Friday, December 12, 2008

Deceitful Dealing

A legal memo that purports to outline the proposed senate leadership deal has surfaced at the City Room blog-and the only logical source for the document is the Smith team; in an attempt, we feel, to further tarnish the dissidents: "But a memorandum obtained by The Times gives a more detailed glimpse of what was discussed by the men last week. The document, which was circulated at the meeting, spells out in extraordinary detail the dissidents’ requests — requests that the three men have insisted Mr. Smith agreed to oblige, with only a few exceptions."

But, on analysis, there are some rich reform proposals in the memo. To wit: enhanced power to committee chairs and bipartisan ability to introduce and move legislation. As the memo stated: "The chair shall control the flow of all legislation assigned to the Committee and be authorized to discharge any bill from a committee for a full floor vote..."

And so on-but the Smith focus is elsewhere; designed to misdirect us away from his walk back from the deal he pledged his fealty to. Nothing could be more disingenuous than the following: "An aide to Mr. Smith, who was granted anonymity to discuss the confidential deliberations at the meeting, described the document as no more than a “wish list” presented by the three men.
“There was no final or formalized document from the meeting,” the aide said. The three men have previously said that at Mr. Smith’s insistence, they agreed to a handshake deal, sanctified by a prayer uttered by Mr. Diaz, who is a Pentacostal minister."

The purpose of the memo, drafted with the aid of counsel, was to avoid any misconceptions about what was agreed to-and Smith made some amendments that underscore his active participation in the process. But now, lacking the support of his conference, he flounders around, and leaks a document to deflect from his own responsibility in the failure of a deal that a whole slew of prominent Democrats (and an independent billionaire) saw consummated before their very eyes.

And all of this hasn't been lost on his colleagues-who appear ready perhaps to attempt their own coup in the wake of the deal's collapse. As the NY Daily News reports: "State Senate Democrats plan to meet privately Friday amid talk of a possible coup attempt against leader Malcolm Smith. Sources said Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, Smith's deputy, has been working the phone in hopes of winning support to become Senate majority leader next month."

Ah, the wages of sin, and all that; but the coupsters aren't sitting pretty here, because the numbers are a challenge to any attempt to replace Smith: "One senator loyal to Smith said he was aware Klein was making calls, but downplayed the chances of success. "I think Malcolm will do what he has to do to make sure his position is secure," the senator said. "People are mistaking frustration in the conference with a desire for change."

In any case, the effort to designate a leader will have to go through the three dissidents who, at least according to Pedro Espada on "Inside City Hall" last night, are united in their common reform goals. A further split in the Democratic conference, will more than likely elevate the chances that Republicans will regain the leadership. Expect more chaos before this is resolved.