I'm riled up about the situation with Governor Paterson, because it's a ludicrously clear example of the worst aspects of humanity and shucked responsibility increasingly on display in our country. A person in a position of power and authority commits an indefensible breach of trust, then makes the breach of trust seem like quaint behavior when he or she denies any wrongdoing, refuses to accept adequate responsibility, and insists that he should suffer no consequences other than those he chooses.
Let me tell you something, Governor Paterson: I pay taxes in New York state, and I want you out. Out of my face, off my television screen, off my front pages, out of Albany, and out of my life.
In courts of law, United States citizens are innocent until proven guilty. When an elected official - in this case the highest elected official in the State of New York - telephones a crime victim and witness the day before her scheduled testimony, it doesn't matter whether any laws were broken (though several might have been). He's broken the public trust. He's broken his oath of office. He's broken, period. And David Paterson ought to know this. Or, he ought to have it taught to him.
I've left out many of the most delicious details of the governor's farce in that brief summary. Like the fact that the person accused of assaulting the woman was, until days ago, his closest aide. Like the fact that New York state police "visited" the woman after she'd reported the crime. Like the allegations that the governor had several others contact her, speak with her, and encourage her to "make this go away."
But it's not allegations I'm interested in, or concerned about. It's his one phone call. A sitting governor does not contact a witness who's about to testify. Not to cajole, and not to console. It doesn't matter which. No matter what was said, the instant that call connected and the governor spoke to Sherr-una Booker, he gave up his governorship. That's why it gripes me so to have to watch him try to hold on.
It doesn't matter whether he encouraged her to lie, or to retreat. It doesn't even matter whether she was really the victim of a crime. When a governor calls an accuser the day before she's scheduled to testify, he's not qualified to govern anymore. Period. He has traded in his mantle for the pleasure of dialing those digits. He's got to go. And, personally, I've had about all I can take of elected officials, and Wall Street mobilizers and enablers, insisting that they don't have to.
Like a lot of people, I'm astonished and appalled at the craven, weaselly behavior we've had foisted upon us by presidents, vice presidents, senators, attorneys general, Justice Department lawyers, representatives, bankers, mortgage brokers, and on and on down and across the list (and that's before the denying and refusing to give up their jobs begins). Once the crimes, misdemeanors, and/or mere "transgressions" are exposed, then the really cowardly and sociopathic behavior begins.
Get with the program, folks. The way to redeem yourself and preserve some amount of dignity isn't by insisting you really didn't do anything wrong. It's not by insisting that you only did something a little bit wrong. It's by realizing and acknowledging that you behaved inappropriately, you got caught, you fucked up royally and have no one to blame but yourself, and that there's no path toward redemption open to you anymore, other than going away, and staying gone.
Evan Handler's latest book is "It's Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive."
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