Like everybody else, I’m pretty much assuming Eliot Spitzer will have to resign. But part of me wonders whether he could brazen it out.
News like this is always stunning when people first hear it. After a while, it sinks in and is processed, and people get used to it. In January 1998, when I first heard of what Bill Clinton had done with Monica Lewinsky, I assumed he could not survive. Much of the public did, too. But outrage diminishes as news becomes more familiar.
Spitzer could hang on and see if that happens. It probably would. So could he pull a Clinton?
Clinton was not accused of an underlying crime. While he maintained that he did not lie under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky — he has never to this day admitted that — his defenders argued that everybody lies about such things. Spitzer, however, has apparently committed an underlying crime, albeit one that is, if initial reports are to be believed, seldom prosecuted. If Spitzer were not indicted, his defenders could argue that he has not been charged with any wrongdoing. If he were charged, his defenders would argue that he was being selectively prosecuted. Neither argument is easy, but neither is impossible.
Of course, even if Spitzer is not prosecuted, the people who ran Emperors Club VIP are being prosecuted, and even a cursory reading of the complaint and affidavit made public today suggests that the feds have a lot of sordid information involving Spitzer. Unless there’s some sort of plea deal, the defendants in the case will go to trial, and who knows what might come out at those proceedings? So new details might make staying in office more difficult.
Still, all of that might be survivable, were it not for Spitzer’s biggest problem, at least from a political perspective: He doesn’t appear to have any friends. There’s no way Clinton could have survived if he didn’t have defenders who were willing to sacrifice their own credibility to defend him. Spitzer might make it if some prominent allies were willing to throw their bodies in front of a train for him. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.