Just when New York should have the strongest leadership team available, things have never looked worse. Because we are in the greatest recession in modern history, we need good thinking, good public policy work. Instead of creative solutions, we have had what can only be described as political gang wars.
The Democrats have blown it big time. The situation in the Senate ended with a mess that has put some of the most morally corrupt politicians in New York history in the collective driver’s seat. State Sen. Pedro Espada is the beneficiary of a lot of money in the form of pork that has come his way because he had the deciding vote. To put it mildly, the Democrats, who should hold the light to lead the way through this morass, paid the guy off. Disgusting. Not only that, the ruling clique that is running the place can’t even decide who their leaders are. There seems to be a situation resembling something Woodrow Wilson once warned about, “Secret agreements, secretly arrived at.”
For their part, the Republicans have no real bench. Virtually every major statewide office is up for grabs this year and the GOP has no one of substance to run. Rudy Giuliani, who knows something about playing hardball, has left himself vulnerable by his sponsorship of the hopelessly corrupt former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. The blissfully retired George Pataki is being pushed and pulled out of retirement for everything. John Faso, who ran and got beat (badly) by Eliot Spitzer for governor, is being called on to run for so many offices that he can’t afford the luxury of honing his message. Faso should be talking state issues and staying away from the Obama bashing he is engaging in. You do that if you are running for the U.S. Senate, and even then it’s stupid. Obama is still popular in New York and Faso should be talking like a moderate instead of an ideologue.
Meanwhile, the Democratic big boys have assured that a fairly weak Kirsten Gillibrand will have the race of her life if the Republicans can convince a moderate big name Bloomberg-type to run against her.
The Grand Old Party is trying to resurrect the body of Rick Lazio from Long Island for a gubernatorial run. He could be the next Pataki if David Paterson’s numbers stay as low as they are.
The oft-quoted Brennan Center at NYU spoke of dysfunctional government. They have been all for changing the rules, but what they don’t get is that it isn’t about the rules alone. It is about the people.
Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.
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