and a congressman. Spitzer, who prosecuted the hell out of Wall Street as New York state Attorney General, asks whether BP is trying to hoodwink Washington just like Goldman Sachs did? Pretty easy when BP has spent even more money than Goldman lobbying Congress, huh? And what about the Mineral Management Service—the oil drilling equivalent of the SEC—were they asleep on the job or what? On the screen, a Chyron appears with MMS’s 2000-2008 failings, including “COCAINE & METH USE,” and “PORN AT WORK.”

Whoa: basic cable with the Spitz is a blast! Wonder what it’ll be like when he makes the transition to the premium channels?

But Spitzer hasn’t spawned a spin-off yet, unless you count scripted dramas. CBS apparently has a new hit show in the form of “The Good Wife.” The plot revolves around the partner of a disgraced smooth-talking politician who made said spouse stand by the podium while he talked about whatever wrong it was that he had done to her and, moreover, the great wrong he had done to The People… but mostly, to her. The show was to cast a new light on the growing breed of steadfast-in-scandal American political wives. And husbands. (Here’s looking at you, South Carolina gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Haley!)

It was an extra cutesy dose of realism when an episode alluded to the blog of noted political journalist Ben Smith. They followed it up by giving Smith a bit cameo appearance last month. Such news caused this writer to wonder: “Could The Good Wife be the new West Wing?” What better occasion to tune in and find out? Keyboard at the fingertips, these notes ensued:

Baranski, Margulies and that guy from Sports Night (another Aaron Sorkin show). Hey, the black dude from Spin City! OK! We’re covering all the bases of turn of the century political TV here! Floor-to-ceiling glass walls, wide shiny hallways, TEQUILA! Chris Noth, Alan Cumming. “Obama White House.” That bit actress from True Blood/Arrested Development. Computerszs. Tipsy bar slouching, TEQUILA! Cell phone. “Rebang.” “Merger.” WHOA NAKED DEAD WOMAN HANDCUFFED TO A GUY’S ANKLE. Commercial. Courtroom. HEY! Ben Smith is sitting next to Alan Cumming, and then the camera quickly cuts away. Merger-blah-murder-ENHANCEENHANCE. Remote control—click.