I was at a cocktail party on Fire Island when an old childhood friend came over and said, “Professor, you know a lot about Albany politics. Give me a short course.” Tired of talking and writing of the political perfidy of the sad schlemiels of the State Senate, I told the guy that most of them were no better than a bunch of whores.
“That’s it?” he inquired incredulously.
“That’s pretty much what it comes down to,” I said. “Long ago it stopped being about what is good for the people and it became about what is good for the politicians.”
A woman who was standing there listening said, with a sardonic smile, “Hey, that’s unfair to the whores.”
Maybe she’s right. The cover really came off the cesspool this time. Who were the winners and losers in the great migration of Pedro Espada, once leader of the powerful “Amigos” or “Gang of Four”? Of all people, Espada took home the marbles. The man was for hire by the highest bidder. In order to get him back, the Democrats, who had called him every name in the book after his defection, had to make the guy majority leader. Now he’s back, with promises of power and pork beyond comprehension. Of course, the guy is still under investigation by powerful law enforcement agencies. Gov. David Paterson, who was everyone’s choice for winner in resolving this crisis, broke the stalemate with his appointment of a lieutenant governor. The game was up and Espada made his dirty deal. Now everyone knows that no matter how you act, if you’ve got the crucial vote, you get paid off. What a lesson for our kids.
The Democratic Party was left in factions. As I warned in this space, they blew a golden opportunity to govern, just as they did in 1965. According to George Washington Plunkitt, there are two kinds of bribery: legal and illegal. People go to jail all the time for taking bribes. On the other hand, legal bribery happens every day in Albany. A wife gets a job, a friend’s project gets funded. No one has to come out and say, “If you do this for me I’ll do that for you.” It’s just understood.
Paterson stuck to his guns and emerged a hero. He is at his best when he does what is right and not what is political. His numbers will go up.
The State Senate will have to reform its ways. They have no idea how angry people are. At the same Fire Island cocktail party, another woman looked at me and said, “I don’t care, my friends and I are voting for whoever runs against these clowns.” So reform had better be the first thing these people do, and fast. Otherwise, some of them might well find themselves on the outside looking in, wishing they hadn’t pigged out at the trough.
In closing, I wish to extend my sincerest apologies to both prostitutes and pigs for besmirching their names.
Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.
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