scandal involving New York Governor Elliot Spitzer and a high-priced prostitution ring. Just in case any of us had any doubt, Spitzer provided a reminder that falsity is not an exclusively Republican trait. The media is all over the story. A powerful man is being brought low, and there are, no doubt, many lurid and unsavory discoveries to be aired as it all plays out.
But, one thing is for sure, John McCain, despite his new-found moral piety, will not be eager to see the embattled governor resign. He may call for Spitzer's resignation, but his heart won't be in it. One has to imagine that, secretly, McCain hopes the governor will fight on.
Buried beneath today's headlines is another story; a story that lacks the steamy titillation of a verboten sexual relationship and the comeuppance of another flawed human being.
In Iraq, two separate suicide attacks killed 8 US soldiers and an interpreter, and wounded 13 others. A third attack, a car bomb detonated in the Kurdish city of Slaimaniya, killed 2 Iraqis and wounded 20 others.
Reading the report from the New York Times is a heart-breaking exercise. In the account of the principle attack, the story relates that the American soldiers had stopped at a market and were chatting with the merchants and restaurateurs. One gets the idea, reading the story, that real, human connections were being made; that maybe the soldiers and the Iraqis were bridging the gap that has been created by warfare. One clothing merchant said that the soldiers had promised to come back to his shop, before they went on vacation, to buy clothes. Minutes after they left the store, there was an explosion and the soldiers were dead.
But the surge has been a success, according to John McCain. Even though there is and has been ample evidence that the reduction in violence was more of a temporary ceasefire than actual political progress, and even though none of the stated political goals of the surge have been achieved, the surge is a success. The war is justified. The war is "worth it."
Shorja market, accompanied by a military escort of armored Humvees and helicopter gunships, and shopped for carpets? Remember how he later admonished the media, saying "The American people are not getting the full picture of what's happening here. They are not getting the full picture of the drop in murders, the establishment of security outposts throughout the city, the situation in Anbar, the deployment of additional Iraqi brigades who are performing well and other signs of progress."? (The day after his visit, the very next day(!), Shorja market suffered sniper attacks.)
McCain seeks to portray himself as the tough, stern father figure who has the courage to see us through the trials of the war. But Americans are war weary, after 5 long years. So it is vital to McCain's aspirations that there is the perception of progress.
Governor Spitzer's exceedingly poor (and all-too-human) judgment has provided a temporary veil behind which the tragedies that continue to occur in Iraq can be obscured. But, in today's cultural climate of 30 second ad spots and flashing subliminal images, the Spitzer story will soon be old news. And the agony of Iraq will continue.
I imagine that the McCain camp is alarmed by the news from Iraq. Already they must be crafting a message that they can spew out if the violence continues to escalate. Perhaps they'll go with the spin that "al Qaeda in Iraq" has stepped up violence to try and influence the American elections. Or maybe they'll go with the old Cheney line about these being the final throes of the resistance. We'll know soon enough.
But, I'll tell you one thing for sure: the longer the Spitzer scandal drags out, the better it is for John McCain.