It would seem to be patently unfair to mix the candidacy of Hillary Clinton up with the Eliot Spitzer prostitution fiasco, but that's not going to stop the media from trying to connect the dots as if a prize of some sort was at stake. The most high-toned attempt came in today's Washington Post, where Peter Baker held forth on "Hillary Clinton's Spitzer Problem." In short, Spitzer's drivers' license scheme put the first crack in Clinton's armor of inevitability, and his subsequent infidelities could add the coup de grace by bringing up old memories of her husband's own indiscretions.
It is a little strange, seeing as how the past year has been jam-packed with sex scandal -- David Vitter and Larry Craig come to mind, as do San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who both endorsed Clinton for President -- but that New York zip code, and all the journos who lay their heads to rest therein, seems to be a critical point in pushing Spitzer's folly into Clinton's sphere.
Of course, it has already been noted that Clinton's website was scrubbed clean of Spitzer's name with all the comprehensiveness and alacrity that a 3AM phone call deserves. As the L.A. Times noted, it was a fine piece of web-mastering, far outpacing the previous gold-standard: "It took Romney nearly a day to erase the toe-tapping Craig last August. It took Clinton less than an hour. That's the long experience of the Clinton machine at work."
As for how Spitzer's difficulties will impact Clinton's race, opinions differ. The Nation sees the incident as paying big dividends for Clinton:
A woman president is not going to be Client 9 of the Emperor's Club VIP sex service.
A woman president is not going to get arrested for soliciting sex in a rest room at the Minneapolis airport.
A woman president is not going to be caught sending hot text messages to young congressional pages.
Many voters may find these arguments persuasive in the wake of the Elliot Spitzer story: if you want to avoid losing your leaders to sex scandals, vote for a woman.
The voters most likely to be persuaded by this argument are, of course, women. And there are a lot of women voters in the Democratic primaries yet to come, and among the superdelegates.
Thomas de Zengotita of Harper's Magazine doesn't see it that way:
This delicious piece of trash reminds everybody of the yuck factor that haunts the Clinton Restoration movement. It's subliminal, but that could make it even better. Obama's awful challenge right now is to remind Democrats of how McCain will destroy the Clintons in the general election without having Obama sink to the level of Hillary's as far as I know knife thrust. Spitzer will remind everyone of Monica -- and all the others too. He will remind them of blow jobs in the White House. He will remind them of how Hillary was willing to destroy women her husband exploited in service of their weird life-long power pact.
However, you chose to view the matter, one thing is true: nobody can place Clinton inside that room at the Mayflower. Which isn't to say that nobody's trying to do so: yesterday afternoon on the Fox News Channel, the network carefully unwrapped some B-roll of Clinton and Spitzer yukking it up. Subliminal connection? Maybe not. But it only took a New York minute before the blogosphere picked it up.