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The Steamroller in the Swamp


Spitzer has commissions going for improving everything from schools to public authorities to local governments. He just engineered tens of millions of dollars for legal-aid lawyers—the Times editorial page caught that, he proudly tells me. And he excitedly recalls staying up all night to nail down a settlement of World Trade Center insurance claims that had tied up construction for years. There’s development deals to do. Midtown, upstate. He can push his environmental agenda without Bruno. The list goes on. “Governing for me now is more about the authority we’ve got to change policy administratively,” he says. Spitzer is eager to get back to being idealistic and intolerant—back to being the smartest guy in the room, back to running the government without Bruno and Silver. “There is an unbelievable opportunity now to govern through the agencies, and that’s frankly what I’m really looking forward to,” he says. “At end of the day, that gives me a lot of comfort,” he says, though it sounds to me like he might mean consolation.

Lately, Spitzer has been steeping himself in biographies of great New York governors, Teddy Roosevelt and Al Smith. They, he tells me, were initially scorned in the press—Roosevelt was “excoriated” for having compromised on reform. History judged them differently.

Spitzer says he’s taking the long view. “I can be patient,” he says. To change everything Day One is no longer the imperative—he’s learned that much. “I’ll build coalitions, I’ll get it done,” he says. “I’ve got four years, I’m in no hurry.”

Spitzer checks the BlackBerry on his waist, pays the bill, and rushes out the door.


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