The Full Steamroller

A look back at how to not say what Spitzer said.

In an homage to The New York Times’s news-breaking, flood-the-zone, Spitzer coverage these last few days, CJR offers this compilation of creative ways our grey lady has kept her composure when recounting what, until the emergence of “Client 9”, was the ignominious phrase most associated with Eliot Spitzer’s short time as New York’s governor.

Since Monday:

And they said a governor who, only a year ago, had been quoted calling himself ”the steamroller”—but with a vulgar flourish—had steamrolled his own career. [James Barron, March 11, 2008]
Long predawn runs, fierce basketball games: He did nothing at half-speed. ”Listen, I’m a steamroller,” he told a State Assembly leader in his first days as governor, adding an unprintable adjective into the mix for emphasis. [Michael Powell and Mike McIntire, March 11, 2008]
With a swagger, he warned one assemblyman that he was a ”steamroller,” modifying that word with a street profanity to show that he was not some effete product of the Upper East Side who could be trifled with. [Clyde Haberman, March 11, 2008]

And some classics:

Take Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the professed ”steamroller.” (That’s the sanitized version of his self-description.) [Clyde Haberman, October 9, 2007]
And then there is Mr. Spitzer’s often-quoted warning to a Republican assemblyman that he is a ”steamroller” who will run over opponents. He modified ”steamroller” with an all-too-familiar profanity, apparently to show what a tough guy he can be. [Clyde Haberman, July 10, 2007]
In a previous outburst, now widely publicized, the governor described himself to the Assembly minority leader, James N. Tedisco, as a ”steamroller”—adding a profane adjective for emphasis—who had accomplished more in just a few weeks than any other governor. [Danny Hakim, March 15, 2007]
He referred to himself as a ”steamroller” in a heated conversation with the minority leader of the Assembly, James N. Tedisco, adding an expletive for emphasis, according to an account in The New York Post that neither man has disputed. [Danny Hakim, February 5, 2007]

And how it all began in the Times:

Much of the talk in the Capitol on Wednesday was about remarks Mr. Spitzer reportedly made during a heated telephone conversation with Assemblyman James N. Tedisco, the Republican minority leader, in which the governor was said to have used salty language to compare himself to a ”steamroller.” The remarks were reported by The New York Post. [Michael Cooper, February 1, 2007]

A vulgar flourish? An unprintable adjective? A street profanity? An all-too-familiar profanity? A profane adjective? Salty language?

It is, after all, a fuckin’ family newspaper.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.