Any Given Tuesday: Lis Smith on Cuomo, Spitzer and a political life | Books

With Any Given Tuesday, Lis Smith delivers 300 pages of smack, snark and vulnerability. A veteran Democratic campaign hand, she shares up-close takes of those who appear in the news and dishes autobiographical vignettes. The book, her first, is a political memoir and coming-of-age tale. It is breezy and informative.

For two decades, Smith worked in the trenches. She witnessed plenty and bears the resulting scars. Most recently, she was a senior media adviser to Pete Buttigieg, now transportation secretary in the Biden administration, and counseled Andrew Cuomo, now a disgraced ex-governor of New York.

According to Smith, Buttigieg made politics ennobling and fun. More important, he offered a road to redemption.

“He saw me for who I actually was and, for the first time in my adult life, I did too,” Smith writes. According to exit polls in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Buttigieg brought meaning to middle-aged white college graduates. These days, he is seen by Democrats as a possible alternative to Joe Biden in 2024.

Smith dated Eliot Spitzer, another governor of New York who fell from grace.

“We were like a lit match and dynamite,” she writes. Smith also gushes about Spitzer’s “deep set, cerulean blue eyes”, the “most gorgeous” such pair she had ever seen. A 24-year age gap provided additional fuel but Spitzer, once known as the Sheriff of Wall Street, spent less than 15 months in office. His administration ended abruptly in 2009, over his trysts with prostitutes.

Smith can be blunt and brutal. She savages Cuomo and flattens Bill de Blasio, the former mayor of New York City, like a pancake.

Smith recounts in detail Cuomo’s mishandling of Covid, the allegations of sexual harassment and his obfuscation. He “died as he lived”, she writes, damningly, “with zero regard for the people around him and the impact his actions would have on them”.

As for De Blasio: “This guy can’t handle a 9/11.” He also came up short, we are told, in the personal hygiene department: a “gross unshowered guy”. De Blasio retracted an employment offer to Smith, after her relationship with Spitzer became tabloid fodder. He also coveted an endorsement from Spitzer that never materialized.

“Both of us had tried to get in bed with Eliot but only one of us had been successful,” Smith brags.

On Tuesday, De Blasio dropped out of a congressional primary after gaining a bare 3% support in a recent poll.

Smith is very much a New Yorker. She grew up in a leafy Westchester suburb, north of the city. Her parents were loving and politically conscious. Her father led a major white-shoe law firm. He introduced his daughter to football and the star-crossed New York Jets.

Smith went to Dartmouth. Not surprisingly, her politics are establishment liberal. She worked on campaigns for Jon Corzine, for New Jersey governor; Terry McAuliffe, for governor of Virginia; and Claire McCaskill, for senator in Missouri. In 2012 she earned a credit from Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

Smith has kind words for McAuliffe and McCaskill but portrays Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs chief executive, as aloof, never warming to the reality that elections are about retail politics and people. Despite this, Smith omits mention of the markets-moving failure of MF Global, a Corzine-run commodities brokerage that left a wake of ruin.

“I simply do not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date,” Corzine testified before a congressional committee. “I do not know which accounts are unreconciled or whether the unreconciled accounts were or were not subject to the segregation rules.”

Corzine holds an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Smith is candid about the corrosive effects of the Democrats’ lurch left.

“If someone doesn’t support every policy on their progressive wish list … they’re branded an enemy or a Republican in disguise. If these ideological purists think a West Virginia Democrat is bad, wait till they get a load of the Republican alternative.”

But Smith also falls victim to ideological myopia. Discussing the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 and its considerable political consequences, she appears to solely blame the Ferguson police for the death of the African American teen, who she says was “shot to death in broad daylight”. Like Hillary Clinton, Smith neglects to mention that police fired after Brown lunged for an officer’s gun. She also does not mention that Brown tussled with a convenience store owner before his confrontation with the law.

A New York Post front page refers to the scandal involving New York governor Eliot Spitzer, in March 2008.
A New York Post front page refers to the scandal involving New York governor Eliot Spitzer, in March 2008. Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Inadvertently, Smith highlights the volatility of the Democrats’ multicultural, upstairs-downstairs coalition. Worship at the twin altars of identity politics and political correctness exacts a steep price in votes and can negatively impact human life. See New York City’s current crime wave for proof.

Smith reserves some of her sharpest digs for Roger Stone, convicted and then-pardoned confidante of Donald Trump, pen-pal of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. She calls him a “stone-cold sociopath”. But she skates over animus that existed between Stone and Spitzer, her ex. In 2007, Stone allegedly left a threatening telephone message for Spitzer’s father, a real estate magnate. Months later, Stone told the FBI Spitzer “used the service of high-priced call girls” while staying in Florida.

In the end, Smith is an idealist.

“I believe in the power of politics to improve people’s lives,” she writes. “I still believe there is hope for the future.”

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