Dog and pony show
The whole affair started with a rather innocuous tip to the Times Union about the senate majority leader’s use of state police aircraft to bus him from one campaign rally to the next. The paper then put a request in for records detailing Bruno’s flight records with the state police, which proved not to exist. But with a few calls from the governor’s top aid, the state police were suddenly able to produce these documents, and thus provided an impetus for the TU’s somewhat deleterious story.
Bruno was quick to bash the story and even quicker to cry foul. Pretty soon, the Attorney General’s Office was in the mix, sifting through volumes of legalese to later report that Spitzer’s office hadn’t broken a law, per se, but had indeed acted in an unethical fashion. Out of this struggle between might and trite, an unlikely hero emerged in the pundit polls: Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
More than seven months removed from his vastly overlooked inauguration, Cuomo wasn’t making much of a splash in the office Spitzer used for his triumphant rise to power. Cuomo’s paltry press releases from the AG’s office took a back seat to the vicious power grab between Bruno and Spitzer, a show-down foreseen by anyone with an ounce of political savvy.
Cuomo has struggled to regain political capital since his ugly show-down with former Comptroller H. Carl McCall during the 2002 gubernatorial election. Cuomo, just a year removed from his service as U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary under the Clinton Administration, figured he could ride his federal reputation and his father’s track record as a conciliator into the governor’s seat.
However, the state Dems didn’t view the former governor’s son in a favorable light. Though the younger Cuomo had the inside track in Washington, he was viewed as an outsider in Albany. McCall was a safe candidate and one malleable by Shelly Silver’s state Assembly machine. Cuomo refused to go down without a fight and waged a protracted primary against McCall long into September. Some even argue the battle won the election for Pataki, though it’s more likely it simply increased his victory margin.
Now, as the New York Post’s Fred Dicker puts it, Cuomo emerges from an ugly fray donning a white hat. And the polls are noticing it, too. In a poll conducted by Siena College Friday, Cuomo sustained a 55 percent job approval rating, marking his highest jump in the polls yet.
At the same time, Bruno and Spitzer have both seen changes in the polls as a result of the so-called “troopergate.” The worst that could happen to either throughout this whole gig is that they get a bit of rass from voters during an off-election year and carry on their merry way. Even a special prosecutor’s investigation into the affair isn’t likely to do much more than was even more taxpayer dollars, which was the original impetus for the story in the first place, which was legislative waste. Here’s what the press isn't writing about: how much this Bruno’s drivers, Spitzer’s furtive investigation and the whole resulting fallout, is going to cost New Yorkers.
But if nothing else, there’s a new regulator in town, who’s now got a star to pin on his chest. That star could become increasingly important next year, following the 2008 Presidential election. After all, a Democrat in the White House could mean quite a bit scrambling in Albany for cabinet positions.