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Remember When

March 3, 2015

Collectively, the members of our little group have centuries of Albany experience. This is in various capacities – most of which were honorable.

One benefit of experience is a kind of calm. We know that no matter what happens, life goes on. The battles, the protests, the indictments, the tragedies, all the OMG moments, with time, seem less dramatic.

What emerges for the grey-haired is a sense of what is “normal.” In this regard, it occurred to us the other day that the contentious stuff that we’ve complained about in our most recent posts is actually quite normal by historical standards.

The Executive fighting with lawmakers, public sector unions, local government officials, advocates and the media – there’s really nothing extraordinary about it. In fact, what was bizarre by historical standards was the lack of such conflict over the last few years.

Why was that? One reason was the incredible trauma of the Spitzer-Paterson era. After all of that, there was a collective hunger for stability. Cuomo filled the bill. His “this is the way it’s going to be” approach was needed at that time and it succeeded in restoring basic functioning of state government. But to think that the political establishment was going to defer to him and refrain from questioning him forever, well, that just wasn’t going to happen.

In this regard, what Liz Kruger did yesterday was way overdue. She stood up to question the administration’s e-mail retention policy. Everybody was shocked, but that’s what lawmakers are supposed to do.  So why was it such a big deal? It’s because nothing like it has really happened over the last four years. If lawmakers opposed a Cuomo policy, they’d just quietly refuse to act on it. But here was an example of someone publically disagreeing with the Governor, and doing so smartly and articulately and, in our view, clearly winning the public exchange.

The Cuomo people, by the way, really need to up their game. Their playbook – attacking the person making a comment – is churlish and ineffectual.  Last week, the Senate Republicans raised the question of whether the Governor’s companion should make the same kind of financial disclosure that a spouse would have to make. The administration’s response was a classless dig – “We’ll disclose that when you disclose your mistresses’ income.”

If that had happened in an earlier era,  a senior lawmaker in the Senate would have demanded the resignation of the press aide.  In fact, in the early 80s, Ralph Marino insisted that Mario Cuomo fire his press secretary. Her offense? She challenged the Majority Leader’s account of an exchange with the Governor. She said the account he’d given “wasn’t consistent.”  The Republicans thought this was tantamount to calling their leader a liar.

Yes, times change, but as they do the respective roles of the institutional players do tend to revert to a normal pattern that is unmistakably adversarial. It’s not a bad thing – as long as it doesn’t go too far.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Conway, Brian permalink
    March 3, 2015 12:54 PM

    I love your posts. Keep them coming.

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