Todd Spitzer: Hero or Zero?

It started as a little love between newspaper columnists, but it included a ding against Orange County's Clark Kent of an assemblyman. That brought a sharp rebuke from our Superman in disguise, Todd Spitzer (who the Weekly's own R. Scott Moxley had just lauded for heroism.) And that, in turn, produced more venom from the original columnist, who mentioned previous blasts the assemblyman fired at a third columnist, who used to work with the first columnist.

Confused? Perhaps some context will help. Perhaps.

For seven years, opinion pager Chris Reed toiled for the Orange County Register, whose editorializing bench includes Weekly pal/piñada (depends on our mood) Steven Greenhut. Reed left in July 2005 for the San Diego Union-Tribune, and he's been influencing our neighbors to the south ever since.

Last Friday's Sacramento Bee column by the dean of state capital muckrakers, Dan Walters, caught Chris' eye. In “GOP Spending a Major Player in California Budget Gap,” Walters opines that when one accounts for inflation and population growth, about $7.4 billion in real spending increases is shown in the stalemated state budget.

But education, health and welfare spending that Democrats champion increased only slightly, if at all,” Walters writes. “Meanwhile, spending on prisons increased by $4.3 billion and payments to local governments to cover losses of revenue from license fees on cars account for another $3.1 billion. And who were the most adamant advocates for locking up more felons in prison (11,000 more over five years) and cutting those car taxes? Republicans.

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To be totally accurate, Reed was not totally in agreement, so he ruminated more about this in a blog post headlined, “Irrational prison policy hardly just GOP's fault, as much as I would like to blame it all on Todd Spitzer.” (Apparently, the U-T pays bloggers per number of words in a post's headline.)

Reed agreed that the GOP has ceded the moral high ground when it comes to spending. Indeed, Reed had two days earlier blogged that Sacramento was not inhabited by slimy tax-and-spend Republicans but slimy tax-and-borrow Republicans. (Save for Schwarzenegger, a slimy tax-and-spend-and-borrow Republican. By the way, don't blame Chris for the slimys; I just tossed those in to spruce things up.) He went on to explain that prison spending also increased dramatically under Democrap Gray Davis. “And all of California, not just the Todd Spitzers of the world, bears the blame for our juvenile, if-it-feels-good-do-it approach to crime. Every initiative to lock more and more people up wins in landslides.” Reed instead favors “a rational approach to crime” that would apply risk-management concepts, and not knee-jerk retribution, to prison sentences.

How can I vote for this guy?

Sadly, his post received only one vote, if by “vote” you mean “comment.” Can you guess who it was from? Do you bet someone was self-Googling his own name when he landed on the post? It was not a comment per se Spitzer left but directions to his own blog (who knew?) for his response, which is just above his link to Moxley's praise of him.

Please keep up, people.

Da scoop: Spitzer accuses Reed of ignoring wasteful spending for social programs and instead blaming “Californians for supporting such measures as Jessica’s Law, which protects our children from violent sexual predators, and for successfully defeating Proposition 66, which would have severely limited the Three Strikes Law.”

Objection, your honor! First, Reed did not mention the amount spent for social programs, Walters did. And “Jessica's Law” appears no where in Reed's screed; indeed, he specifically excludes pedophiles from the ranks of non-violent offenders he considers non-violent offenders. Reed does mention his problems with Three Strikes, and it seems to some of us that an argument can be made that not everyone being locked up for life under this very costly program is the threat to society they are made out to be. OK, please proceed ...

Spitzer, ever the DA in waiting, writes about the nightmare that would befall California if all convicts imprisoned for non-violent but still-serious crimes were released. “It is irresponsible to think that supporting public safety is the reason for our budget problems, especially when there is so much wasteful spending in Sacramento. ... We cannot afford to forget that the most important role of government is to provide for the safety and well being of its citizens.”

Ball's in your court, Chris.

Reed could not comment on the Spitzer's blog or even point readers to his response on his own blog, as Spitzer had done, seeing as how Spitzer's blog apparently does not include a commenting feature. So is it even a blog? I forget the rules. But this afternoon's post by Reed leaves little doubt what he thought of Spitzer's commentary: “Assemblyman Eddie Haskell completely ignores my point while flattering voters (and, implicitly, himself).”

Double me-ow!

“Does Spitzer ... bother to respond to my central point at all? That it doesn't make sense to warehouse nonthreats? No. He doesn't even try. He just panders to the if-it-feels-good-do-it bunch and, on his blog, insinuates I support sexual predators,” raps Reed.

He goes on, 'cause you knew he would: “This is Spitzer's lowest-common-denominator world. If you disagree with him, you support sexual predators. He's done this to other journalists and political opponents, too. Nice M.O., Todd, really classy.”

Reed takes us down memory lane to his days as a reporter when Spitzer was an Orange County supervisor: “Up close, I saw the two Spitzers: 1) the very bright guy who was a policy wonk who would actually challenge county staff and 2) the relentless publicity hound whose courting of powerful folks made Eddie Haskell seem sincere.”

Now in Sacramento until his term expires and he becomes a county prosecutor awaiting boss Tony Rackauckas' retirement, “the latter Todd Spitzer is all that's left. If the former Todd Spitzer is still in there somewhere, Todd, will you let him out?” pleads Reed. “Then Good Todd can address the question: Does it make sense for taxpayers to foot the housing, food and medical bills of tens of thousands of prisoners in their 50s and 60s who are no longer threats? Does Good Todd also acknowledge that same categories of crime are almost entirely a young man's game?”

Reed predicts “[t]his will all be boiled down to another post by Todd in which he insinuates I'm pro-sexual predator. How pathetic.” That post had yet to come at this writing, however. Todd didn't even direct people to his blog. So Reed followed up himself with “The epitome of the 'Police State Republican'”, which begins with a passage from his old buddy Greenhut, “a fellow victim of Todd Spitzer's campaign to depict anyone who's not a fellow Police State Republican as morally deficient and pro-criminal.”

Spitzer epitomizes the new Police State Republicanism, where limited government and fiscal responsibility go out the window. One can never spend too much money pandering to the public's fears for political gain.

Reed also includes a video clip of Spitzer “demagoguing” for a bill that would make it more difficult for someone in California to fight a wrongful conviction because, “In Todd's world, no one is ever wrongfully convicted.”

Except, of course, for that Ochoa kid whose cause for retribution after a wrongful conviction spurred by Rackauckas' lock-'em-up-despite-the-evidence prosecutors was heroically taken up by Spitzer. After state Senate leader Dick Ackerman. And Moxley's prodding. But still.

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