Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wither Withering Smith?

In reading some of the blog comments about the way in which Malcolm Smith reneged on a deal that he had stuck in good faith with the senate dissidents, you'd have to believe that marijuana has been suddenly legalized; because to attribute courage to Mr. Smith in this walk back, is to totally misconstrue the essence of what has transpired. Smith's leadership (sic) on this is literally blowin' in the wind.

Which leaves us in the same position we were in before the brokered deal fell through-and with Smith lacking the necessary votes to ascend to the leader's position. As The Politicker points out: "State Senator Malcolm Smith just announced he is ceasing negotiations with three rebellious members of the Democratic conference, even if that means driving them to the other side and tipping the balance of power back to the Republicans in the Senate."

Ah, a line in the sand, one that leaves Governor Paterson, just where? We think that David is not going to allow laissez faire to rule in the current stand off. As he told the Politicker: "So, I guess they would have to go back and try to work it out, and of course it will give the other side an opportunity to present their issues. But what I do think is starting to happen is that it's distracting us from the real issue, which is that we've got to close this deficit. And I hope that as they go through whatever it is that's causing the controversy, that people will think about that once in a while, because when we go back in January, that's where I really need all of the players in this process to come together."

All of this is, of course, predictably messy-this kind of political deal making always is; but to shriek about party disloyalty here is simply stupid. No one screamed publicly about apostasy when David Paterson ousted Marty Conners (with the key votes of Kruger and Dilan); nor were the blogs lit up when Smith prevailed over Dilan to replace Paterson.

And the public approbation of the deal's collapse from certain quarters isn't really a good boost for Smith. As Daily Politics points out: "Two key Democratic interest groups -- pro-choice activists and gay rights activists -- are applauding Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm Smith's decision to break off talks with the so-called "three amigos" -- right-leaning Democrats who have threatened to withhold their votes from Smith for majority leader in January."

All this does is underscore the way in which certain interests hold sway over the Democratic Party-often to its detriment; and if the folks keep hectoring Diaz, accusing him of the worst forms of bigotry, perhaps they should address some of their ire to the president elect who holds a similar position on gay marriage. Diaz's complaint about Smith is legit: "Diaz had secured a promise that a bill to legalize gay marriage would not come to the floor for a vote. Smith said that guarantee is no longer the case. Diaz also blasted Smith for trying to make the majority leader position that was to go to Espada a token position. "He agreed to it. What happened now is he tried to diminish Hispanic power and Pedro Espada and make a joke of the Hispanic community." Asked if he would support a Republican, he said, "Let's see what happens."

Smith, for his part, has tried to put the best face on his blatant about face. As City Room highlights: "On Wednesday morning, Mr. Smith said “the Democratic members of the Senate have elected to cease negotiations on reorganization matters with all three senators,” adding, “We are suspending negotiations effective immediately.” He said he thought the negotiations with the gang of three had been about “reform and about real change” but added that “it became clear to me over time that this was more about personal interest and not the reform that Senate Democrats ran on.” Mr. Smith was asked, “You really thought this was about reform?” “Yes, sir,” Mr. Smith replied."

Once again the cold truth intervenes in this flight of fancy. Smith couldn't sell the deal after agreeing to it and waiving any grace period for further review. So lets not hear any crude references to testicles, when in some cases they clearly haven't descended.