Last week we were shocked to see Eliot Spitzer himself participating in Alex Gibney’s new untitled documentary (and comparing himself to Icarus to boot). The work-in-progress is now going to be screened at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 24, when New York audiences will be able to see him, bathed in Gibney’s shadowy lighting, talking about many of his innermost secrets — including his list of top enemies: Ken Langone, Joe Bruno, Roger Stone (all of whom appear in the video — as does Spitzer’s “go-to” call girl “Angelina”). We talked to Gibney and asked him for some teasers.
How the hell did you get Spitzer to talk?
I think in some ways — I think he wants to talk to, I think he doesn’t quite understand exactly what happened and I think he wants to talk about it. Also, the guy who wrote the book, Peter Elkind, had known him from as far back as Princeton, so at least was able to give me an entrée. I think I was able to convince him that I was interested in hearing what he had to say about it all. I think he, I think he comes off as somebody who’s really trying to reckon with what he did, both good and bad.
As far as I can tell, he believes there’s still a public role for him.
To some extent, I think he’s already played a public role as a commentator. He’s raised some issues that haven’t been raised by other people and they’re good issues, like: Why should the federal government be bailing out AIG, so AIG can pay Goldman Sachs 100 cents on the dollar? Why is that an appropriate reaction? And why shouldn’t Goldman take a hit? Well, that’s a pretty good question and nobody really raised it until he raised it. But whether or not he’ll ever have the trust of the public again, that remains to be seen.
Do you think elected office is part of the plan?
It may be. He’s the one who holds the secret, but he’s thinking about it. I think it burns him up to sit on the sidelines now. This is his time, but he’s not there.
Does he say that?
Yes, it burns him up. He’s Tom Brady who gets to the Super Bowl and then he’s told sorry, you broke the rules, you have to sit on the bench while the game is played. All he can do is go on TV and say this, that, or the other thing, but he can’t hold people to account, he can’t make policy. He’s beside himself. But he’s got no one to blame but himself, which I think makes it all the more painful for him.
Does he accept that? Or does he believe in a conspiracy to bring him down?
He doesn’t talk about it at all. His view is: I did what I did, shame on me. I think there are things about the way he was brought down that are highly irregular and should be investigated for that reason. But having been said, there’s no denying the fact that he’s a guy who increased penalties for johns and escorts — and he used them.
The hypocrisy couldn’t be more direct.
Well, look, he doesn’t corner the market on hypocrisy. I mean, David Vitter, a family-values Republican who’s still in the U.S. Senate, you know, was ordering hookers during roll call votes in the House. Right? It wasn’t investigated, he wasn’t forced to resign. John Ensign was having an affair with a woman and used the power of his office to try and reward the husband of the woman with whom he was having an affair. [Spitzer] doesn’t corner the market on hypocrisy but I think his biggest selling point was that he was the incorruptible one. Well, none of us is incorruptible. But his problem was that, unlike say, Clinton, whose crime to me is much worse — getting a blow job from an intern in the Oval Office while you’re doing the country’s business — Clinton had a lot of friends. Spitzer didn’t have any friends. So it’s hard to make the case to stay if no one’s going to support you. He had pissed off the Republicans, he had pissed off the Democrats. Also, to his credit, he looked at what he had done and thought this is just not right, I should resign.
How happy are Langone and Bruno and Stone?
Couldn’t be happier.