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Paterson’s Legacy

July 2, 2010

There’s Rocky giving the finger to some students. 

There’s Hugh Carey with Evangeline Gouletas. 

There’s Mario Cuomo at the Democratic National Convention podium in 1984. 

There’s George Pataki in a flannel shirt standing next to a canoe.

 There’s Eliot Spitzer biting both lips. 

For better or worse, there are images that become embossed in the public consciousness and shape a politician’s legacy. 

For David Paterson, it’s the picture in newspapers and on TV today. He’s sitting at a desk with a stack of bills. He’s leaning over so that his face is an inch from the paper. Others are looking on while he signs the paper. 

This specific scene has actually been captured many times before, but when it first happened at a bill signing, there was some debate in newsrooms about whether the image of a visually-impaired governor was appropriate. The question was whether this portrayal was somehow demeaning. 

That question was answered by Paterson and his staff, who repeatedly arranged photo opportunities in such settings. The latest photo op was, of course, Paterson’s vetoing of budget legislation. The governor made a great spectacle of it, and we predict that that this particular image will be the defining image of his time in office.

It occurs to us that this is something of a gift to Paterson. Rather than being known as the accidental governor (a term he hated), or the governor who admitted drug use and infidelity, or the governor who was abandoned by his own party, Paterson will be known as New York’s first black governor and the governor who most aggressively employed his veto power.

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