Here, for instance, is its account of Spitzer’s failed prosecution of Ted Sihpol, the Bank of America broker who successfully fought Spitzer’s criminal charges of improper after-hours trading for a rich client, Eddie Stern. The Sihpol case is used as Exhibit A among conservatives as an example of Spitzer’s excesses. How do I know that? Because Masters tells me so:
For Spitzer’s critics, the single most important example of the attorney general acting as an overzealous prosecutor came in the criminal case against Ted Sihpol the first white-collar defendant to challenge Spitzer’s office directly. First arrested in 2003, he and his lawyers turned down a plea deal because Spitzer’s team refused to guarantee that Sihpol would not serve jail time. When the case went to trial in the spring of 2005, Spitzer’s prosecutors felt confident because they had tapes of Sihpol agreeing to place trades after the 4:00 p.m. close of the New York Stock Exchange and joking about tampering with time-stamps. But Sihpol’s lawyers, Evan Stewart and Paul Schechtman, turned the tables on them, arguing that the deadline for mutual fund grading wasn’t as clear as Spitzer claimed and that Sihpol was a mid-level fallguy who had been scapegoated. The jury agreed with the defense arguments, and interviews with jurors afterwards suggested that they were offended that Sihpol was on trial while his Bank of America bosses and Stern had walked away with their freedom and most of the profits .
Spitzer then compounded his image as a bully by threatening to retry Sihpol on the four counts for which the jury could not reach unanimity, even as his staff negotiated “no jail time” plea deals with two other defendants in the mutual fund scandal.
Etc. etc. So, this is not exactly Ten Days that Shook the World here. To cite the Masters’s book as an example of media bias is ridiculous.
I love the book, but it is down-the-middle to a fault, as many reviewers have found, including—surprise!—Strassel herself, who reviewed it for the Journal in July 2006.
Ms. Masters’s book offers detailed accounts of the kinds of painful encounters that have earned Mr. Spitzer a reputation as the nation’s most powerful state attorney general. Landing in the middle of his bid for the New York governorship, “Spoiling for a Fight” is rich with anecdotes about Mr. Spitzer’s bullying tactics.
Not that “Spoiling for a Fight” amounts to a briefing book for Mr. Spitzer’s opponents on the campaign trail. Ms. Masters, a Washington Post writer, is hardly immune to the general press-corps impulse to admire Mr. Spitzer; she happily elevates him to the pantheon of great “progressives,” a la Teddy Roosevelt and Louis Brandeis. Yet Ms. Masters has at least attempted to be even-handed, tracking down many of Mr. Spitzer’s foes for their version of events. That alone is a step forward and provides some striking evidence for those who would burst the Spitzer bubble.
The portrait of Mr. Spitzer that emerges from “Spoiling for a Fight,” whether intended by Ms. Masters or not, confirms what some observers have long perceived: Much of this legal strongarming was driven by what can only be described as Mr. Spitzer’s egomania and serial disregard for due process.
Lacking a pro-Spitzer media stooge for this week’s column, Strassel must make do with Masters.
Instead, remarkably, they* continue to defend him. Ms. Masters, his biographer, was on CNN the day Mr. Spitzer’s prostitution news broke, reassuring viewers that the governor really was a “lovely” guy.
I can’t find the transcript to that particular interview, but here’s a bit from another CNN interview with Masters that day, via TVeyes.com (subscription required; the transcript is very rough). Masters is talking about the Spitzer marriage:
I would have said they were a happy couple. They are well-matched and both very bright and clearly have the same views on how to raise children, and she is better or the moderate him and judging people, and he is a charge ahead, I am right, tough guy which is of course why he is in trouble for hypocrisy and she has been the gentler more empathetic one. He genuinely seems to like her, and this is a guy whose desk is littered with photos of the kids and wife and talked about her a lot. She would come up and the—she and the kids would come up (garble). It is hard to know what is going.
Some defense. It’s just typical reporter comment, isn’t it?
Is the press perfect? No.
But it covered Spitzer’s rise, and then it covered his fall.
The problem with Strassel’s piece is that there is no evidence to support her charges. Somehow, that sounds familiar.