Quitters Hall of Fame

Mudflats checked out how many other first term governors pulled a Palin and quit:

On a hunch, I reviewed online lists of all the men and women who’ve been elected governor of their state since the year 1900. Pored over them for a few hours. Over 1200 politicians have taken that first-term oath of office. Some soon died in office. Many resigned to accept other positions in government, including Spiro Agnew who was “tapped” by Nixon after being the Governor of Maryland for about five minutes. On a handful of occasions, a first-termer was dragged off to the slammer or impeached. One was incapacitated by a nervous breakdown and one left just as impeachment came knocking on his door. So—how many out of over 1200 just up and quit before the end of their term?

Three: Jim McGreevy, Eliot Spitzer and Sarah Palin.

Sanford Admits Affair

Mark Sanford’s disappearance had the feel of a political novel. Yesterday there was speculation that he was keeping his location secret because of participating in Naked  Hiking Day. While that would have provided new material for the late night comedians, that is far less embarrassing than the truth revealed today that he was having an affair.

Once it was revealed that he was actually in Buenos Aires and that his wife did not know his location it was easy to guess he was on a vacation with a woman. The political consequences are obvious. As Charles Cook wrote, “I think you’ve got one less contender for president.” Whether such an affair should be ignored as irrelevant to the duties of president or seen as a reflection on his character which disqualifies him, there is little doubt that few people other than John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer are  hoping  that Sanford survive this poltically.

David Letterman Responds To Right Wing Smears

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On Monday’s show David Letterman made jokes about Sarah Palin and made a joke about her pregnant daughter. The joke was clearly about Bristol Palin–the daughter who had been pregnant and had recently been in New York publically discussing the topic. (Actually the joke was even more about Alex Rodriguez and his antics with women, but we don’t see Rodriguez protesting the joke.) Right wingers have been spreading outright lies about what Letterman said, claiming the joke was both about rape and about Willow Palin when there is no basis for either claim. More on the topic here.

Sarah Palin, who apparently lacks the intelligence to realize that such right wing smears are not to believed (largely as she has been known to spread a few right wing smears of her own) has picked up this lie. While tonight’s show has not aired yet, Entertainment Weekly is reporting that David Letterman does respond:

Taping tonight’s episode of The Late Show, David Letterman took a few minutes to respond to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who called him “pathetic” in a radio interview after he made her and her family the butt of a recent Top 10 list. The late-night host had drawn particular fire from Palin and some pundits for a joke about one of Palin’s daughters being impregnated by New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez during a trip to Yankee Stadium. Camp Palin apparently took the joke to be a crack against Palin’s 14-year-old daughter Willow, who had recently attended a Yankees game, but Letterman insisted today that the real target was 18-year-old daughter Bristol.

“We were, as we often do, making jokes about people in the news and we made some jokes about Sarah Palin and her daughter [Bristol]… and now they’re upset with me…” Letterman says on tonight’s show. “These are not jokes made about her 14-year-old daughter. I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex of any description with a 14-year-old girl…. Am I guilty of poor taste? Yes. Did I suggest that it was okay for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex? No.” Saying he hopes he’s “cleared part of this up,” Letterman extended an invitation to Palin to come on the show as a guest.

My bet is that those spreading the smear will continue to smear Letterman with their lies about what he has said as this is really not about any belief that Letterman had made jokes about a 14 year old girl. This is really about the desire of the authoritarian right to silence anyone who expresses opposing viewpoints. While Letterman’s jokes were not all in good taste, as he himself admits, late night comics have become a major source of dissent in this country as they mock the establishment, regardless of political party. The authoritarian right reflexively oppose any such questioning of right wing authority just as they opposed exposing how the Republicans lied us into a war and then committed war crimes against prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guitanimo Bay. Spreading lies as they are doing with David Letterman is a typical tactic of the authoritarian right as they wage their battles in this dishonest manner knowing that they have no arguments which can withstand either factual analysis or rational thought.

Update: Fortunately the show did not dwell on giving Palin an apology which she did not deserve as Dave did get in some more jokes at Palin’s expense during the monologue. He said he felt depressed about being called pathetic by Sarah Palin. To get over it he went out and spent $150,000 on clothes, and he does feel better now. He did express some concern about pissing off a hunter.

After returning from the monologue Letterman read the protests from both Todd and Sarah Palin and said he totally  agreed with their condemnation of the types of jokes they described. Then he stated that “that’s not what I did” and proceeded to repeat the actual jokes he told–pointing out that it’s a joke, “that’s all its supposed to be.” He agreed the jokes were ugly and he regretted telling them, but there are thousands of jokes he’s told over the years that he regrets.

I suspect right wingers will be even more upset considering the frequent laughter and applause from the audience as he quoted the unwarranted attacks on him, repeated his actual jokes, and threw in a few new jokes. The funniest part was clearly that Palin and other conservatives were making such a big deal over a couple of jokes. All in all Letterman did a good job of responding to the attacks. He managed to both show respect for  idea of not joking about a fourteen year old while showing well-deserved disrespect for the bogus attacks.

Update 2: In the end I expect both Letterman and Palin to benefit from all this publicity (and expect that Paliln will accept the offer to appear on the show). It may or may not have anything to do with the Palin jokes, but Late Night With David Letterman has moved into first place in the late night ratings.

Update 3: Replies tended to be of two types. Many attacked Letterman because of making a joke about Bristol Palin, often going on to talk about the virtues of Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, or other comedians. While I would prefer that Bristol Palin not be a target of such comedians, the fact is that every one of them has made similar jokes about Bristol Palin. Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson, along with Letterman, have all made jokes about Bristol Palin. It makes no sense to single out Letterman.

This is not really about him telling a joke about Bristol Palin. It is about a smear campaign from right wingers who were first angry because he told jokes about Sarah Palin, and then realized he had also told a joke about Bristol. Attacking him for making a joke about Bristol wouldn’t get much millage, so they invented the false claims that the joke was about rape and that it was about a younger daughter.

Many of the comments concentrated on personal attacks on David Letterman, with them typically being far more vicious than Letterman’s jokes.  Such attacks (which have been deleted) hardly support any attempts to take the high ground against Letterman. It should also be remembered that Letterman’s jokes were just that, jokes, and not the types of personal attacks now coming from the right.

Update 4: Besides what I mentioned in the above update, there is one additional common attack being made on Letterman–claims that the joke is motivated by partisanship and that he wouldn’t make such a joke about a Democrat.  These attacks most likely come from people who 1) don’t really watch the late night talk shows and know what types of jokes are common and 2) buy into the right wing meme of being persecuted.

Letterman regularly makes fun of politicians and people in the pubic eye regardless of party. It certainly is not, as some have claimed, a matter of attacking the children of people he disagrees with.  Bristol Palin has become a common target of comedians because of the humor value, not for partisan reasons. Letterman also tells jokes about John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer, and would have no qualms about telling jokes about a daughter of a Democrat in a similar situation. Letterman, like all the late night comics, thrive on jokes involving sex. Party does not matter here.

Update 5: Sarah Palin Jokes About Willow While Rejecting Letterman Offer

Update 6: Sarah Palin Continues To Drag Daughter Through Mud For Political Gain

Top Ten Highlights of Sarah Palin’s Trip to New York

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNV7V91b8Hc]

David Letterman’s Top Ten List last night was on the Top Ten Highlights of Sarah Palin’s Trip to New York (video above). Conservative bloggers are upset.These are many of the same people who were also upset just because Barack Obama had a date night in New York.

Letterman did go a bit overboard with the slutty flight attendant line, but he is a comedian and everyone knows he is doing biting comedy. Personally I’m bothered more by the crap which comes out of Sarah Palin’s mouth when she is claiming to be serious, such as her comments noted here and here. It sounds (for other reasons) like even Senate Republicans are getting sick of her.

Update: Needless to say Letterman wasn’t scared off from making fun of Palin because of attacks from Palin and a bunch of right wingers. He had a few more Sarah Palin jokes in tonight’s monologue. He did not apologize to flight attendants who do have a legitimate complaint about being compared to Sarah Palin.

One particularly dishonest conservative blogger (who does not deserve a link) isn’t even satisfied with criticizing what a comedian really said and is now attacking Letterman based upon a distortion of what was said–claiming a joke about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy was about raping a fourteen year old.

I imagine that Letterman’s attackers from the authoritarian right share Sarah Palin’s Orwellian view of the First Amendment–that it was intended to protect Sarah Palin from criticism. Their outrage would be far more tolerable if 1) they were honest about it and 2) far worse comments weren’t being made every day on conservative talk radio and on Fox but presented as serious commentary as opposed to jokes.

Update 2: In response to a request from a reader who cannot pick up the video, here are the Top Ten Highlights of Sarah Palin’s Trip to New York:

10. Visited New York landmarks she normally only sees from Alaska

9. Laughed at all the crazy-looking foreigners entering the U.N.

8. Made moose jerky on Rachael Ray

7. Keyed Tina Fey’s car

6. After a wink and a nod, ended up with a kilo of crack

5. Made coat out of New York City rat pelts

4. Sat in for Kelly Ripa. Regis couldn’t tell the difference.

3. Finally met one of those Jewish people Mel Gibson’s always talking about

2. Bought makeup from Bloomingdale’s to update her “slutty flight attendant” look

1. Especially enjoyed not appearing on Letterman

Tuesday night Letterman said that Palin took ride in a sight seeing helicopter over New York and was shooting at rats, that Palin and Rudy Giuliani went to a Yankee’s game and sat in the far right side of the stadium, and that Palin had a tough time keeping Eliot Spitzer away from her daughter. (I only said that his Palin jokes were creating controversy, not that they were particularly funny).

Update 3: Some right wingers are now lying about what Letterman said last night. As I added in response to a comment, this is about defending freedom of speech. Late night comedians are a prominent form of knocking the establishment, regardless of political party. Right wingers are just spreading lies about what Letterman said because they object to such freedom of expression.

Defending free speech does not mean picking and choosing which speech is allowable. Bristol Palin has been making public appearances to speak about pregnancy, including recently in New York, and Palin has made a point of parading her children in public. This makes her fair game for Letterman’s jokes. While this might not be in the greatest taste, his joke was far tamer than some of the jokes about Chelsea Clinton from the right–at a time when she was far younger.

Conservatives must realize that they have no argument here which has led them to see a need to lie about what Letterman said both Monday and Tuesday night.

Update 4: Last night the first comments I saw at other liberal blogs were actually falling for the right wing talking points. I won’t mention them here, allowing them a chance to come to their senses and get over the humiliation of being taken in this way. There are more blogs countering the right wing nonsense today. TBogg writes:

If conservatives want to spend their days and nights waging blog jihad against a late nite comedian, I say let them. It’ll keep them out of gangs and off of drugs (although in the case of mini-Godlstein, elephant tranquilizers might have a much needed calming effect  making him the exception to the rule)  and maybe we’ll have fewer murdered cops and doctors.

I think all reasonable people can agree that would be a good thing.

The Long Goodby writes:

As the whining mobs on the right feign fainting spells in outrage, the rest of us know that Letterman did Palin a favor by adding yet another notch on Palin and the Right’s endless game of Martyrdom. Rather then deal with the issues and Palin’s absurd takes on governance and relevant issues, the Right gets to deflect criticism by citing yet another incident in which poor Sarah was victimized by the media. All the while pretending that the endless jokes directed at former President Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the non-stop, deeply egregious and unfounded epitaphs directed at President Obama mean nothing. The words that come out of Palin’s own mouth are arguably more damning then Letterman’s acerbic sense of humor…

Taylor Marsh just thinks it is absurd to hear “outrage from conservatives over sexism.” The Week provides a brief  report on the controversy which includes a quotation from this post.

Update 5: David Letterman Responds To Right Wing Smears

Update 6: Sarah Palin Jokes About Willow While Rejecting Letterman Offer

Update 7: Sarah Palin Continues To Drag Daughter Through Mud For Political Gain

Deflowerment For Money To Pay For Education

This news report is a natural follow up to the previous post on Etiquette For The Recently Deflowered Girl. The Telegraph reports that a twenty-two year old girl is auctioning off her virginity in order to pay for her education.  She came up with the idea after her twenty-three year old sister paid for her education by working as a prostitute for three weeks. She has received over 10,000 bids for up to $3.7 million.

She does find it surprising that men will pay so much saying, “It’s shocking that men will pay so much for someone’s virginity, which isn’t even prized so highly anymore.” What she might not realize is that the majority of bids are being placed under assumed names by Eliot Spitzer.

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Two Potential Winners From The Blagojevich Scandal

The Rod Blagojevich story is not really the kind of story I like seeing dominate the news as a blogger. The facts appear pretty clear and are covered by so many sources that there is no need for people to read about it in a blog. Even worse from the perspective of blogging is that there isn’t any real controversy here. I think that most people on both the left and right think that Blagojevich should be removed from office, imprisoned, and used as an example of the type of politics that hopefully most people in both parties want to see ended. In some cases a politician involved in a scandal might receive some support from some in their party, but in this case Democrats are offering no support, with Senate Democrats calling on him to step down.

There is one update to my post from yesterday. Rahm Emanuel has denied being the one who gave the FBI the tip on Blagojevich.

Besides the late night comics, I can see two people who might benefit from this scandal:

The complaints that Caroline Kennedy might be appointed Senator from New York based upon her family connections all of a sudden look like far less of a problem compared to Blagojevich trying to sell a seat. Besides, while there is certainly a valid argument here, it also seems less meaningful when we look back at New York’s tradition of electing big names to the Senate, from Robert Kennedy to Hillary Clinton. A Marist poll finds the public to be closely divided between Kennedy and another name-politician, Andrew Cuomo.

The other winner could be Eliot Spitzer. Paying money for a hooker doesn’t seem anywhere near as bad as selling a Senate seat. Spitzer is attempting to regain somewhat to a public role by writing, including as a columnist at Slate. Perhaps he also has dreams of returning to politics. Afterall, sex scandals have not stopped a number of Republicans, as Steve Benen recently pointed out. Spitzer might do well if he could get people to compare him to Blagojevich. Unfortunately Spitzer’s biggest problem is that people are comparing the actual conduct of Eliot Spitzer to the image which Spitzer created, such as in ads like the one I previously posted here.

Spitzer Being Investigated for Using Campaign Funds In Meetings With Prostitutes

Things might be looking worse for Spitzer. While there was never any doubt that he could not survive politically, it is not yet clear as to what legal charges he will face. If this was limited to a victimless crime such as prostitution, and even if there was some technically illegal movement of his personal funds to try to hide this, there might not be much drive for prosecution. We have a totally different situation if this involves funds beyond his personal funds. The New York Times reports that he is being investigated for having illegally used campaign funds:

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Gov. Eliot Spitzer used campaign funds in connection with his meetings with prostitutes, including payments for hotels or ground transportation, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

Prosecutors have asked the governor’s lawyers about the travel arrangements for three trips, including his Feb. 13 rendezvous with a prostitute at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan has also asked about the governor’s use of car services during trips to Washington…

If campaign money was involved, it would expand the scope of a criminal inquiry, because it is illegal to use campaign money for personal expenses. Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, has championed a campaign finance reform proposal for much of his tenure and often excoriated Republicans, saying their fund-raising practices were responsible for the “haze and smog surrounding the capital.”

Several people involved in the campaign said on Thursday that they did not believe campaign money had been misused. Jonathan Rosen, a spokesman for Spitzer 2010, the governor’s campaign committee, and the Excelsior Committee, his political action committee, said neither organization had received subpoenas from federal authorities.

Scandals Great For Comics and Blog Traffic

spitzertgirl.jpg

Scandals and resignations have dominated the news this week. The most prominent was today’s resignation of Eliot Spitzer for having answered the the ad above from the Emperor’s Club and appreciating Kristin’s “refinements.” In addition, Geraldine Ferraro resigned from the Finance Committee of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for her recent comments on Barack Obama and Dawn Wells who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island was arrested for possession of marijuana. I always thought that Ginger was the bad girl.

Spitzer’s sex scandal has been great for late night comics and also great for blog traffic. Jon Swift described What Eliot Spitzer Should Say To Save His Career. The top search leading people to the site the last couple of days has been for “Spitzer Kristin.” Even though this pulled up a picture of Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars and Heroes) in a Google image search, a lot of people still clicked through to the site after seeing the thumbnail of Kristen Bell!

For the benefit of those looking for the Kristen involved in the Spitzer sex scandal, The New York Times has tracked her down and here’s her picture. You decide if it is worth spending over $4000 on her and giving up a promising political career. This just shows how much smarter Bill Clinton was. He got it for free, and remained in office.

kristensttropez.jpg

“Kristen” is actually Ashley Youmans, now known as Ashley Alexandra Dupré, and you can find out more about her at her MySpace page.

Gawker has some clips from Monday night’s jokes by David Letterman and Jay Leno. A clip from The Colbert Report is here. On Monday David Letterman presented the Top Ten Eliot Spitzer Excuses. Number one was ” I thought Bill Clinton legalized this years ago.” On Tuesday he presented the Top Ten Messages Left on Eliot Spitzer’s Answering Machine. Here’s some of the messages:

It’s Barack Obama. Remember our conversation about being my running mate? Nevermind.

Ralph Nader here, glad to hear I’m not the only politician who has to pay for it.

This is John McCain, if it makes you feel better, I once got caught having sex with Lincoln’s wife.

This is Senator Larry Craig. Do you ever go through the Minneapolis airport?

Paris Hilton here. I would have done it for free.

It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thanks, I’m no longer America’s creepiest governor.

Here’s a selection from some of the jokes told the last couple of days:

“You know, I’m a half-full kind of guy. I always try to put a positive spin on stuff. Sure, it’s a horrible story. On the other hand, you look at it this way, he was supporting New York’s number one industry.” –David Letterman

“He went through this call girl thing. … He was known as a regular customer. He was known as Client 9. It looks now like Client 9 will soon be looking for wife number 2.” –David Letterman

“Here’s one that is kind of cute. He would get the hookers, the call girls, the prostitutes, the whores, and he would run them down, put them on the train, Amtrak. Like they need more publicity. And he’d run them down to Washington, DC, and they’d check into a beautiful suite and have the rendezvous at a place called the Mayflower Hotel. Now that’s the difference between a Democratic and a Republican sex scandal. The Republicans have their rendezvous at an airport men’s room” –David Letterman

“Do you know what the highest paid government position in this country is? Anybody know? … It is working under New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. It pays like $5,000 an hour.” –Jay Leno

“As I’m sure you know by now, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has admitted that he was involved in a prostitution ring. Now this is the same man who when he was attorney general went after the prostitution ring. So apparently, it was for not giving him good service.” –Jay Leno

“Well, you know something, this shows you how the whole world is backwards. I mean, you got Democrats. Now, they’re supposed to be poor, right? Don’t Democrats traditionally represent the poor people? They’re paying $5,000 an hour for sex. You got the Republicans. They’re supposed to be rich, right? They’re cruising airport bathrooms trying to get it for free. What’s going on?” –Jay Leno

“The really ironic thing about this case — today, the hooker said Spitzer was done in a New York minute.” –Jay Leno

“Do you ever notice politics is the only profession when a guy gets caught with a hooker, the wife has to stand by his side. You know, if this guy was a plumber and he got caught with a prostitute, he’d have his wife’s SUV tire tracks over his head.” –Jay Leno

“It’s just mind-blowing that he spent $4,300 on a hooker. It just shows how high the cost of living is in New York. That same hooker would cost $50 in Newark.” –New York comic Lisa Landry

The New York Times reported that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was a customer of a high-end prostitution ring, that the prostitutes knew him as Client #9. Client #9, yeah. Not surprisingly, clients one through eight were Charlie Sheen.” –Conan O’Brien

“Here’s what happened, it was one of those sting deals. And they caught Eliot Spitzer, Gov. Spitzer, with a wire, recording him soliciting a prostitute. And I’m thinking, ‘Holy cow, we can’t get Bin Laden, but we got Spitzer. We got Sptizer.'” –David Letterman

“The thinking is the governor may step down now to spend less time with his family. The good thing is, he was caught soliciting a hooker, but on the bright side, it did not involve an airport men’s room.” –David Letterman

“The New York Times says that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is linked to a prostitution ring. … Gov. Spitzer, this is the latest, responded, just a few hours ago. He said, quote, ‘I violated my obligations to my family and I violated my sense of what is right and wrong.’ … Spitzer also admitted violating someone named Amber.” –Conan O’Brien

“Spitzer held a brief press conference yesterday, where he apologized to his constituents and to his family. He didn’t take any questions but retreated to the privacy of his home, where his wife repeatedly kicked him in the testicles.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Actually, she stood right next to him in the press conference. That is always amazing to me, how these guys get their wives to stand there and support them. … I don’t know what kind of zombie chow they put in these women’s food, but it’s mind-boggling. … I don’t want to rub it in to any of you visiting from New York, but here in California, our governor doesn’t have to pay for sex. When he wants it, he takes it.” –Jimmy Kimmel

Eliot Spitzer Got Off Track

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ic4cmjVtBgY]

This ad from 2006 shows how Eliot Spitzer failed to follow the path he promised voters.  Earlier in the day news stories reported that he was patronizing prostitutes for six years, and I now note that the article was updated to ten years, spending up to $80,000.

If this was simply a sex scandal it would be more a matter between him and his wife. At very least, the more I hear about Spitzer’s career as Attorney General there are questions of hypocrisy. I doubt that Spitzer would have shown any mercy towards someone else in his situation. From many of the accounts of his career I’ve heard today I get the impression he might have been overly concerned with personal destruction of his targets as opposed to simply upholding the law.

One of the more amusing accounts of the scandal comes from Iowahawk’s report that “Kristen” would “temporarily step aside in the wake of charges that she had engaged in sex with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.” ABC News has interviewed an actual escort who has been hired by Spitzer who says he was a nice guy who tipped well.

Spitzer is rumored to be planning to resign tomorrow. Most likely he is holding off on resigning so he can make his resignation a part of any bargain. While it is understandable that Spitzer’s political career is finished, it is far less clear that there are significant legal issues here which warrant prosecution.

There are also questions as to why this investigation was initiated and why it continued to this stage. Some reports say that the investigation started over questions of whether the movement of money involved bribes–which certainly should have been investigated. However, once it was determined that this was to pay prostitutes I’m not sure there was reason to continue the investigation.

Eliot Spitzer Linked to Prostitution Ring

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has been lined to a prostitution ring which charges up to $5,550 per hour. The New York Times reports:

Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month, according to a person briefed on the federal investigation.

An affidavit in the federal investigation into a prostitution ring said that a wiretap recording captured a man identified as Client 9 on a telephone call confirming plans to have a woman travel from New York to Washington, where he had reserved a hotel room. The person briefed on the case identified Mr. Spitzer as Client 9.

Mr. Spitzer today made a brief public appearance during which he apologized for his behavior, and described it as a “private matter.”

“I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my or any sense of right or wrong,” said Mr. Spitzer, who appeared with his wife Silda at his Manhattan office. “I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better.”

“I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”

I don’t devote much space to sex scandals, but I cannot help but wonder what could possibly be worth $5,550 per hour. Personally I don’t really care about his sexual activities, but also wonder how many prostitutes Spitzer prosecuted when he was Attorney General. Plus, whether or not I care what he does, there’s little doubt that enough people will care to probably end talk about him being a future presidential candidate.

Update: Eliot Spitzer Got Off Track