If your newly-minted New York governor admits to affairs of the ...
dick, does this open him up to CONSTANT, DISTURBING, and INTRUSIVE
questions about his morality, his trustworthiness, his sense of
propriety, his ability to "govern"?
Most sentient adults would probably answer in the negative on all or
And what messages do the multiple-affairs-couple's ghetto-like sex
lives send to New York's youth? The rising generation?
a) How many of his "pieces" are still working under his ...
b) How do you know his next 'official" trip is not a booty call?
c) How do you know he has the state's and its citizens' well-being
in mind, rather than tonight's "date"?
d) How do know whether he could identify one of his lovers beyond
e) How do you know whether he can detect if a transgender or cross-
dressing man is planted in his hotel room?
f) How do you know he hasn't taken a few cocks up his ass?
Accidental or on purpose?
"A Curious State of Affairs"
"N.Y.'s New Guv Is Open and Frank -- and Off to a Memorable Start"
By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 21, 2008; C01
Whatever is ultimately said about David Paterson and his term as the
governor of New York, one verdict of history is already assured: The
guy made quite an entrance.
His fine how-do-you-do started Monday, at his swearing-in, which
spread palpable joy and relief among state politicians who seemed
discombobulated not just by the call-girl-scandal-induced departure
Eliot Spitzer, but by Spitzer's tenure in office as well. You got the
sense that a bully who'd menaced the whole playground had just been
bounced out of school, and everyone was running for the swing sets
the first time in years.
Paterson, who spent decades in the state Senate and served as
Spitzer's lieutenant governor, offered a friendly and familiar face
the mandarins who packed the State Assembly for his oath of office
ceremony. And just by showing up he made history, as the first
American to assume the job and one of the few legally blind people
ever to hold high office in this country. You heard the refrain all
day long: This is the right man for the moment, a witty, well-
conciliator with few known enemies.
"He has courage, he has insight, he has foresight," said the Rev. Al
Sharpton, sitting in the Assembly on Monday, waiting for the ceremony
to begin. "In a time of moral trauma and economic problems, you need
person who has overcome obstacles -- and nobody understands
obstacles like David Paterson."
"It reminds me of when I was a member of Congress and Nixon left and
Ford came in," said former New York mayor Ed Koch, who on Monday
morning was eating doughnuts and reading the newspaper in an office
down the street from the Assembly, awaiting a let's-go cue. "You've
never seen such a joyous response. The place just exploded, on both
sides of the aisle. That's what I expect will happen here. We have a
worthy successor and the catastrophe is over."
Even Joe Bruno, the Republican leader of the state Senate and
Spitzer's former bete noire, implied in a Monday afternoon news
conference that Paterson's arrival had improved the weather.
Then came Tuesday. That's when Paterson held a news conference,
expanding on what he'd already told the New York Daily News: that
he and his wife had broken their marriage vows -- he with "a number
women" at the Quality Hotel on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near
his home in Harlem. Oh, and at least one of these women is on the
state payroll. Yeah, come to think of it, she now works in the
governor's office, because she used to work for Spitzer and Paterson
inherited all of Spitzer's employees. Uh-huh, and Paterson might have
paid for those hotel rooms with campaign funds, on occasions when his
own credit card failed, but he's pretty sure he reimbursed the
campaign. He'll double-check and get back to us.
"I didn't break the law, I didn't violate an oath," he told a room
overflowing with stupefied reporters. "I didn't knowingly use
funds. I didn't use state funds at all. I know that. I don't think
institutionally there were any violations here."
A couple of quick questions came to mind. Like: Is there something
about Albany that makes everyone, you know, frisky? And would the
state employees now dutifully de-Spitzering all the state seals and
state buildings -- removing the man's name from every place it
appeared -- now have to de-Patersonize, too?
Yes and no, are the apparent answers. Yes, Albany is a hotbed of
furtive boom-chicka-boom. No, Paterson is not in imminent danger of
losing his job, though it's safe to say that word of his
has left him with some major welts, and the bruising isn't over yet.
On Thursday the Daily News reported that in at least one instance,
Paterson may have failed to pay back his campaign for a $103.87
for a stay at his love shack of choice. And in 2002, Paterson gave
then-girlfriend $500 to reimburse her for a donation she'd made on
behalf to a candidate for governor. Unfortunately, the News reported,
there is no record of that $500 reaching that candidate's coffers,
at any rate, election law prohibits this kind of "pass through."
It's unclear if this is simply good old tabloid chum, but the
governor's underlings have been forced to spend a whole lot of time
this week on work that has little to do with governing. Like chasing
"We're talking about a couple hundred bucks, max, from six years
says a senior administration official in Paterson's office. "And if
can't figure out what happened, we'll just reimburse the campaign,
* * *
Well, talk about an awkward introduction. Though he's the son of
Paterson, a former New York secretary of state and a dominant figure
in Harlem politics in the '60s and '70s, David Paterson was all but
unknown to most New Yorkers until last week, when it became clear
the nattily dressed, teddy-bearish fellow who always seemed to be
standing behind Spitzer and squinting into the middle distance was
about to ascend to the top job in the state. The role of lieutenant
governor in New York is pretty much ceremonial, so there was never
much reason to notice him until now.
So voters here are getting a crash course in David Paterson. The
question on Monday -- how long will this honeymoon last? -- seemed
only too apt when, a day later, the electorate learned that the groom
had already strayed.
In the state capitol, however, it is still hard to find a
word about Paterson. The lack of flak is only partly about the
specifics of his adultery, though that's certainly crucial. Spitzer
broke the law when he hired a prostitute, and he outed himself as a
hypocrite, given his prostitution-ring-busting past. Paterson, on the
other hand, had the kind of marriage trouble that most people here
falls under the category of "unsavory but none of our business."
It's true, also, that few in Albany would want a gig where "Did you
cheat on your spouse?" is part of the job interview. Too many
people have taken what are informally known here as "Albany wives" to
submit to that line of questioning.
"Ever heard of something called the Tappan Zee compact?" asks Steve
Greenberg, who spent 12 years in the Assembly as a press secretary
now works in public relations. "It basically says that 'what happens
north of the Tappan Zee Bridge stays north of the Tappan Zee Bridge.'
I'm not pointing fingers, but it is assumed that some of the more
significant figures in state politics have some things similar to
David Paterson has admitted to, and they don't want the press
inquiring about their own situations."
But what protects Paterson more than the fear of scrutiny, at least
for now, is affection from both sides of the aisle. Until Monday, of
course, he never wielded much power -- and powerless people have
opportunities to create foes. Maybe as he and Assembly and Senate
leaders hurry to negotiate a budget, due in the next two weeks, it'll
end in fisticuffs.
But that seems unlikely. If there's a knock against Paterson, it's
that he's confrontation-averse and could get rolled by the wily Mr.
Bruno. He might also be candid to a fault: He once volunteered to a
reporter that he'd underpaid his taxes, and he's already expressed
some regret about confessing all -- or nearly all -- about his
extramarital affairs, which he discussed at length with the Daily
on Monday apparently because, well, a reporter asked him about it.
On the other hand, maybe a natural-born mediator is exactly the anti-
Spitzer that New York needs right now. The case for Paterson you hear
over and over is that he's a consensus builder and genuinely decent.
"We had an agreement that when we appeared at the same events, he'd
praise me and I'd praise him, and he was clearly better at it than I
was," says Mark Green, who beat Paterson in the campaign for New
York's public advocate in 1993. "I've met politicians who are smart
and I've met politicians who are mensches. But I've rarely met a
politician who is both."
Ask around, and you hear encomiums like that as well as lots of
anecdotes about how he's refused to allow his legal blindness to
impede him. These stories are always pitched as "Look at how
unhindered the man is" -- but they also underscore that, as "The
Show" recently put it, Paterson is "Mr. Magoo blind, not Ray Charles
"Soon after I got married, I walked into a grocery store and saw him
reading the back of a cereal box," says Michael Benjamin, an
assemblyman from the Bronx. "I said to my wife, 'That's David
Paterson.' And she was like, 'That can't be. He's legally blind.' "
* * *
Actually, he's legally blind and he can read, though it isn't easy.
Paterson lost nearly all of his vision at the age of 3 months, after
an ear infection damaged his optic nerve, blinding him totally in one
eye and severely limiting his vision in the other. As a child, his
parents moved to Long Island in search of a school that would teach
him in regular, rather than special education, classes.
He graduated from Columbia University and Hofstra Law School, though
he failed the bar because, as he told the New York Observer in 2006,
the exam didn't sufficiently accommodate his impairment and he simply
ran out of time. In 1983 he took a job at the Queens district
attorney's office as a "criminal law associate," and though he wanted
to eventually retake the bar, he was elected to the state Senate in
1986 and never left politics.
Staffers say they help Paterson cope by keeping his reading to a bare
minimum, recording tapes of briefings and memos. When he gives a
speech, he commits it to memory or speaks extemporaneously.
"We'd just give him the facts and details on a given issue, and
everything that came out of his mouth would be his own," says Karen
Boykin-Towns, Paterson's chief of staff for four years. "I never saw
him utilize a prepared text of any kind."
He can make out shapes if they're close enough, and tells time with a
watch that has very large hands. At events, staffers tip off Paterson
about who is in the room, but Boykin-Towns was always amazed at the
number of names the guy could instantly put to a voice.
"People are forever testing him," she says. "Like, 'Hey David, do you
know who this is?' It always bothered me, but he'd just say, 'Of
course I know who you are,' and then say their names. I guess you
wouldn't call a memory like his photographic, but it's pretty
Legal blindness hasn't curtailed his athletic interests, either. He
can do standing back flips -- he did at his wedding, a friend reports
-- and he plays basketball, with an aggressive move to the hoop,
according to Darryl Towns, an assemblyman and Boykin-Towns's husband.
"Like every guy I've ever played from Harlem," he said. "Talks a lot,
You sort of forget about his vision problem, friends say, until
something odd happens.
"There was this time when he hailed a taxi and this guy picked him up
and brought him downtown," says Eric Schneiderman, a state senator
friend. "And David said, 'How much do I owe you?' And the guy said,
'I'm not a taxi driver. I just thought I'd give you a lift.' "
* * *
For a man in public life for so long, surprisingly little is known
about Paterson's politics. As a state senator, he sponsored a bill
that would have legalized the use of force against a police officer
making a wrongful arrest. But the Democrats haven't had control of
Senate in New York for decades, and the minority party in this state
has about as much pull as a refrigerator magnet. It's one thing to
sponsor legislation that hasn't a prayer of passing, and another to
propose a law when you're governor.
So what will a Paterson administration look like? A senior
administration official calls him a "Vaclav Havel pragmatist," which
could mean a lot of different things. If the events of this week
anything, it's that Paterson skipped the fine-tooth-comb treatment
that is typically applied to people in jobs like his. And that means
the state, like Paterson, is in uncharted waters.
"You've got to understand, this guy has not really had to cast an
important vote in his entire career," says Robert Bellafiore, who was
press secretary for former governor George Pataki. "He's gone from a
job with a tiny staff to running 200,000 employees in a state with a
budget of $124 billion. That's the story here. He's gone from a
position with no authority, to a job with the ultimate authority, in
the span of a week."