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Monday, October 4, 2010

Gergen Quizzes Spitzer

On Sunday published an exclusive interview that Eliot Spitzer did with David Gergen. Remember that Spitzer/Parker (or is it Parker/Spitzer) premiers on CNN Monday night at 8.

DAVID GERGEN: You once said your obituary had been written in March 2008. How would you like your public life to be remembered?

ELIOT SPITZER: For trying with enormous passion to influence the course of the state and the nation toward a society that is progressive, based on opportunity, equality, fairness, and decency.

DG: You omitted what’s obviously going to be in the first paragraph.

ES: I had a failing that I acknowledged, confronted, and am trying to move beyond. Whether I will or will not is obviously yet to be determined. But there is a before and perhaps an after.

DG: Is your new TV show a path to redemption?

ES: No. I see it as an opportunity to create persuasive arguments about the direction we should move in as a society. If there is a redemptive consequence, wonderful.

DG: You have said it would be unbearable to put your family through another run for office. Yet friends of yours are quietly promoting the idea.

ES: I don’t think there’s any real close friend of mine who’s been saying that.

DG: So you’ve closed that door?

ES: You never in life close the door. But I would say this: It is not where I am heading.

DG: Do you see yourself as a journalist now?

ES: Over the last 20 years, the integrity of journalism as reporting has been lost. What we now have is journalistic advocacy, which has diminished the quality of news. I will be a commentator who will try very hard to present fact as fact; opinion will be clearly denoted as opinion.

DG: Critics have argued that your selection is bad for TV news, that it rewards vice over virtue.

ES: There are precious few who are pure. I say that not to in any way justify myself or diminish my sense of remorse but, rather, to say, “Okay, I have acknowledged my lapses. If you think I can still offer something, I’ll be happy to try.”

DG: You’ve said that your transgressions did not come from a death wish, from hubris.

ES: For years I had a T-shirt tucked away in the closet that I used to quote to executives on Wall Street: “Hubris is terminal.” I should have worn it. Hubris was a part of it. It was also the human frailty of anxiety that leads one to succumb to certain temptations, even though one knows, without any doubt, it is wrong and it is in public.

DG:You built your reputation on your insistence upon integrity—on Wall Street and elsewhere. How conflicted were you about your own—

ES: —double life? It created enormous tension.

DG: You feared for your family?

ES: Sure. Though the mind manages to diminish certain risks.

DG: Rumor has it that very wealthy enemies of yours hired detectives to pursue you.

ES: I have many wealthy enemies, and I have many enemies who are not so wealthy. They have claimed a role in bringing this to light. Whether they did, I don’t know—and don’t really care. I’ve acknowledged what I did.

DG: Were you set up?

ES: I wasn’t set up. One is set up when one is charged improperly with having done something he didn’t do.

DG: Are you at peace now?

ES: One never leaves behind the pain that one has caused to loved ones. Somewhere further down is the cost to career.

DG: Let me go back to your family. How do they feel that in effect your life has been semi-fictionalized by a popular television show, "The Good Wife"? Many people will think that it’s built on your experiences.

ES: We just ignore it. I mean, not to be someone catty, [but] there’s not much I can do. We just basically sign off on that stuff.

DG: What’s been the secret to repairing your marriage?

ES: I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate in having a wife who is loving, caring, forgiving—far beyond what I’m entitled to. She has been criticized for that, which has been hurtful to her. But she has shown remarkable fortitude and charity.

DG: There are those who argue that time in the wilderness can be productive for someone in the public arena.

ES: You learn more by losing than by winning. If you win, everything is glorious; one’s own brilliance has been proven again. Losing and being forced through a period of self-examination is useful and important. It’s easy to ignore the private side of life when one is in the public arena, because the constant drumbeat of the media overwhelms the things that ultimately matter much more. It’s a cliché, but the moments that really matter are the ones with the kids.

DG: Have the last few years made you humbler, more forgiving?

ES: The short answer is yes. The more subtle answer is that the image of me as attorney general—that I would come into Wall Street and say, “Here are the rigid rules! Boom! You are damned!”—was a caricature.

DG: What do you say to Americans who have been watching failures in the corporate world and in politics?

ES: Our plutocracy has failed. Every society has a plutocracy, a structure of decision-makers across institutions—private sector, public sector, not-for-profit, religious—and we have lived through a 20- or 30-year period where the social contract has fallen apart. In the ’40s and ’50s, there was a sense of responsibility that no longer exists.

DG: How do we find our way back?

ES: We need a Barack Obama. I don’t say this as an endorsement of him, but we need someone who speaks with the stature he had when he was campaigning in ’08 to say, “Here is what we owe each other.” That’s what Ronald Reagan did. There are certain remarkable leaders who project that capacity of social purpose that we have lost.

DG: You’ve criticized President Obama for not doing enough to change how Wall Street operates.

ES: He needs to bring in more creative vision. I would have loved to see him bring in [former Federal Reserve chairman] Paul Volcker as Treasury secretary. Volcker is a person of integrity and trust; he also has the stature to say, “Here’s what we have become. The financialization of our economy was ultimately destructive. The creativity that we see on Wall Street was a remarkable exercise in intellect but not in asset allocation.”

DG: There must be things you wanted to do as governor…

ES: It would be hubris on my part to say, “If I had been there…” What I wish I had done—as attorney general—was speak with a louder voice about the structural flaws I saw. The conflicts of interest inherent in the structure and centralization of decision-making on Wall Street led to fundamental fissures and violations of fiduciary duty that permitted enormous wealth to be created by those who were at this vortex of control of capital. But they did not ultimately benefit those whose capital they were playing with—the pension funds, the individual investors, the mutual funds. Or our economy.

DG: Martin Luther King Jr. biographer Taylor Branch once told me that King took great chances in his public life because he wanted to atone for the inner issues he was struggling with.

ES: That’s interesting—he felt compelled to push hard in order to seek the redemption he believed was necessary. That’s the great tension: We are better at understanding morality than we are at living it. And that may be one of the great—

DG: —curses—

ES: —of humankind. I’m not aware of any other species that even has a moral sensibility. So we are blessed in having one but cursed in our inability to abide by it.

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Anonymous said...

Another failure for CNN. How come Klein
wasn't fired for coming up with this disaster?
Spitzer will be canceled within 6 weeks.CNN's
bread and butter is news and they need to get
back to doing real news real soon.An ideologue
hour with different player will not work. You
don't give someone like Spitzer the lead
show in prime time on CNN.

Anonymous said...

CNN should have hired the kids from Vanguard.
They are journalists who understand the digital
age and have delivered some of the best docs
hands down. Watching a blank screen is better
than Parker Spitzer. It is hard to take CNN
seriously with this show.

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to like Ms Parker. I think she resonates somehow with viewers more than Mr.Spitzer.
She has a certain charm and wit and keeps her cool.
Spitzer needs to stop commanding the stage and talking over her.

Anonymous said...

The show is horrible and CNN had no room
for error. For once CNN try to do a show
that is not about left vs right. It is a real
shame when Countdown has more news
than the 8 pm show on CNN. You just don't
give these 2 people a show on CNN. MSNBC
is giving CNN a royal butt kicking. MSNBC
has better show opens, modern graphics
and doesn't have a bunch of junk on the
screen.CNN can't afford to stick with Parker
Spitzer long term. They keep falling behind.
Maybe CNN should go for the Morning Joe
executive producer or Bill Wolf from TRMS.
CNN could really use some creativity now.

Anonymous said...

It serves CNN right for going with partisans
and pundits.CNN needs to focus on its news
operation before it is too late. People turn
to CNN for news. That is the strength of CNN.
Prime time is pretty bad on CNN. Not live for
3 hours and just talk. Why does CNN insist
on banging it's head up against a wall.CNN
is losing viewers because they are not worth
watching.If you watch CNN you don't learn
anything other than what people think. How
is that good tv.It ends up being no tv since
tv is a visual medium.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this show is that it is nothing
new for CNN.FNC & MSNBC have moved on and
CNN is stuck in the 90's. You have to constantly
upgrade your product and CNN has failed to do
this and it shows. The news is dated, the formats
are dated and CNN is stuck in an ideological
universe that is out of whack.It It is recorded
and heavily edited sot that tells you that this
show is show bad they have to edit it to make
something. Not a good sign.

Anonymous said...

Total misread by CNN here. CNN managed
to convince itself that the reason the ratings
were falling was tied to opinion and nothing
else. Wrong, it is bad shows. The promo alone
for Parker Spitzer is a huge turnoff. When
Spitzer says we can have a conversation. I
find myself asking what about viewers.It
is the latest of CNN going with people who
are too full of themselves. Enough already
CNN.CNN thinks it is more important than
the news and turning the CNN lineup into
HLN in prime time is a huge mistake. Just
look at the ratings for HLN. Nancy beats
CNN because the show on CNN for the
hour is that bad. Next colossal failure :
Piers Morgan unless the suits stop it
before it happens.

Anonymous said...

CNN for your own good just stop before it is
too late. The debut of Parker Spitzer could
not even beat John King. Not a good sign.
I have a feeling this show will drag CNN
down and before too long will be drawing
less than 300,000 viewers. I have a question.
Why did CNN give Spitzer such a coveted
time slot since he has zero tv experience
and is a disgraced politician. CNN just keeps
making it bad al by themselves. FNC and
MSNBC are just standing by and watching
CNN burn. Tell me they are not dumb enough
to stick with Jon Klein's plans. Somebody
needs to put out the fires like now.

Anonymous said...

Not long ago CNN announced that they
hired Kaj Larsen on AM. He was filing
reports from Pakistan. You could tell
Candy Crowley was impessed with his
reports by the look on her face and
that is saying a lot considering she
is regarded as one of the best writers
in news. Why not hire the rest of the
team and get a new series going. Right
now you could hire them and have docs
ready to go at the beginning of the year.
All of the correspondents for Vanguard
do excellent work and it is not the norm.
Vanguard is truly topics you won't see
anywhere else. The only thing is they
are on Current and there is doubt as to
wether Current will even be around
much longer and some really good
journos will be up for grabs who are
multi platform journos.

CNN does need something radical like
Infomania at 8.If Conor Knighton &
CO is not a radical change from all
the other offerings for the hour. I don't
know what is. Infomania can easily be
turned into a daily look at news and
media. It is an all out media assault
and yes jokes about CNN and the others.
This is another show that can come on
within a short period of time.Brett
Erlich could really spice things of when
it comes to politics and Conor actually
started out doing a segment called
Newsblast that lead to Infomania.Conor
is even the executive producer of the show.
Right from the opening when he says in
the words of people in the media it's
gonna be to the very end is funny and
nothing like what is out there.

Anonymous said...

CNN is responsible for it's own downfall.
Once they went panel crazy it became
toast. Spitzer, Parker and Morgan are
not the right fit for CNN. This could have
all been prevented.CNN waited too long to
fire Jon Klein. The damage has already been
done and no one at the network seems to
have any ideas how to fix it. Given Klein's
track record someone should have stopped
him a whole lot sooner. You just don't dig
a deeper hole for yourself.

Anonymous said...

If you folks are really interesting in the state of cable news, New York Magazine's lead story "Chasing Fox," is now on the news stand. Very interesting behind the scenes look.
It seems Jon Klein renewed his contract just this past June, and thought he was "safe." I guess renewing might mean more money, but it doesn't mean you keep the job.
Klein wanted to keep Cooper, their brightest star on CNN, but couldn't cut a deal with CBS to "share his talents." A must read, for interpretation of reading in between the lines. So it seems that Cooper was left negotiating his own deal with Time Warner.

Heidi said...

It appears that I am in the minority. I liked the show and will continue to watch.

In today's environment, it is refreshing to watch intelligent guests discussing issues in a cival manner.