Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Wind bagging

George Pataki must think it takes a lot of hot air to dry out a wet situation. That’s because New York’s governor and still-in-the-closet 2008 presidential candidate has virtually blanketed the flood-ravaged Mohawk Valley with so much blustering that it’s a wonder the river itself hasn’t dried up.

For the second time in three days, Pataki again promised aid to the areas dealt a crippling blow during the flood. And for the second time, the governor got back onto a state helicopter and was whisked away amid what could only be termed a three-ring media circus without leaving as much as a penny behind for the residents badly in need.

If you ask Pataki’s people, they’ll tell you $35 million is on its way in so-called immediate state aid –$25 million for $5,000 individual grants for families and small businesses. Of course, these are the same morons that said the Lock 10 dam wasn’t breached last week.

When you ask someone in the know however, they’ll give you a very different story. This funding is meant only for documented losses, which is problematic for many disaster victims, seeing as though many of the documents were also indeed lost in the flood. Not to mention, all of this funding is contingent upon the Legislature’s approval, which isn’t likely to happen anytime this week.

On a symbolic and telling note, the governor’s office decided to stage a whimsical side show at Monday’s media circus, carting a dozen some-odd stranded yachters from Waterford down to the lock near Amsterdam more than 40 miles away. In a true display of showmanship, Pataki affectionately christened them the “Lock 3 Yacht Club” during his press conference, goading reporters into writing cheery sidebars about some of these relatively well-off nautical travelers.

But were Pataki’s people really media savvy, they would have jazzed up the governor’s entrance to the press conference. Instead of the normal entrance, he should have repelled down from the helicopter into a circle of the Albany Conquest cheerleaders with Van Halen pounding from the lock’s PA system. Song suggestion: Right Now. Then, he could have jogged a quick victory “tour” around the lock, giving all the social and legislative dignitaries high fives after doing a few fist pumps.

In the end, many of the media parihas fell for it anyway –hook line and sinker. The Times Union again rehashed the harrying accounts of the how people are roughing it in Waterford. And the story of the Lock 3 Yacht Club was enough to compel a kid-voiced “bureau chief” from Public Radio’s WAMC to also use it as a side bar to Pataki’s wind bagging.

Who could blame them for taking the easy kill, especially seeing as though the whole event was billed as Pataki’s tour of the flood damaged area of Lock 10. And after all, St. Johnsville is a troublesome 30-mile journey down the state Thruway from the lock.

There’s no doubt the governor is using this tragic event to add a little zip to his springboard for a run at the presidency, which is up for grabs in two short years. No doubt, his well-published criticism of President Bush for initially declaring a federal disaster in only eight of 13 counties was a thinly veiled appeal to the fickle among the state’s moderates who probably don’t realize the dire situation facing the region thanks to this trite electioneering.

So life will continue without an ounce of aid in the festering disease pit that was once just one of the many impoverished areas of the upstate region. Residents will continue to tear down their homes during the Independence Day fireworks and if they’ve got a dime to their names, maybe they’ll have a stiff cocktail or four come sundown. After all, the only job that many of them have to go back to after the holiday is throwing out more of their sewage-soaked personal belongings.

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