Some famous quotes of Eliot Spitzer;
shouted at Republican minority leader James Tedisco, “I’m a fucking steamroller, and I’ll roll over you.”
"Never talk when you can nod, and never nod when you can wink, and never write an e-mail because it's death," ... "You're giving prosecutors all the evidence we need."
-Interview with ABC News 2 years ago
Tells a senator from Buffalo, ‘you support my bill or I'll cut your head off’
Why do we continue to trust politicians?
The Steamroller in the Swamp
Spitzer’s appetite for confrontation was nurtured early. Perhaps every dinner table is theater; Spitzer’s childhood table was, as one friend puts it, a “Darwinian” drama. Spitzer’s father, Bernard, now 83, presided over what another friend called “an ongoing argument that never stops. It was like intellectual professional wrestling, except it wasn’t staged.” Bernard is the brilliant immigrant (he graduated college at 18) who built a real-estate fortune worth an estimated $500 million, supervising every detail. One benefit of success was that the three bright Spitzer children didn’t have to waste their time in pursuit of financial gain. Instead, as one friend observed, they were to compete, achieve, and serve.
At dinner, Bernard and Anne, his wife of 63 years, discouraged small talk—“Dull and redundant,” Bernard tells me one day. “My dad didn’t want to get to dinner and gossip, though it probably would have been more fun,” Spitzer says. “My dad is not a frivolous person. I don’t think I’ve heard him have a conversation about the weather. He has always been a rigorous intellectual who pushes himself and others to think with clarity.”
Bernard sometimes assigned the kids to bring a topic to dinner and lead a discussion, one topic per dinner, no wandering—“a rotating obligation,” Bernard calls it, in a characteristically formal locution. Daniel, the middle child, the scientist, liked to discuss Antarctica and deserts—he became a neurosurgeon. Emily, the oldest, was the family feminist—she later worked as a lawyer for the National Organization for Women Legal Defense Fund. Eliot, the youngest, was a bookish teenager. He loved sports and was good at them, and also carried a large Samsonite briefcase around junior high; in his free time, he leafed through foreign-policy magazines.
Whatever the subject, explains Daniel, “you needed to have something thought out and with gravitas and preferably with a couple of statistics thrown in. You couldn’t fake it.”
Bernard saw his role as challenging whatever argument was advanced. “I tried to elicit the principle,” he says from his Fifth Avenue office. His motto was “Challenge the premise.” No one got a pass, including visitors. William Taylor, Eliot’s Princeton roommate who later co-founded the magazine Fast Company, says, “I was never more relieved than when dinner was over and I’d survived.”
It was pretty good fun to beat up on Eliot’s soft-minded schoolmates, usually liberals if not lefties, which the Spitzers were not. “Ideology is anathema to Bernard as it is to Eliot,” says Carl Mayer, a college friend who later worked for Spitzer in the attorney general’s office. “It’s too imprecise.”
Eliot, like most of the family, was for the death penalty and against rent control, a subject he seems to have debated endlessly. Once he and Mayer tackled it at Princeton, where Eliot was student-government president, a moderate counterweight to the college leftists. (“He was more likely to be playing squash with the president of the university than on a picket line,” as one lefty friend puts it.) The night Eliot and Mayer talked rent control, Mayer says, “people were stunned by the level of intensity, as most humans would be.”
For Spitzer, of course, the intensity was familiar from home. At one afternoon barbecue in Rye—the family had moved there from Riverdale—the day had begun with tennis. As Mayer was coming off the court, Eliot’s mother told him, “I hope you kicked Eliot’s ass.” Then it was on to the meal and the main event. Emily started the conversation, protesting that women didn’t get equal pay for equal work. Bernard quickly ticked off four or five reasons why women should be paid less. The battle was joined; that day, Eliot was on his sister’s side. “There was shouting nonstop from all quarters, and this was just a casual lunch,” says Mayer.
For Spitzer the combat “bred rigor” and a belief in logic and reason. As law-school friend Cliff Sloan, now publisher of the Website Slate, puts it, “Eliot had a feeling that no problem was too complex or too big to be solved by human ingenuity.”
Eliot enjoyed the debates, which were “fun in their own sadistic way.” You could take the measure of yourself, your intelligence, your powers of persuasion. “He may have been the youngest, but he wasn’t the least,” says Jason Brown, a friend and now a lawyer. “The debates gave him an opportunity to show that he too was an intellectual force.
As governor, Spitzer quickly re-created the dynamics of the dinner table. At his first meeting with his top aides, he told them, “It is absolutely your duty to disagree with me. You will not be doing your job unless you disagree.” As governor, he’s the one challenging the premise. “I think I almost finished my first couple of sentences before his first question,” says one aide. “He’s pretty intense.”
Spitzer made a point of recruiting bright people; he’s a student of résumés. “The reality is Spitzer does have the smartest people in the room working with him,” says one aide. Of course, this ostentatious (and self-congratulatory) intelligence rubs some the wrong way. Congressman Charlie Rangel, the powerful New York City Democrat, called Spitzer “the world’s smartest man,” which he didn’t mean as a compliment. (Rangel also suggested he had an anger-management problem.)
In private, aides say, Spitzer is deeply respectful of others; he’s also long struck people as preternaturally assured of his own abilities. When I asked Lieutenant Governor David Paterson “Who’s more self-confident than Spitzer?,” he paused. “Muhammad Ali,” he half-joked.
Yet for a certain kind of person—male, smart, fiercely competitive—Spitzer is a magnet. “There is a little lovefest some of us here have with him,” says Paterson.
The Humbling of Eliot Spitzer
The Late-Night Comics Take on Spitzer
Spitzer Shares Arrogance of Other Powerful Men