New York Mess

My once-beloved New York Mets – I still follow them a bit, but have for years now have considered the Twins my favorite baseball team since leaving the Empire State – played their second spring training game of 2010 earlier this afternoon. They kicked the ball around to the tune of four errors and lost 9-5 to those hated Braves … though I don’t think any of the miscue-making Metsies will be on the opening day roster.

The Mets, however, won’t be the messiest New York newsmaker in tomorrow’s New York newspapers. New York politicians – Democrats specifically – can’t seem to stop getting ink for all the wrong reasons.

By now, anyone who follows politics a little bit has heard about the whole Elliot Spitzer saga. The one-time state Attorney General who had a sky-is-the-limit future – I had predicted he’d be in the next Democrat president’s cabinet a few years ago – became governor and quickly had a fall from grace precipitated by a prostitution scandal. The Spitzer affair was certainly sordid, but it seems somehow tame compared to what is now transpiring with the man who took his place in Albany.

David Paterson appeared on the surface to be an governor for the underdog. Much was made of the differences between him and Spitzer when he took office in March 2008, and it was duly noted that he was the first New York governor of African American descent as well as legally blind governor. It didn’t take long for some of the bloom to come off the rose, however – just one day after his inauguration, Paterson revealed he and his wife both had extramarital affairs. (Great, some no doubt thought. Here’s yet another sex scandal waiting to happen.)

It wasn’t long before Paterson began to lose considerable popularity politically, and that was before the news of the past several days that led him Friday to announce he would not be a candidate for governor this November. Many now feel he shouldn’t even serve the remainder his term; I am one of them, and predict he will resign within the next few days (for what that’s worth).

Here’s what happened, in a nutshell, thanks to a Wednesday report in the online edition of The New York Times:

"Gov. David A. Paterson violated state ethics laws when he secured free tickets to the opening game of the World Series from the Yankees last fall for himself and others, the New York State Commission on Public Integrity charged on Wednesday.

"In addition to violating the state’s ban on gifts to public officials, Mr. Paterson falsely testified under oath that he had intended to pay for the tickets for his son and his son’s friend, according to the commission."

But this isn’t the biggest development that’s got Paterson in more hot water than he’ll probably be able to get out of. This, also, from the Times:

"On Friday, he (Paterson) abandoned his campaign for election amid allegations that his administration tried to intervene in the case involving Mr. Johnson, who was accused by a former girlfriend of assaulting her on Halloween.

"In recent days, Mr. Paterson has repeatedly rebuffed calls for his resignation and insisted that Mr. (Attorney General Andrew) Cuomo’s investigation would show that he had not abused his office, even as new evidence emerged that he had personally directed aides to reach out to Mr. Johnson’s former girlfriend, Sherr-una Booker, to urge her to remain quiet about the incident with Mr. Johnson."

At this point, it seems impossible that Paterson can be an effective leader given all the ugliness surrounding him. Perhaps he will be ultimately exonerated, but he needs to step aside in the best interest of fellow legislative leaders and the state’s citizens.

And then, there’s Charlie Rangel. The longtime congressman from Harlem and current chair of the House Ways and Means Committee resigned his post as chair – temporarily, he said – amid a flurry of alleged ethics violations. Many of the allegation involve corporate-sponsored trips Rangel took to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008. The developments in Rangel’s could have enormous national political ramifications, as the House Ways and Means Committee has control of legislation pertaining to taxes and revenues – and Republicans are already saying that Rangel’s departure as committee chair will be permanent. (The Times reported Wednesday that Republicans "had received a ruling from the presiding officer of the House that Mr. Rangel’s decision had indeed permanently removed him from the helm of the committee.")

Clearly, it seems some New York Democrats aren’t doing their constituents – never mind their party – any favors. Minnesota’s political climate, while certainly not worthy of Eden, is comparatively beautiful.