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4. Because We’re Steamrollers

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Illustration by André Carrilho  

A lot of people would have been cowed by the setbacks you’ve suffered. But you keep going.
ELIOT SPITZER: You know, there’s a certain point in life where you either move forward and try to participate in a way that is interesting and hopefully useful, or else disappear. And obviously, I chose the former, and that is just, I guess, in my DNA. There are bumps along the way.

Bumps?
Chasms, maybe.

Other people might get depressed?
You know, what’s the point of that? You don’t accomplish anything. You don’t change anything or have any fun. How you react to [setbacks] is the fundamental choice you have to make. I wake up in the morning and say, “Okay, new day, let’s get going, what’s ahead?” and go do it.

You’re such a rational guy.
I try, anyway.

You’re now the co-host of Parker Spitzer on CNN, in what’s probably the station’s toughest time slot, and your ratings have reflected that. How’s the show going?
To be honest, I don’t even look much at those [rating] numbers. The quality of the show is the only thing I look at, and we’re putting on-air almost exactly what I hoped we would create, which is a show where divergent views get aired with substantive conversation.

Why do you and co-host Kathleen Parker sit so close together?
I have no idea. I sit where I’m told to sit. But I don’t stand where I’m told to stand.

At the beginning of your career as a journalist, you were asked, “How do you like being a journalist?” and your answer was “Come on, I was the fucking governor.”
Oh, that was meant to be off the record. You know what, though, being a governor is one thing and being a journalist is something different. Different chapters in life that you figure out how to enjoy a lot. But I never denied that I miss being governor.

What do you miss?
It’s different to be commenting rather than sitting behind the desk making decisions about the budget. I would love to be there trying to keep working on what we were doing, what we began.

Throughout your career, you’ve been well-known for your angry side.
Anger’s not the only useful emotion. I wouldn’t say anger so much as passion, which I think sometimes is necessary to shake the status quo or to bring about change when the entrenched forces can themselves be pretty powerful.

One of President Obama’s problems is that he hasn’t been able to corral public anger. Do you have advice for him?
I think what people would like to see from the president is more passionate articulation of beliefs. I wish the White House had done better at that, instead of letting the tea party benefit from the latent anger in the public.

Is humility as useful as anger?
It’s necessary. It’s absolutely essential to judgments you make every day. Recognizing the virtues and wisdom of other people and having requisite self-doubt about your own perspective. Otherwise, there’s no strength.

Is there a reason to love and root for Andrew Cuomo?
I’m sure there is.

Interview by Steve Fishman


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