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Every time those tea party people start talking about state?s rights, I get the chills. Maybe you know a state where government is chugging along responsibly doing the work of the people, but I haven?t heard of one. Here in New York, we?re struggling to get our act together before the next election. Seems like eons ago that the Democrats finally took control of the state senate and Eliot Spitzer strode into Albany.
What should have been a breakthrough wound up an ugly, mean-spirited mess that has distracted the legislature rather than facilitating solutions to the many issues that concern New Yorkers. Spitzer made it clear from the start that he was not some go-along guy, and when he got caught in Washington with a prostitute, there was no love in Albany for a second chance.
His successor, David Paterson, clearly did not anticipate his sudden ascension into the governor?s chair, and he has struggled ever since to prove he can handle the job. I?m still not certain that Paterson is as poorly equipped as his critics (including President Obama and New York Times) seem to think, but he?s now a lame duck, and it hardly matters.
I won?t even detail the dysfunction that has dogged the Democrats in the legislature, but suffice it to say that the moral bar has been even lower than in the governor?s mansion, and the latest revelation is that a rogue Democratic senator has been accused by the state attorney general of using a network of non-profit health clinics he runs as his private larder.
Which brings us to Andrew Cuomo, son of Mario, and the aforementioned attorney general. Over the week-end Spitzer, who held the attorney general?s post before running for governor, insinuated none too subtly that Cuomo was letting politics guide his prosecution.
I should say right here that I don?t think public prosecution is great preparation for executive office. It requires an aggression and single-mindedness that don?t work so well when the object is to convince people to do things they?d just as soon not and when you have no real power to coerce them. It didn?t work for Spitzer. It made former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani a bully at times, and Chris Christy, the newly elected, hard-charging governor of New Jersey (and former prosecutor) seems to be running into determined resistance.
New York Republicans are casting about for a gubernatorial candidate, but none seems as strong as Cuomo. And, like Spitzer, I wish there were someone else in the Democratic line-up.
The perfect candidate, in my opinion, is not at home in New York but probably jetting off to some distant land to make clear her expectations for its resistant leader. She knows New York well, having been twice elected one of its U.S. senators. Shaping up sheiks and prime ministers is good practice for refereeing a guy like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Unlike many male politicians, she?s a poster girl for strong Methodist values. And she knows a lot about health care.
I speak, of course, of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It?s very cold in Albany and not very amenable to the kind of hospitality that works so well in Washington. But these are difficult times, and someone who survived in Little Rock might be just the right person for the job.
She?d serve some strong tea.