Spitzer ’81 speaks on current events
Beginning the evening immediately with a discussion of current events, Thomas asked Spitzer for his view on the impact of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“Occupy Wall Street has won, not that they achieved changes in policy, but I think that they have had a demonstrable effect on political discourse: What we are talking about, and what the agenda is most like these days,” Spitzer said.
Spitzer added that he believed that, before Occupy Wall Street, nobody was paying attention to equity issues, the distribution of income and the inherent unfairness of the current economic structure.
In discussing the upcoming presidential election, Spitzer said that asking what President Barack Obama needs to do to secure a second term is akin to asking him to do the impossible and noted that at least one question was raised by the president’s speech on Tuesday.
“Is the speech that he gave genuine from the emotional and policy perspective, or is it just another rhetorical flourish seeking public support?” Spitzer asked.
Thomas then turned the conversation to Spitzer himself and whether he would consider reentering the public sector, to which Spitzer gave no direct response.
“I don’t worry about it day in and day out,” he said of running. “I look at those now in it, and they are struggling. I think it is because our system is not working so well.”
He added that he believes that one way to fix the current political system, beyond campaign finance and gerrymandering reform, is to determine why the government is so polarized.
“Why do you have the Tea Party at the same time you have Occupy Wall Street?” he asked. “Why do you have the inability of the public to find centrist candidates in a sufficient number?”
After 30 minutes of discussion between Spitzer and Thomas, Thomas opened the conversation up to the audience.
In response to an audience member’s question about what Spitzer believes his legacy as a public figure is, Spitzer said it is not something he thinks about often.
He added though, in response to a question about changes he regretted not being able to enact because of his resignation in March 2008, that he wished he could do more to rebuild the State University of New York and the state’s higher education system.
One audience member then asked about the media’s current role in politics, considering Spitzer’s experience interacting with the media as governor, at the center of a highly publicized scandal and later as a host on CNN’s “In the Arena.”
“I have seen the media from many different vantage points: hero, villain, the goat and everything under the sun,” Spitzer said, “The media best reflects what consumers want. I don’t say that to justify what they say, but I do not think that the media is the main reason that we are where we are today.”
The discussion was hosted in the Whig Hall Senate Chamber by the American Whig-Cliosophic society as the final installment of the organization’s semester-long distinguished lecture series.
Whig-Clio president Jay Parikh ’12 said that the group did not plan a set topic for the discussion, which attracted about 75 audience members, preferring instead that it operate as an open discussion between Spitzer, Thomas and the audience.
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