Amid latest scandal, New York Governor David Paterson screws likely opponent
New Yorkers are going to wake up tomorrow morning to news that Governor Paterson has suspended David W. Johnson, one of his senior aides. This is an administration that never should have been, and now it’s in a profound crisis. The question is whether or not it’s an administration that’s still going to fool around with the fiction that it can actually be elected to a full term in the governor’s office.
I don’t want to get too caught up in the question of Mr. Johnson’s relationship with a woman who apparently had sought a protection order against him after an altercation. That’s for the courts to work out, and not for me to speculate on.
But Governor Paterson does not seem to be contesting the fact that he called this woman prior to a scheduled court appearance. And following on that admission we get this unbelievable act of chutzpah, that the governor’s office has asked Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Paterson’s likely Democratic primary opponent, to investigate his actions. The New York Times:
Many details of the governor’s role in this episode are unclear, but the accounts presented in court and police records and interviews with the woman’s lawyer and others portray a brutal encounter, a frightened woman and an effort to make a potential political embarrassment go away.
The case involved David W. Johnson, 37, who had risen from working as Mr. Paterson’s driver and scheduler to serving in the most senior ranks of the administration, but who also had a history of altercations with women.
On Wednesday night, in response to inquiries from The New York Times, Mr. Paterson said in a statement that he would request that Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo investigate his administration’s handling of the matter. The governor also said he would suspend Mr. Johnson without pay.
I mean, this is just nuts. If Cuomo issues an adverse finding against Paterson, the Governor can argue that the investigation was politically motivated by a fellow Democrat who is hoping to unseat him. If Paterson gets a finding that is either neutral, or not negative, or if Cuomo declines to pursue the case, he will spin that to his political favor. Cuomo isn’t damned if he does or damned if he doesn’t. He’s just damned by the consequences of a man who wasn’t ready to be governor being elevated to the office in Albany after Eliot Spitzer’s untimely fall from grace. What’s worse, Cuomo will need to announce his own candidacy in the weeks ahead just as his office is digging into the particulars of this grody case.
For a man who is legally blind, Paterson’s sure got good aim.
Back in September I praised President Obama and team for making it clear to Paterson that he should duck out of the 2010 governor’s race before it really got underway. My concern then was more that a bruised Paterson would build momentum for a Giuliani bid for governor. At this stage, the Republicans don’t really have a strong candidate to run against the Democrats in November. But Paterson appears to be intent on turning the governor’s mansion into something like the Union Carbide plant of India’s famous Bhopal disaster, spewing a toxic cloud over the surrounding region that ruins everything indiscriminately. By trying to drag Cuomo into his personal mess, Paterson is confirming to us that he’s not really good at being governor, he’s just good at engaging in dirty politics. It’s something New York simply doesn’t need.