Governor Patterson, himself the inheritor of his office via the implosion of Eliot Spitzer, is a man of wit and intelligence. But in appointing the new Senator he allowed himself to become the Mr. Dithers of New York State. He so fumbled the Caroline Kennedy trial balloon for the Senate replacement of Hillary Clinton, first by insulting the citizens of the state by seriously entertaining the appointment of a woman whose outstanding quality for the Senate seat was her illustrious lineage, and then compounding that fumble by toying with that woman’s hopes for weeks and insulting her in ways she did not deserve.
If replacing a woman with another woman was the goal, we had a trio of Carolines to choose from, the aforesaid Ms. Kennedy, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney; a true friend to the first responders after 9/11, a courageous fighter for the people of my city and a notable progressive; Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, the wise, watchful and caring, anti-gun advocate whose husband was shot dead in a maniac’s rampage, another worthy candidate; but Paterson turned to upstate Congresswoman Kristen E. Gillibrand, an attractive, forty something NY congresswoman from a rural area as his choice for replacing Clinton.
It was a dumb, John McCain moment, impulsive, yet corrupt, hoping to gain traction with the conservative wing of his party. This is a woman who represents the far right of the Democratic Party. Her political roots are deep in the Republican Party and its platform; her first instincts are Republican contrarianism. She votes the NRA party line, which means the hell with endangered city folks, she is/was against Gay Marriage, which means the hell with human rights, and she is a woman who voted against the bailout, which means the hell with the tanking economy. And her cozy relationships with former Republican boss Bruno, now under investigation, and D’Amato, a hack from way back, show that she was schooled by the old masters of sleight of hand politics.
Governor Dithers has made a spectacularly stupid choice in Ms. Gillibrand that marks him as one of nature’s incompetents, and I cannot wait to cast my vote against him in any future primary. I note that Ms. Gillibrand is tap-dancing her way towards the center away from the far right but it’s a clumsy dance, needs more practice, and her presence in the Senate – supported by Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton – shows that self-interest remains the primary goal of New York’s politicians.
For Schumer it means at last he has a younger colleague without a famous name who will not grab the mike and the camera from him as he lunges towards it for his drug of choice - face time with the public. For Clinton it means supporting a woman who supported her Presidential candidacy which appears to be the yardstick by which most politicians measure others. A sad day for New York when we have our own Sarah Palin in the Senate, a rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ kinda gal, a mom with a rifle.
Not so fast my inner contrarian says, she went to Dartmouth, didn’t she? She’ll stand up to Katie Couric in ways that poor Sarah couldn’t manage. And she can learn, can’t she? But the old New Yorker in me believes she’d best serve the people by shooting Canadian geese over airports than repairing our Bush broken nation. What a dumb mess. Just when we need the best and the brightest we get the new Junior Senator from New York by way of Governor Dithers.
Thank God I have my grandkids to make me smile.