Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dog and pony show

Look out New York, the circus is in town. And it’s flying in on a state police aircraft to press conference near you. For nearly a month now, the vitriolic barbs traded between Hollywood Joe Bruno and Steamroller Eliot Spitzer have grown poisoned enough to dwarf the venomous lunges of even the most irate Mojave Rattler.

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.


Blogger Ben Arnold said...

Joe Bruno is 76 years old, has all sorts of convoluted business dealings which may be illegal, is under active investigation by the feds, and is generally viewed as everything that is wrong with state government and has been, until recently, riding down the face of a crashing wave with the rest of his party.

Elliot Spitzer rode into office with the support of a great many people who trusted, and believed, that he was perhaps the only singular personality that could achieve actual reform as Governor. A not insignificant portion of this reform was getting beyond partisan politics to do the people's good work. In fact, Spitzer claims that same cause in attempting to divert attention from the current dilemna.

Personally, I suspect this whole situation may spiral into a tragedy for the Guv and some other folks.

Its clear Spitzer and at least 4 of his top aides were dicking around trying to screw Bruno, instead of concentrating on business, in the midst of Bruno doing just a fine job of screwing himself...unassisted by the Governor's meddling.

This is the part I find most suspicious: Bruno fights back by demanding an investigation by Cuomo. Cuomo investigates and produces a report within two weeks damaging the Governor. I dont trust Cuomo and I dont think he would rush a report which would do obvious damage to his political ally and fellow "reformer". Unless capitulating to embarrasing "aide-play" was necessary to cloak more sinister actions by Spitzer.

The biggest implication in this drama is the "special counsel" designation the Governor's aides sought in order to avoid testifying. These aides were the nexus between the scandal and Spitzer.....I know it, you know it, and Cuomo knew it. Yet their refusal to testify was not part of Cuomo's report. Nor did the Inspector General have any interest when she concurred w/ the findings.

As it stands, Bruno isnt going to let this go and certain undisputed facts would lead most logical people to conclude Spitzer was involved, to some degree, with this scheme. Would I be crazy to think Spitzer and Cuomo discussed and planned the content of the report prior to its release?

On another note: I see Jim Odato isnt blogging much these days. The collusion between the TU and the Governor's office seems to be fairly obvious. Do you think Odato was drafting those foils all on his own? Do you think upper management didnt have any interest in screwing Bruno?

I'm not really suprised by all this, I've always held politicians and the media in low regard. What amazes me is how the cover-up to a totally unnecessary, and survivable conspiracy is now being fumbled.....after it was originally bumbled......potentially sucking in additional victims as time wears on. And I dont need to mention who is forgotten through it all. Amazing!

8:55 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

You’re not the only one with that sentiment. In fact, there could be some parallels drawn between the combative nature of the Steamroller and another less-than-prominent Democratic mayor around these parts; not to say that I’d put them in the same class, league or even the same universe, just that there are some frightening similarities.

The doggedness that Spitzer has chased Bruno is simply mindboggling. My only thought is that he feels Bruno is the main obstacle standing between him and the vision he emphatically laid out in January. I wouldn’t doubt this is true, either. And I suppose if there was a time to eliminate him, it would be now, a solid three years before the next election cycle.

The problem comes with Bruno’s likeness to a cat: he always lands on his feet and if he doesn’t, well he’s got eight other lives to fall back on. Spitzer’s probably hoping that a good number of these lives are spent up in scandal; I tend to disagree.

As for Spitzer’s feeble attempt to blame his aides, it’s just sheer nonsense. Even the generally fickle public can see through this lie like grandma’s undies. At least, let’s hope an aid –whether he’s at the top or not –can’t simply order the state police to start tracking the most powerful opposition party leader in the state. There’s no doubt he’ll have to do some back peddling because of all this. However, he’s been saving up political capital for years now, so I suppose now is the time to start spending some of it.

As for the cozy relationship he’s established with T. Rex and crew, I’m not sure what to think of it. Most journalists revel in sniffing out a wounded politician and then going in for the kill. It just seems the TU is trying extra hard to sniff around Bruno. If nothing else, they’ve got consistency on their side.

Smith’s apology on the editor’s blog is a bit of a read, but shows just how far out of proportion this thing has been blown. He likens the breaking of the initial story to the work done on Watergate and the leaking of the Pentagon Papers. I’ll credit the TU when credit is due, but that’s going a bit overboard.

9:58 AM  

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