Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A tale of two prosecutors

News media bias allowed Eliot Spitzer to thrive politically. Can you imagine if John Ashcroft had acted as publicly hostile to prosecutorial targets and lost so many cases? The difference was that Spitzer is liberal and his targets are hated by the MSM.

On the substance, his court record speaks for itself. Most of Mr. Spitzer's high-profile charges have gone up in smoke. A New York state judge threw out his case against tax firm H&R Block. He lost his prosecution against Bank of America broker Ted Sihpol (whom Mr. Spitzer threatened to arrest in front of his child and pregnant wife). Mr. Spitzer was stopped by a federal judge from prying confidential information out of mortgage companies. Another New York judge blocked the heart of his suit against Mr. Grasso. Mr. Greenberg continues to fight his civil charges. The press was foursquare behind Mr. Spitzer in all these cases, and in a better world they'd share some of his humiliation.

Ashcroft, meanwhile, is a conservative and he has been dogged by the press for nearly every move he made in his public career. Despite this, he was one of the most qualified U.S. Attorney Generals ever and ran one of the best offices ever—something you never read about in the national press.

I know personally the dislike Spitzer evoked. When Jim Ryan was Attorney General in Illinois, other attorneys general at national conferences were united in their disdain for the hyper-aggressive style of Spitzer, who then was AG of New York.

I ran into Spitzer again when U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald invited him to testify at a high-profile committee hearing on insurance industry abuses. He clearly knew the material and talked in a tone of assurance that bordered on frightening. The news media always fawned over him, and talked about him as a future president or U.S. Attorney General.

Now he's just another liberal myth that largely was created and enabled by the news media, as the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel notes in the excellent commentary linked above.

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