Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Double Dealing

As City Room first reported, it now appears as if the shaky leadership deal between the three amigos and Malcolm Smith has been blasted-well, to Smithereens: "Is the deal on the rocks? In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Espada took particular exception to suggestions in published reports that the majority leader title would not have many real responsibilities attached to it, contrary to the agreement with Mr. Smith. For that reason, Mr. Espada said, Mr. Smith had — for now, at least — lost his support, and perhaps that of Mr. Kruger and Mr. Díaz, too."

Indeed so-and, as Liz dramatizes, it seems that it's "all for one, and one for all:" "Malcolm Smith's deal with the Gang of Three is crashing down around his ears, and the renegade trio is accusing him of reneging on significant portions of the power-sharing agreement in the wake of displeasure from his members over how much he gave away to end the leadership stalemate."

One particular sticking point is the question of the status of the majority leader. Remember that when the deal was announced, Pedro Espada was heralded in the Latino media as the highest ranking Hispanic in the state-reinforcing the empowerment issue that the amigos had been pressing on Smith. Smith, however, wants to walk away from this: "Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist and blogger who is close to the Gang of Three ringleader Carl Kruger, (but, he says, not on the senator's payroll), accused Smith of trying to "slice-and-dice" the majority leader position that was supposed to be going to Senator-elect Pedro Espada Jr."

Espada makes himself perfectly clear on this in his comments to the City Room: "I feel tremendously dismayed and disappointed that the office of the majority leader has been gutted and reduced to a sad joke on all New Yorkers, but particularly the Latino community,” Mr. Espada said. “And thus I suspend my support for Malcolm Smith as leader.” And Ruben Diaz does so also in his comments to the NY Daily News: "I think it's in trouble again," said Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Bronx Democrat and one of the dissidents. Diaz accused Smith of trying to minimize the majority leader role carved out for Senator-elect Pedro Espada. "We in the Hispanic community cannot allow that this will only be a position in name only," Diaz said. "They have to live up to the agreement."

The real issue here is the inability of Smith to agree to the deal that was put forward-and consented to-last week; all done with the governor's presence and blessing. As Liz points out: "I reached Kruger who said: "A formal statement will be coming out in 24 hours unless something drastically changes to the contrary. That's all we have to say at the moment." A source with knowledge of the discussions says Kruger may be holding off out of deference to Gov. David Paterson, who was in the room when Smith cut the deal with the Gang of Three and is desperately trying to help his minority leader successor keep this agreement - currently held together with dental floss and chewing gum - intact."

In addition, the dissidents are upset at other Hispanic empowerment issues. As Liz also reports: "...the gang is not happy with word that Sen. Martin Dilan, Kruger's fellow Brooklynite and the longest-serving Latino member of the conference, apparently might be passed over to get the Transportation Committee chairmanship to get head the less-powerful Elections Committee instead. Dilan was supposed to get the chairmanship of the yet-unformed Senate Latino caucus, supplanting former gang member, Senator-elect Hiram Monserrate. But even that seems up in the air." And the fact that Jose Serrano got relegated to the Tourism Committee wasn't sitting well with the group.

So we're back to status quo ante as far as the senate leadership is concerned-and the major sticking point may not be any particular issue, but Smith's credibility; something that the elderly Ed Koch apparently can't quite grasp in his "Wise Guys" commentary on NY1. Koch opined that the three rebel Dems were "rats"-we're guessing because they abandoned the putative party leader. And this comes from the same non partisan turncoat, with distinctive Templeton-like features, who has been Mr. Republican over the past eight years. Easy Ed even had the nerve to say all of this with Mark Green sitting across the table (it was Koch who famously supported the Republican Bloomberg over Green in 2001). It seems to us, that the hypocritical rodent's paw is on the other foot.

The rebel group wasn't particularly enamored of Smith's leadership ability from the very beginning; an impression that has been strengthened over the past few days- even among independent observers-particularly in the media. And the three felt that they had Senator Smith's word; and the developments since the original deal was struck only weakens their ability to take that with anything but a bucket of salt.


We missed Senator Diaz's response to the Koch rat attack-so here it is: "Evidently, Diaz had just caught Koch's weekly appearance on NY1's "Wise Guys" segment during which he, according to Diaz, referred to the Gang of Three as "rats." "The only rat is Ed Koch," Diaz exclaimed. "When he was mayor, nobody in our community wanted him. The only rat he had was this rat. Rev. Diaz. Now this rat is no good anymore."