Ruth Marcus: Spitzer and Greenberg, a redemption epic

BY RUTH MARCUS Published: July 10, 2013
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Chutzpah, thy name is Greenberg.

You have to ask — Shakespeare would ask — what is it that impels these men? Their drive, their refusal to fade away, is at once impressive and disturbing. The metrics of success are different — in politics, power; in business, cash — but the compulsion to succeed is the same.

“You need fortitude. You need skin as thick as a rhinoceros has,” Spitzer told CBS. “And you need a desire to serve the public.”

A normal man Greenberg's age would not be flying back and forth from Oman in the space of a single weekend. “I am doing what I do best,” Greenberg told the Journal. “I like building things.”

This is the impressive part, the man in the arena and all that. The disgraced pol who confesses to having “sinned” and tries again may have more to recommend him than the one who simply slinks off. The hard-driving octogenarian will probably be happier, and live longer, than his couch-potato counterpart.

Yet there is simultaneously something needy, even unhealthy, about the politician or tycoon unable to relinquish power, however it is measured. How much money is enough? How much public attention?

There is something Shakespearean in the twin comeback bids of the old antagonists, Spitzer and Greenberg, but there is also a touch of Melville: Greenberg as the great Wall Street whale, Spitzer as relentless pursuer.

The ambitious, unrepentant businessman blames the ambitious, self-righteous politician for unfairly hounding him from the corporate suite. The politician continues to assert that he acted in the public interest and that the businessman has yet to be brought to justice.

Spitzer said he made the decision to launch the comptroller bid just last weekend. It's not hard to imagine him reading the Journal story on Greenberg and thinking, If he can rehabilitate himself

It's not hard to imagine Greenberg reading about Spitzer's campaign and wondering, How much can I give to the other candidate?

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP