James Taranto asks us to imagine “if top aides to President Bush ordered the FBI to produce damaging but false information about Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader. Now that would be a scandal:
And that is what is happening in New York state, as the New York Post reports:
Gov. [Eliot] Spitzer suspended a top aide and reassigned another yesterday after Attorney General Andrew Cuomo released a bombshell report concluding they conspired with the State Police to damage Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno by cooking up a plot claiming he misused state aircraft.
Spitzer, who had recently insisted that neither his staff nor the State Police had acted improperly, said communications director Darren Dopp was suspended without pay for an “indefinite period” of at least 30 days.
William Howard, the governor’s assistant secretary for homeland security, will be reassigned to a position outside of the governor’s staff.
Cuomo’s report also recommended disciplinary action be considered against acting State Police Superintendent Preston Felton, but none was taken.
The scathing, 53-page report detailed a months-long scheme in which Dopp, Howard, and Felton–at times with the partial knowledge of Spitzer chief of staff Richard Baum–used the State Police to gather and create misleading and inaccurate records on Bruno’s use of state aircraft to travel from Albany to Manhattan in hopes of showing he was using the flights strictly for political purposes, a possibly illegal action. . . .
The report confirmed a week’s worth of investigative stories in The Post beginning July 5 that found aides to Spitzer, including Dopp, used the State Police as, in effect, a spy agency as part of a broad conspiracy aimed at destroying Bruno.
For what it’s worth, Spitzer is a Democrat and Bruno is a Republican. The New York Times, in covering the report, described Spitzer as ” a former prosecutor who came into office less than seven months ago with a reputation for integrity and who promised to bring a new ethical climate to Albany.”
The ethical climate he brought to Albany is new, all right. But if he had an undeserved “reputation for integrity” before becoming governor, perhaps that is because of the friendly coverage he received from such news organizations as the Times. The Post’s scoop and its consequences are an object lesson in the importance of an independent press in holding public officials accountable.
On the other hand, the fawning pre-election coverage of Spitzer and stories such as this don’t exactly build confidence in the typical big city MSM newspaper as an “independent” press.
Update: John Podhoretz writes that there’s no middle ground: “In the past two days, the governor of New York either a) saved his political career or b) committed political suicide.” At the risk of sounding terminally cynical, my money’s on the former.