Wednesday, March 12, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: NY Governor Eliot Spitzer Resigns—Effective Monday March 17th. Lt. Gov. David Paterson To Serve as Gov. Til 2010

The Spectacular Comet “Client 9 From Outer Space” Plummets To Earth.

Thus endeth one age, and beginneth one anew...

NEW YORK (AP) — Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace Wednesday after getting caught in a call-girl scandal that shattered his corruption-fighting, straight-arrow image, saying: "I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work."

Spitzer made the announcement without having finalized a plea deal with federal prosecutors, though a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said he is believed to still be negotiating one. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

"Over the course of my public life, I've insisted, I think correctly, that people regardless of their position or power take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself," Spitzer said at a Manhattan news conference with his wife, Silda, at his side. He left without answering questions.

Spitzer will be replaced on Monday by Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who becomes New York's first black governor. He also will be the state's first legally blind governor and its first disabled governor since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

It was a spectacular flame-out—lightning-quick, and replete with all manner of hypocrisies. From the “White Knight” Spitzer having cast himself as miles above reproach, then being found to have partaken at cost—of the “evils” he so vehemently fought against, to the naked double-standardism of the Right—as evidenced by their knee-jerk-to-the-chin calls for Spitzer's impeachment, a certain selective obsessing over the story (The hacktacular Glenn Reynolds hasn't worked his typing hands this hard since he rhetorically hand-jobbed for the Swiftboaters and the Fred Thompson campaign).

It may well have been aided by the likes of a wholly compromised Justice Department that is now being exposed as little more than a crude sledgehammer in the thuggish hands of a GOP/Bush administration bent on settling all “Family Business” before their movie fades to black. We shall see. Spitzer wasn't set up, that much seems clear. But the Siegelman-esque pall over his obviously being targeted for investigation is a whole other kettle of fish. One I imagine we'll be getting a closer look at as the initial hormone-fueled furor wanes and keener eyes lock in as they have started to on a now-ineffectual Bush administration and it's skullduggery.

But the focus now is on old New York, and the kicking out of the table under the chess game that is Empire State politics.

In short:

On St. Patrick's Day, Monday—New York State will see something I thought I'd never see in my lifetime, an African American in the governor's seat. If you're a NY politics buff, the office of Lt. Governor is something of an extended bad joke, populated by the likes of the vanilla non-entity, and weird Milton Berle-lookalike Malcolm Wilson (who?) who became governor when Nelson Rockefeller was chosen as Veep by Gerald Ford in '74. (You may not remember how ambitious ol' ex Gov and Veep Rocky ended up in the end. He croaked out in the apartment of—naked and probably on top of—a pretty young aide named Megan Marshak—who instead of calling 911, called a female friend to help her out of a cheating-on-his-wife, 200 pound-plus, dead-weight bind.)

The office was also the butt of jokes when a recent occupant, one Betsy McCaughey Ross goofily and embarassingly stood for the full length of then-governor Pataki's televised State of the State address in 1996, weirdly drawing attention to herself. That gaffe, as well as a tendency to do things that appeared at times equally loopy and “All About Eve” grasping got her unprecedently bounced from the ticket when Pataki ran again in 2000. Ouch.

It was considered a joke office—almost to the point that David Paterson, Spitzer's choice was very much looked on as a throw-in, an afterthought in the campaign in much of the reportage leading up to the election.

That office will never be looked on that way again after the unexpected turn of events in the last 48 hours. You had best believe that.

The tasks of the Lt. Governor will be assumed by the State Senate Majority Leader or president pro tempore, the odious wingnut Joseph Bruno of...Muttontown, a small upstate community. Bruno, himself under a shadow of investigation for years for shady dealings will retain his office as State Senator and also be referred to as “Acting Lieutenant Governor” for the remainder of Paterson's term and is next in line of succession.

The secondary importance of Spitzer's flameout is that for the first time in decades, Dems were on the verge of re-taking the State Senate, having claimed the governor's office, state legislature and being down one seat in said senate. Spitzer for all his faults had huge coattails and a brilliant fund-raising arm and was probably going to swing the senate to the Dem side had he not so compulsively and furtively ass-wrangled. Paterson is no such funding “rainmaker” and is considered much more the upstate policy wonk, albeit a much-respected one for his integrity and can-do-ishness.

What this all holds for the state senate's political balance is not yet known. What is known is that it effectively raises from the ashes a one-time New York political powerhouse—The “Harlem Clubhouse”. Said clubhouse was the one-time seat of Black political muscle in New York, boasting Charlie Rangel, former Mayor David Dinkins, political fixer Herman “Denny” Farrell, and high-minded old lions Percy Sutton and Basil Paterson—David's father as its most influential members. But that clubhouse's power had been on a precipitous slide and has been looked on in recent years as a dinosaur graveyard populated by silver-haired old men in gas-guzzling old Caddys, listening to echoes of Billy Eckstine and Nat King Cole in their heads.

The younger Paterson, a scion of that clubhouse breathes some life into those ashes, re-animating them a little bit with his youth and ascension to a higher office than any of the elders ever attained (Dinkins became a one-term Mayor of NYC, while Paterson the elder was a New York Secretary Of State and Sutton a Deputy NY Mayor).

An interesting and wholly unexpected scenario here in 2008. I can only wonder how many months/weeks/days it'll be before the barely-in-the-closet bigots up-and downstate start sniping at Governor-To-Be Paterson.'s still a difficult thing to wrap my New Yorker brain around.