February 5, 2008: Albany. The capital of New York. The heart of state government. Can't you feel the rhythm of the beat? Lub dub lub dub. Pols who make it there, don't need to go anywhere-- they can stay in Albany forever and ever and ever. The governor's mansion is akin to the hotel in “The Shining”. After taking over, the new guy always goes barmy. He doesn't even have to live in it. Just throw an occasional reception.
Take Governor Eliot Spitzer. “Please” says state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. Republican Bruno has been on the political scene since the days of Nelson Rockefeller and the Twist. There may be snow on Bruno's roof, but there's fire in his furnace for Governor Spitzer. Last year, Spitzer's office launched a wack attack on Bruno that unspooled into the mess known as “Troopergate”. Which a few wishful thinkers in New York City call “Choppergate”. Whatevergate, the way isn't straight.
Democrat Eliot Spitzer began his first term last January, after winning big by promising to reform state government. The Republican machine did its bit for Spitz by running a wooden old boy with no name recognition downstate. (Lub dub lub dub.) Spitzer's theme was “Day One: Everything Changes”. On day two, the governor's closest aides set out to Get Bruno. The op involved having state troopers who provide security for Bruno, keep tabs on his trips in state-owned helicopters to self-serving political events. Reports on Bruno's trips were leaked by Spitzer's office to the Albany Times Union in response to an extraordinarily well timed Freedom of Information request. Bruno's flights on the taxpayer dime made headlines. The op which put them there made more headlines, in more places. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo investigated, without direct testimony by Spitzer or his aides. Cuomo issued a report that criticized the Spitzer camp for spying and Bruno for flying, but declared no crimes were committed.
All this occurred in the Summer of 2007. Since then, other investigations into Troopergate have been launched. Senator Bruno continues to wax righteous over the ethical evil of Spitzer et al. In between expressing confidence that an FBI investigation into his (Bruno's) contributors, bidness deals, and union connections will come to naught. (The federal investigation incidentally, has gone on forever and ever and ever.) Meanwhile, Governor Spitzer waxes wroth at reporters who ask about Troopergate rather than his righteous agenda. In between denying that he knew what his closest aides were up to, and expressing willingness to testify under oath at some future time.
An investigation by the Public Integrity Commission, a body heavy with Spitzer appointees, is moving slowly. (Lub dub lub dub.) The Republican controlled Senate Investigations Committee wants to go faster. Governor Spitzer's attorney is trying to quash their subpoenas.
As time passes, it gets harder and harder to keep track of who did what. But polls show that New Yorkers continue to believe Governor Spitzer should testify under oath and are disappointed that Day One brought more of the same old. After all, is anything more hoary than stalling for time in hopes of obfuscating scandals? And when machine pols mud-wrestle for power can anyone believe a change is gonna come?
Troopergate is only one manifestation of what ails New York State.
New York is number 2 national gouger for combined state and local taxes. When Wall Street sneezes, the state's economy has a heart attack. Manufacturing continues its long goodbye. Revitalization of post-industrial upstate is always just around the corner of more taxpayer “investment” and corporate crony welfare. If it weren't for immigrants coming to NYC, the state's population would be shrinking. The middle class is leaving the state, seeking better jobs, and housing that isn't wildly inflated and property taxed to the max. The answer for every problem in New York State is government government government-- working in tandem with immensely powerful quasi-public agencies and authorities that are largely unanswerable to the citizens who fund them.
With its short-sighted entrenched machines, cheesy partisan warfare, and authoritarian bent, New York State is Clinton Country. The perfect staging area for Operation Take Back the Presidency. But even in a home where dinosaurs roam, Barack Obama has sparked the desire for something better. Whether Obama takes New York State or not, his on-fire candidacy marks a turning point. The importance of some candidates rests on their ability to embody a beneficial sea change in public attitude, and by doing so, make the imperative for that change crystal clear.
Go Obama go.
But please, don't do a Spitzer down the road.
Then there are the transformational candidates who press ideas that can renew political systems, but which need more time to take root and develop. Such people tend not to be the one who ultimately gets the job of delivering the good(s). None the less, their contribution is priceless.
Thank you, Ron Paul.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
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