Editorial: Virtue of Candor


By now the case of former NY Gov. Elliot Spitzer has been hashed and rehashed. The outraged columnists have weighed in, jokes have dropped, the skits have been performed and Spitzer’s chippie has been seen naked by everyone who wishes to do so.

And in the prurient hoopla, a quiet and dignified man has assumed control of the Empire State.

David Paterson is one of a kind. He is New York’s first black governor, to be sure, of Caribbean descent, and was raised in the New York metropolitan area. The 53-year-old has held office since being elected to the NY Senate in 1985, and he sometimes calls in to a NY sports radio station to talk about the Mets.

He is also legally blind, which probably makes him the first blind governor ever, though the man shies away from the label of disability – he plays basketball, he says, and has run a marathon.

But what’s most unique about the governor of New York is his sense of candor.

Paterson has a criminal record after a 1999 arrest for civil disobedience in a demonstration against police brutality. He makes no bones about it, but this is not the most unruly skeleton in his closet. Not by a longshot.

During his 2006 campaign for lieutenant governor of New York, hand picked as Spitzer’s running mate, when confronted with allegations of drug use – specifically marijuana and cocaine – he neither hemmed nor hawed. He did not stonewall; he did not shade the truth; he did not lie outright.

He basically said, yeah, that he had done some drugs in his twenties, just like a lot of other people, that he hadn’t touched them in nearly 30 years and that the experience hadn’t had a detrimental effect on his ability to be a productive citizen.

Well played, Gov. Paterson.

He also has a somewhat checkered past sexually: affairs, dalliances, trysts, some with people who worked for him, and one of which may have been an Olympic medalist. We know this because Paterson himself told everybody about it in a pre-emptive strike just one day after his inauguration. And, he made sure everybody knew, he never paid for it.

Again, nicely done sir.

Perhaps we have finally come to the point where an elected official can admit to his human frailties – weaknesses that exist, we should add, in one form or another inside every single one of us – without the political lynching that generally ensues.

But it’s important to remember that Paterson was not elected governor of New York – the seat was thrust upon him after Spitzer’s disgrace. By the time he runs for reelection in 2010 he may have proven himself in office and can run on those strengths. There will undoubtedly be a faction that will throw these discretions – to which he freely admitted – in his face. The interesting thing will be to see how much traction they get.

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