Monday, September 21, 2009

Hello, He Must Be Going-Or Maybe Not

Well, what do you know? President Obama has told David Paterson to go get his hat and coat and take his leave, and he shouldn't let the door hit him on the posterior on the way out. It's that bad; and, as the NY Post reports, this sanitizes the way for Andrew Cuomo to step up and assume the leadership of the party: "The move could allow many Democrats, including black elected officials and leaders who have been privately concerned about Paterson, to switch their support to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Public polls all show Giuliani trouncing Paterson but losing to Cuomo."

Why the bum's rush-and from another African American at that? It's the Giuliani bogeyman that's prompted the move. As the NY Times points out: "The general election is more than a year away, but Mr. Obama and his political team are moving now in part because of signals from Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, that he may run for governor, according to Democrats who have spoken with White House officials. Many Democratic leaders believe that Mr. Giuliani’s presence at the top of the Republican ticket could spark enthusiasm among his party’s voters, who might otherwise have little desire to go to the polls."

But if Cuomo is the presumptive nominee, it's less likely that Rudy will take the plunge-and risk further tarnishing the Giuliani brand. Still, the intervention of the president in this is quite a shocker to us; and it allows Andrew to avoid a reprise of the stuff storm that occurred when he challenged another African-American, Carl McCall, in 2002. As the NY Daily News points out: "At the very least, by letting Paterson know he will not have the backing of the White House, and the world's most important black leader, Obama's easing pressure on Cuomo The attorney general has worked hard to recover from his failed 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary against H. Carl McCall, who was seeking to become the first black governor."

Still, it takes a lot of work for NY's first black governor to get a pink slip from our first black president-and Paterson apparently worked hard for the honor, as the Times indicates: "In addition, the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mr. Paterson has been shaky, dating to the governor’s selection of a replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton, who resigned from the Senate to become secretary of state. White House officials had received assurances from Mr. Paterson that he would not pick Kirsten E. Gillibrand, then a little-known Democratic congresswoman from a heavily Republican district outside of Albany, according to a prominent Democrat who discussed the matter with a senior White House official."

What this all does do, however, is to allow the Paterson Exodus Project to be expedited: "Now, Mr. Cuomo effectively has the blessing of the nation’s first black president to run against New York’s first black governor. That will probably neutralize any criticism he may face among the governor’s prominent black allies, including Representative Charles B. Rangel of Harlem, who warned this year that the party would become racially polarized if Mr. Cuomo took on Mr. Paterson."

And the exhaling that you are beginning to hear is from the collective sighs of relief from all of the Democratic state senators-particularly those from the most marginal of districts: "But Mr. Obama’s political team and other party leaders have grown increasingly worried that the governor’s unpopularity could drag down Democratic members of Congress in New York, as well as the Democratic-controlled Legislature, in next fall’s election."

The open question now is how does the governor get to make a graceful exit-and will the president help with a soft cushion for him to land on? Our view is that he will, and although Paterson's leadership abilities fall short of ideal, he is a decent public servant who deserves to have a way to leave office with his dignity in tact.


Governor Paterson's apparently not getting the message. As the NY Daily News is now reporting: "A defiant Gov. Paterson Sunday said he still plans to run for a full four-year term next year despite a stunning White House request that the poll-challenged governor step aside. "I've said time and time again I am going to run for governor next year," Paterson said in Harlem. "My plans have not changed."

This is looking like a real clustershtup; and in our view, if Paterson won't go quietly, we believe that it will get real ugly quickly. Or as Sonny Liston once said about one of his bum of the month opponents, a guy named Albert Westphal: "Eastphal, Westphal, that boy's gonna fall."