Friday, December 12, 2008

Waiting for the Deus Ex Machina

For those familiar with Greek drama, there's a literary device used by the playwrights, when the protagonist of the narrative is in trouble. At the moment when it appears as if the hero is doomed, one of the gods intervenes to save the day-a device called the deus ex machina. Such is the situation facing all of our state senate heroes; frustrated by their predicament, they may only be saved by divine intervention. And in this case, only the governor comes close to filling the godhead role.

Some of this is underscored by the continued public antipathy shown by Pedro Espada to Malcolm Smith. As the Politicker tells us: "State Senator-elect Pedro Espada Jr. doesn't know who he'll support to lead his chamber. He's talking to everyone - Republican,
Democrat...whoever. But not to fellow State Senator Malcolm Smith, who he repeatedly called "a scoundrel and a liar" late Wednesday after Smith announced he would no longer negotiate with Espada or fellow members of the so-called Gang of Three. "There is no way that I would cast my vote for Malcolm Smith, and there is no way I would have conversations with anyone other than the entire conference," he said."

Strong stuff that's tough to walk back on without some help. And here's Espada with Fred Dicker on the radio: "On negotiating with Sen. Malcolm Smith: “Unfortunately, we were talking to someone who misrepresents his authority.” Could negotiations resume at this point? “It would require to have someone else in that conference move to a position of leadership.”

Which leads to the question that Liz asks: "Will Paterson Remain Loyal To Smith?" And, if not, what are the alternatives that are open to him? "The governor, who is scheduled to release his executive 2009-2010 budget Dec. 16 (a whole month early), later praised Smith for having the courage to walk away from the tentative power-sharing deal and insisted he's "supportive" of Smith. But he also didn't rule out the idea of backing someone else, like, say, Sen. Jeff Klein."

So in our view, Paterson might be forced to try to rehabilitate Smith, and resurrect the collapsed deal in the process; unless he can find someone who's not only palatable to him, but to a majority of the Democratic conference: "The TU thinks that Paterson is at fault here, writing today in a harshly-worded editorial: "For the whole mess, the credit goes not just to Mr. Smith, but also to his enabler, Governor Paterson." If you agree with that, then you might also agree that it's Paterson's responsibility to help the Senate Democrats, who, after all, he assisted in winning the majority on Nov. 4, climb their way out of this morass prior to the start of the 2009 session."

All of this may be exacerbated by the drawn out battle over the Padavan/Gennaro recount. As Liz also writes: "The on-again, off-again recount of paper ballots in the 11th SD race is off again - at least until next week - and at the rate things or going, it's highly likely there will be no winner certified by the time the Legislature returns to Albany on Jan. 7."

So we could be facing a real messy stalemate, at least if the governor fails to put a Democratic-driven deal together. Without Padavan's vote, the Republicans will need all three dissidents to align with them; something that might be difficult-although not impossible-to achieve. In any case, it is an outcome that the governor doesn't appear to want; so he needs to reach back for god-like resources in order to get the senate leadership resolved.