Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Obama needs a lesson in NY politics

I have a confession to make. I am a Democrat. And as a Democrat, I want my Democratic President to succeed. I want my Democratic Governor to succeed. And I want my Democratic Attorney General to continue his record of success. None of these wishes are mutually exclusive. It is theoretically possible that all three of these aspirations are achievable. However, the reality of the Democratic party seems to be that when we want to assemble as a firing squad, more often than not, we form a circle. We here in New York are quite capable of doing this on our own, without any assistance from the White House.
This Democratic drama was painfully in evidence this past Monday, when President Obama came to town, ostensibly to sing the praises of Community College cooperation with the collective community, and the benefits it can portend. Joe Bruno was not invited. David Paterson was. I’ll bet Governor Paterson wished by Monday morning, that he could trade places with former Sen. Bruno, and skip the event altogether, and go off swinging on a nearby swingset instead. The difference here is that Bruno expected his disinvite. Paterson did not deserve his. For me, having to watch the Democratic President diss the Democratic Governor of New York was even more painful than watching Tom “The Hammer” DeLay dance the Cha-Cha to the tune of Wild Thing!
Even if the President’s move ultimately turns out to be savvy political positioning on his part, and the jury is still out on that… it was done poorly…done in bad form, with bad timing to boot. The President has his hands full in battling for affordable health care, and in deciding what to do to stop the battling in Afghanistan . To open another front, and engage in political battling in New York, before being invited in, is a battle he should avoid. It may even result in a Phyrrhic victory, handing the Republicans an opportunity to win the ultimate war. His actions were unseemly at best, and downright dumb at worst. Obama’s forays into New York Politics in the Senate race, dissuading Steve Israel, among others, from waging a primary battle for the Senate nomination, and his minion’s meddling in the selection process for the 23rd Congressional district were not warmly received in some Democratic circles. There is a role for the President to play as the leader of his party, but in politics…timing is everything..and his timing is off.
Our Governor took a bold and dramatic step in appointing a Lieutenant Governor to try to end a silly, and self-indulgent Senate soap opera. Amazingly, the Court of Appeals has now said he was right to do that. He won! It is entirely conceivable that the court of public opinion may yet reverse itself in its judgment of our brave, bold, and blind Governor, who as it turns out may have more foresight than realsight when the last chapter in this saga of NY politics is finally written. Somehow, I have come to the conclusion that the large lady has not yet stepped up to the microphone to sing in NY, and that while some may think that we in NY have gone from banana republic to just plain bananas …in the final analysis…timing, good judgment, patience, and persistence, may in fact , actually pay off.
As for President Obama, his political pedigree is as yet untested in such intra-party matters..and it might behoove him to hold his fire until called upon to step up to the plate. The bottom line is that his intervention in NY politics at this juncture was unwelcome, unwarranted, and just plain wrong! I would rather cheer him on for what he is doing right, ( and he has done a lot that is right) than chastise him for what he has done wrong. But to remain silent in the face of an improvident exercise of political power on his behalf …to not call him on it, at a time when he can learn a valuable political lesson, might only lead to even greater mistakes in the future, which could be avoided with a little sage restraint.
I wish you well Mr. President. I wish you well, Governor Paterson. And I know you are already doing well, Mr. Attorney General.