Remember how great things looked for New York a few years back? We had a new warrior-governor, Eliot Spitzer, and the power team of Clinton and Schumer in the Senate. Charles Rangel was King of the Hill in the House. Wall Street was shoveling money into the public coffers. The presidential race was coming up and it looked like it would be Hillary, our girl. Or at worst, Barack Obama, who was so smart and charismatic he'd change the country fast, in just the way New York wanted it.
Well, we still have Chuck Schumer.
Until recently, New Yorkers consoled themselves for all the local political messes by pointing out that at least Spitzer didn't try to sell Hillary Clinton's Senate seat to the highest bidder.
Now, people in Illinois must be telling each other that at least when their lieutenant governor moved up, he didn't bring along a close confidant who had to be bailed out of domestic violence legal actions through conveniently timed phone calls to the woman in question from the new governor of New York and a member of his security detail.
David Paterson, who was not going to be elected governor anyway, is now not even going to get to run for governor and lose. The strange, troubling craziness that began with the rumors that the New York Times was looking into his sex life has now reached a point that even most of Paterson's harshest critics never expected. The stuff the Times came up with in the end turned out to point to actions that were far, far worse than the much-rumored, much-denied sex-in-the-gubernatorial-utility closet rumors.
We now have all the reason we need to conclude that as governor Paterson has been phoning it in, not putting in the serious time, not talking to the serious people. All of us who occasionally defended him -- by pointing out that he had good basic values when it came to things like the budget -- can throw in the towel. Nobody will ever pay any attention to anything this guy says again. He could call for a resolution endorsing kindness to grandmothers, and it would die on the vine without even coming to a vote.
And so far, Paterson has had no decent comeback to the Times' latest, devastating charge. That his top aide David Johnson was being threatened with domestic violence charges from a longtime girlfriend, who tried to take out an order of protection against him. And that the woman suddenly decided to drop all legal action right after Paterson and a member of the state police called her to discuss the matter.
The state of New York has been swimming in a sewer of issues about violence against women for the last year, ever since Hiram Monserrate, a critical Democratic vote in the state Senate, was arrested and charged with slicing his girlfriend's face with a broken glass. Monserrate was found guilty of a lesser charge, and then expelled from the New York Senate. This came after a long day of (naturally) behind-the-scenes arguments, in which a handful of senators claimed the whole thing was a plot against Puerto Ricans, and a much larger contingent made it clear they had no understanding at all of what domestic violence is all about.
It's all too awful for words. The best thing Paterson could do for the state would be to drop not only the election campaign, but resign from office entirely. Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch, who was sworn in during a comic emergency ceremony in a steakhouse in the middle of yet another political crisis, is actually a fine public servant who might be able to rally the public behind some serious financial and ethics reform.
Who would have imagined two years ago that in early 2010 we'd be saying: Well, thank God we've at least got Richard Ravitch.