With Eliot Spitzer’s surprise announcement that he’s running for New York City Comptroller, the Big Apple now has two disgraced former politicians running for office this Fall. What’s next? Bill Clinton deciding he’d like a shot at Manhattan Borough President?
If nothing else, having two disgraced politicians affords New York with a new branding campaign. I’d suggest a riff on the Beach Boys’ classic, and opt for: ‘Sleaze City, USA.’ Featured lyric? “Two sleaze balls for every voter.”
Speaking of branding, image and reputation, what do the Weiner/Spitzer reincarnations say about the men, the city and society in general?
Americans have always loved second acts in life (someone who enjoys a meteoric rise, self-destructs and then, somehow, some way, rises again like the mythical Phoenix).
And, politics is chock full of examples.
Richard M. Nixon’s career was considered dead and buried after he lost the California gubernatorial election in 1962. But, he reinvented himself, and went on to win the presidency in 1968 and, again, in 1972 (before signing off on the wire-tapping of Democratic Campaign Headquarters in Washington, D.C.’s Watergate Hotel).
And, Ronald Reagan who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1968 and 1976, was considered too old to be considered for the 1980 nomination. We all know what happened in that instance.
Of course, Nixon hadn’t sexted topless photographs of himself to young women (and, ugh, who would want to see Dick Nixon’s flabby upper torso in the first place?). And, the erstwhile screen star, Ronnie, was a devoted hubby to wife, Nancy, who was more familiar with script girls than call girls.
So, politics has a long-standing tradition of second acts. Whether we’ve just witnessed a broadening of the definition to now include documented sexual hijinks remains to be seen. But, if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet against either Weiner or Spitzer.
Despite their oh-so-public flaws, they’re both brilliant orators with razor-sharp minds. And, New Yorkers like their politicians to be larger than life (Think: Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, John Lindsay and even Mike Bloomberg).
It may not be right, but the Big Apple is THE single best venue for a disgraced politician to open a second act in politics. After all, City Hall is just a few miles from Broadway.