The comparison between the ongoing pursuit of Mr. Spitzer and the campaign to get to the Clintons over the Whitewater affair isn’t entirely a stretch: Both dramas feature Democratic executives under scrutiny from Republican-controlled legislatures.
Both episodes also feature a familiar guest star: the notorious Republican operative Roger Stone, who in the 90’s publicly egged on the Republican pursuit of the Clintons over their alleged misdeeds dabbling in real estate in Arkansas, and who was recently hired to consult for the Republicans in the State Senate.
“I think the lesson from the Roger Stone playbook is very clear,” said Mr. Rosen. “Use obstruction and accusations as a way to stop any discussions about the real issues that matter to people.”
He added, “This playbook failed Republicans miserably in the 1990’s, and it ended up boomeranging right back on them as voters started seeing this for what it is.”
Of course, the Whitewater investigators in the Republican-held Congress went wrong, strategically, by keeping their inquiry into President Clinton open long after most of the answers they were ostensibly seeking were found. Mr. Spitzer, by contrast, has a way to go before all inquiries have been satisfied.
The governor has volunteered to testify under oath before the State Ethics Commission, but has yet to conduct anything remotely resembling the sort of air-clearing exercise that will satisfy the press, not to mention his prospective pursuers in the Albany District Attorney’s office, the State Commission of Investigation and, of course, the State Senate.
At a recent public appearance in Manhattan, Mr. Spitzer bristled at questions about the investigations, saying, “I’m simply not saying anything more on that stuff.”
And what about the fate of those of his top aides who declined to participate in the previous investigations? “I’m not answering those questions.”
In an emailed statement, Bruno spokesman Mark Hansen wrote, “Most New Yorkers want Governor Spitzer and his staff to tell the truth about ‘troopergate,’ but Democrats Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler want efforts to get to the truth to be stopped. They are obviously trying to protect a Governor who is under fire. The real comparison here is to Watergate. The stonewalling, cover ups and refusal to testify and fully cooperate make it clear that more needs to be done to get at the truth, not less.”
Reached by phone, Mr. Stone—who, not insignificantly, got his start in politics as one of Richard Nixon’s Watergate tricksters on the Committee to Re-Elect the President—seemed amused by the Democratic response.
“We also tried to say that Watergate was a third-rate burglary,” said Mr. Stone.
“In Washington, Democrats are trying to say George Bush and Alberto Gonzales should turn over everything,” he continued. “Maybe they’re right.”
Referring to the investigative showdown in Albany, he said, “Let’s see the e-mails.”