Sunday, September 20, 2009

Obama to Paterson: Hit the Bricks
Maybe it isn't ideal to have national authority intervening in a state political race (even though administrations of both parties, perhaps most notably LBJ and George W. Bush, have done it for decades). Still, I was glad to see this:
President Obama has sent a request to Gov. David A. Paterson that he withdraw from the New York governor’s race, fearing that Mr. Paterson cannot recover from his dismal political standing, according to two senior administration officials and a New York Democratic operative with direct knowledge of the situation.

The decision to ask Mr. Paterson to step aside was proposed by political advisers to Mr. Obama, but approved by the president himself, one of the administration officials said.

“Is there concern about the situation in New York? Absolutely,” the second administration official said Saturday evening. “Has that concern been conveyed to the governor? Yes.”
The move against a sitting Democratic governor represents an extraordinary intervention into a state political race by the president, and is a delicate one, given that Mr. Paterson is one of only two African-American governors in the nation.

But Mr. Obama’s political team and other party leaders have grown increasingly worried that the governor’s unpopularity could drag down Democratic members of Congress in New York, as well as the Democratic-controlled Legislature, in next fall’s election.

Obama's been compared to a Vulcan, but in this instance he seems to have the Klingon idea about revenge. As the Times article notes, two aspects of Paterson's epic bumbles in picking Hillary Clinton's Senate replacement rankled the administration: his dissing of Obama friend Caroline Kennedy, and his pledge not to appoint Kirsten Gillibrand before doing exactly that.

I wonder if there isn't another aspect to it, though. Paterson is a legacy pol; his father Basil has been one of the big cogs in the Harlem Democratic machine for the better part of a half-century. Before joining Eliot Spitzer's ticket as the nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006, David Paterson was known above all else for his amiability, a go-along-to-get-along state senator in an utterly neutered minority. To put it baldly, he didn't have to work very hard in politics; he was royalty, and his ticket was punched. Even when he ascended to the governorship, he came in with great initial popularity and widespread goodwill--and, while the recession certainly hurt him, I think he squandered most of that through his own ineptitude and the clear fact that his abilities were and are insufficient to his responsibilities. Compare that to Obama, who started with no political advantage and had to build his own network, find an opportunity, do some (not unusually, but still) ethically questionable things to create an initial political identity, and then win ever-more-unlikely races for national office on guts and skill. A little resentment would be understandable, as would the thought that the maturation of African-American political leadership might well entail accelerating the process by which the likes of Paterson give way to the Corey Bookers and Deval Patricks and Artur Davises, self-made individuals rather than dynastic scions.

Still, that's a sideline. The main point as far as I'm concerned is to get Paterson gone, and to forestall the possibility of a Rudy Giuliani governorship. Were the choice between Paterson and Giuliani, I honestly have no idea how I'd vote--probably for some Bolshevik third party goober, but maybe not. Much as I detest and fear him, I think Il Douche would do a better job in the governorship, and I'd kind of enjoy inflicting him on our bastard scumbag legislators. (Who says liberals never spite-vote?) But I'd much prefer another option--even if it's Andrew Cuomo, of whom I'm also not particularly fond.

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