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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The New York Times Reviews "[New York] Governor David Paterson's Next Steps".

Gov. Paterson’s Next Steps

Gov. David Paterson of New York served up one of the great political understatements on Friday when he talked about the “accumulation of obstacles” to his campaign for election. He did the right thing — the only thing — by dropping out of the race, but that is not going to make his troubles go away.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating the intervention by Mr. Paterson’s administration in a domestic altercation involving one of the governor’s aides. And there are many other things Mr. Paterson should be doing instead of running a quixotic campaign.

Mr. Paterson has 308 more days at the helm of a big state in the midst of disruptive and tough times. There is an $8 billion hole in the state budget, which must be balanced by March 31. And the abysmal ethical culture in Albany is still desperately in need of reforming — from a freewheeling Legislature that lives by its own twisted rules, to a State Police force that clearly needs a housecleaning, to, apparently, the governor’s office itself.

Mr. Paterson’s highest priority must be the budget. It has to be cut carefully, sensibly and fairly to make sure that those who can least afford it do not bear an unequal burden. Now, at least, Mr. Paterson does not have to worry about union television ads or special-interest lobbying. He should make certain that Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch is his top adviser on the budget and a participant in every important budget meeting. Mr. Ravitch is a seasoned public official who helped New York City through its rough patch in the 1970s. He has the knowledge and gravitas to deal with these times.

The governor is losing clout by the day, but he still has a chance to use the political levers available to any New York governor. He can threaten to pluck lawmakers’ favorite items out of the budget, for example, and he still has the power of the veto. Those powers, plus the freedom from political blocs and their agendas that dropping out of the race provides, could help him push through a real ethics reform package.

Mr. Paterson is not the only elected leader in New York who should be worrying about something other than the election. Sheldon Silver, a leading Democrat and the Assembly speaker, and the leading Republican in Albany, Dean Skelos, the Senate minority leader, both need to recognize that the state is in a real emergency. John Sampson, the Democratic conference leader in the Senate, and others should not use this time for more of the mischief they got up to last year. New Yorkers are watching as never before.

Another thing that needs watching is the State Police. Mr. Paterson’s withdrawal from the campaign came after news of his involvement in the handling of accusations of domestic violence against David Johnson, who once was the governor’s closest aide. It was inappropriate enough that Mr. Paterson spoke to the victim, but there are even more disturbing questions about the involvement of the State Police, and especially the unit protecting the governor.

Members of the governor’s security detail acknowledged meeting with the woman after the altercation. They said they wanted to offer counseling and talk about her “options.” If that’s true, it’s impossible to imagine how it could have been appropriate. But the woman testified in court that state troopers were “hounding” and “harassing” her to drop the charges.

Mr. Cuomo investigated the State Police last September and found political interference at the highest levels going back to George Pataki’s administration. The job of the governor’s security detail is security, not public relations or, worse, cover-ups.

With all these challenges, it’s hard to see how Mr. Paterson can redeem himself, but at least he has time to show political courage, instead of weakness, or worse.

Update: Saturday Night Live weighs in, too:



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