Monday, August 24, 2009

Governor Paterson

My New York State Governor, David Paterson , was in the news recently complaining that the media is biased against him because he is black. This is not really the way you want to make news as Governor.

Paterson was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2006 as Eliot Spitzer's running mate. He became Governor when Spitzer resigned after it was revealed that Spitzer had been patronizing high priced prostitutes. Apparently Paterson objects to being called an "accidental governor". However this seems fair to me. There appears little reason to believe Paterson could ever have been elected Governor on his own. Most New Yorkers (like me) knew very little about him.

Being Governor of New York is a tough job. Spitzer, who came in with an impressive reputation and who some saw as a possible future President, had not performed well even before the prostitution scandal. So there were reasons to doubt Paterson would be up to the job. Nevertheless I believe most New Yorkers were hoping he could rise to the occasion. Unfortunately he has been unable to so. He has come across as weak, indecisive and lacking good political instincts.

An example of Paterson's poor political instincts was his intervention in the recent deadlock in the New York State Senate. This was the sort of thing the Governor would have been better advised to stay away from as he didn't have a positive contribution to make. His public criticism of the Senators briefly united them in denouncing the Governor but otherwise achieved nothing. And his attempt to appoint a new Lieutenant Governor to fill the vacancy and provide a tie-breaking vote in the Senate was ineffective because the Governor does not have the power to do this (or so the courts have ruled so far).

Charging bias also shows poor political instincts as it just reminds people that for whatever reason he has not been successful. Paterson needs to keep a low profile, work at being a better Governor and hope his opponents self destruct. Or he needs to get the Democrats to come up with some sinecure to convince him not to run again.

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