Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

Yesterday Malcolm Smith did the decent thing; distancing himself from the abhorrent comments that linked Senator Carl Kruger to "Republican terrorists." As Liz first reported:

"Still trying to lock down the majority leader vote, Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith distanced himself from a key ally who accused dissident Democratic Sen. Carl Kruger of “palling around with Republican terrorists” and warning there will be "hell to pay" if Kruger gets to chair the Senate Housing Committee. Smith, who is trying hard to secure the votes of Kruger and his fellow Gang of Three members, issued a statement critical of the comments made by Bertha Lewis, Working Families Party co-chair and the chief organizer for ACORN National. “The comments by Bertha Lewis are inappropriate and we do not condone such over-the-top rhetoric,” Smith said. “My conference and I look forward to working with our fellow Democrat, Sen. Kruger, on our bi-partisan reform agenda."

Kruger, while expressing appreciation for both a Smith phone call, as well as his public comments, did seem to further distance himself from the possibility of supporting the current minority leader-a distancing that the Padavan recount surge abets: "But while Kruger, who earlier told the Associated Press he wanted a statement from Smith repudiating the comments, said he was appreciative of the statement and a personal call from Smith, he said Lewis’ comments seriously jeopardized the possibility he’ll back Smith. “What Bertha Lewis’ infusion into this speaks about is not so much her statements, though they re repulsive, but rather the fact that she feels she’s been empowered (by) her position,” Kruger told DN Capitol Bureau Chief Ken Lovett."

Kruger apparently is concerned about the intimacy of the WFP's relationship with too many of the senate Dems-from the top on down: “I do believe because of her working relationship with the Senate that she has the license to make those kinds of statements and that’s a sad commentary,” Kruger said. “It weighs very very heavily not only on my decision, but also the mindset of my two (fellow Democratic dissidents)," the senator added, further noting: (Smith) is not apologizing. He’s distancing himself from her comments. But I would never have embraced her in the first place.”

Bertha, for her part, appears unapologetic about the monkey wrench she's thrown into the leadership battle. If addressing the state's problems in a bipartisan and non ideological manner is a Smith priority, than the Lewis entourage may become serious baggage weighing down any successful leadership achievement for the beleaguered Malcolm Smith. Liz's blog post heading-"With Friends Like These"-is apt indeed.