Eliot Spitzer's CNN Debut: Talking Ideas, “Guilty Pleasures”

Everybody likes a comeback, right?

Eliot Spitzer’s guilty pleasure is – NASCAR.

It’s hard to square the fact that the friendly pundit advocating for the middle-class, proffering advice for President Obama and leading a panel discussion about guilty pleasures Monday night on CNN is the same disgraced man who fled the governorship in New York in a prostitution scandal two years ago last March.

“I’m recovering. This is step one” Spitzer told his "Parker Spitzer" co-host, conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, acknowledging his past out of the gate before calling on Obama to go ahead and fire Treasury Secretary Geithner.

Nevertheless, Spitzer pledged to deliver a “show about ideas” and on that front the show has the potential to deliver. But it could also turn out to be another name-calling, vapid cable news spectacle.

On Monday’s debut, Spitzer and Parker welcomed White House consumer protection adviser Elizabeth Warren, “The West Wing” and “The Social Network” creative force Aaron Sorkin, and conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, among others.

The show provided its first newsmaking moment when Sorkin called Sarah Palin an “idiot.”

“This is a remarkably, jaw droppingly, mean woman,” Sorkin said, offering up such proof as he’s "pretty sure” she doesn’t think he’s a “real American.”

“The Democrats maybe have moved into the center, but the Republicans have moved into a mental institution,” Sorkin added.

Parker, for her part, accused Palin of being “a tease” by having not revealed as of yet whether she plans to make a run for the presidency.

If those moments represented sensational and speculative horserace journalism per usual, Spitzer’s conversation with Henry Blodget, a former Wall Street analyst he once prosecuted for duping investors, at least brought something new to the table.

Blodget, who went on to create the blog Business Insider after Spitzer had him banned from working in the securities industry, explained Wall Street’s frustration with the man.

“I would have said let’s look at the e-mails in context. It’s like locker room talk,” Blodget said.

But he agreed Wall Street is a “middleman riddled with conflict” and stopped short of saying it was unfair Spitzer singled him out.

In fact, Blodget said he thought Spitzer had “huge balls” for taking on the system and confessed he voted for him for governor.

“Best endorsement I ever got. Can’t do anything with this,” Spitzer shot back.

That such a real moment could then melt away into the show’s final “political party” segment, a panel discussion on such “ideas” as a) now everyone say something nice about Palin, b) which celebrity would you like to see as a candidate for office and c) what’s your guilty pleasure, illustrates the downside to CNN's gamble that beaming Spitzer into the country’s living rooms at 8 p.m is a good thing.

No matter how brilliant he is and how much we all love a comeback, it’s more than a bit uncomfortable to have Spitzer talking about guilty pleasures.

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