I'm about to sound like my Dad when he starts waxing nostalgic about ten cent tokens, but I cannot help it on this one. When I was in my salad days New York's Governor's office was a serene-alright-dull place. Sure Mario Cuomo was often lauded for his diplomacy and regularly touted as a Presidential candidate, but like his eventual successor George Pataki, was often relegated to the second chair in New York City tabloids. Throughout the 80s and 90s New York's front page tabloid headlines belonged to larger than life Mayor's Ed Koch and Rudolph Giuliani. David Dinkins threatened to upset this trend, but the unrelenting criticism Dinkins incurred from Koch and Giuliani throughout his tenure made his term as Mayor exceptionally tenuous.
When people began touting Giuliani as "America's Mayor" after 9/11, it relegated New York's highest ranking official, Governor Pataki to the minor leagues of American national politics, a cave from which he has yet to emerge. Giuliani's billionaire successor, Michael Bloomberg used his wealth to free himself from most of the tedious details of party politics, thereby quickly eclipsing Pataki in terms of notoriety and setting the tone for whoever would be governor while he was Mayor.
Then all of a sudden, Eliot Spitzer gets caught with his pants down and everything has changed in New York. Along with the salacious details, another reason that "Client #9's" tribulations arrested New York's tabloid headlines is because the boys in Albany were finally caught doing something that average New Yorkers understood. Previously, it required a serious commitment to plowing through political protocol to understand for example why Spitzer's apparent use of state troopers to monitor NY senate majority leader Joe Bruno's travels may have been inappropriate. However, it took only a split second for New Yorkers to realize that trouble was afoot when we heard that Spitzer was patronizing escort services.
Of course, we all thought that things would end just as quickly as they started once Spitzer stepped down -- but here comes David Paterson, who not only became New York's first African American governor and this nation's first blind governor, but he's brought a straight shooter approach to the governor's office that most New Yorkers normally associate with their local leaders. In his recent revelations about his previous extra-marital affairs, and yesterday his past drug use, Paterson has displayed a commitment to keeping it real in a way that has not been seen in New York since Teddy Roosevelt. Like his gubernatorial predecessor, Paterson has thus far employed his brand of unflinching candor to disarm his potential critics.
Now, what remains to be seen is whether this approach can continue working for Paterson when he moves from discussing his personal life to discussing public policy.