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Shrimp 'n Grits

Spitzer’s Slice & Dice politics no stranger to Charleston’s Mayor
Lee Walton

While reading the March 3rd Palter & Chatter commentary “Pride preceded self-righteous Spitzer’s fall”, I was struck by the very familiar personality profile that Jay Ambrose used to describe ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York; he could just as easily have been describing Charleston’s own Mayor Joseph P. Riley. The persona that evolved under the frank observations of Ambrose parallels the same characteristics that have been used by Riley’s critics and political opponents for over two decades – “… a monarchical arrogance, a sense…” Riley “…has had that he is vastly superior to others, always right and a law unto himself… this self-important egotism that propelled …” Riley “…to a political success that once seemed to have no limit, and yet it is the same arrogance that got him into a fix from which there was no rescue.” Time will tell if Riley’s attempts to cover-up his administration’s gross mismanagement of the CFD and current spinning of the blundering good-old-boy ineptness of his lackey fire chief’s responsibility for the Sofa Super Store tragedy will lead to a similar public downfall and disgrace.

Similarly, Ambrose’s description of Spitzer as a self-proclaimed “…giant killer who was fighting back for the sake of common folks...” also accurately describes the deceptive, sinister truth many know of Riley’s covert character – “He was a bully who would threaten ruination if his victims defended themselves from his designs. He could be unmercifully tough, though quick to look the other way when friends and supporters were possible transgressors.” Likewise, both Spitzer and Riley care little for the pain and suffering borne by the targets of their ruthless slice & dice political tactics, “…because this fiercely driven, tenacious…” Riley “…stood boldly atop a mountain of favorable press clippings, and it was no easy thing to combat…” Riley’s “…image.” With the owners and editorial staff of the Palter & Chatter stuffed deeply into his pocket, Riley also clearly stands on his own self-made, ever-expanding mound of “favorable press clippings.”

The description Ambrose relates of Spitzer’s attitude toward his predecessors in the New York Statehouse bares an uncanny familiarity to that held by Riley of other former Charleston mayors. With only a few place-sensitive edits, Ambrose’s comments can be readily applicable to Riley – “…who seems to see the City government as a one-man operation, had little or no use for collaboration. Before his arrival, nothing had ever been done right in Charleston, he clearly thought.”

Lastly, Ambrose captured the essence of the hubris and arrogance of Spitzer and, by extension, Riley as he summarized the forces that drive such personalities – “I am untouchable, I am answerable to a different set of rules than others.”

Destiny has a way of humbling the most arrogant of men, most often by their own hand.

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