Saturday, February 27, 2010

Paterson Falls

Another governor, another tawdry scandal that will probably force him from office. Spitzer and Paterson are probably the worst executive tandem since Nixon and Agnew. (And Paterson, I think, has to go. I can't imagine how he can be an effective or even marginally respected governor the rest of the year.) And where would New York State be without Richard Ravitch, who is the lieutenant-governor by the narrowest of margins, saved by the split vote on the Court of Appeals, after all the lower courts ruled that Paterson couldn’t appoint Ravitch in the first place, and all the state’s Republicans and many Democrats howled that appointing Ravitch was a terrible abuse of power. Otherwise we would be looking at the Senate Pro Tem, Malcolm Smith I believe, who I guess is a nice guy, but is a total political nonentity. (And of course a year ago if this happened, it would have been the now convicted Joe Bruno who would now be ready for his gubernatorialship.)

For me, the bad run of governors is almost a diversion from the state’s main problem, the utterly dysfunctional state legislature, and there seems little chance that things will change this November. As we are seeing in Washington now, the legislature can reduce even the strongest executive to the position of seeming irrelevance. The NYS legislature doesn't even need the filibuster to make passing significant legislation almost impossible. Spitzer tried to bully the legislature, Paterson tried to get along with it , and neither strategy worked, and the financial crisis of the past two years has brutally revealed the incompetence of both Paterson and his legislative peers. And now we will be reading articles about Andrew Cuomo, the reasons for his divorce from the daughter of Robert Kennedy, and whatever other dirt is in his closet. (If we go back to 2006, with Spitzer, Paterson, Cuomo, and Hevesi on the Democrat ticket, Cuomo is the only one who hasn’t or shortly will be forced from office, so naturally he is the front runner for the governor’s spot.) After Spitzer I am really suspicious of the ability of attorneys-general to assume high executive position. Its a very different job. I don’t know, Cuomo seems like a nice guy, but I am not sure that electing a fortunate son is the way to really change things in this state. But of course the problem is, no one else really knows either. But Rob and I promise to consider this in forthcoming posts.