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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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The Paterson Saga

But Paterson won’t be the one to derail Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s gubernatorial aspirations. That crucial task will be left to the Republican Party and, in the end, New York’s voters.

The Paterson administration has spent weeks reeling from self-inflicted wounds, which have been widely covered elsewhere so I won’t revisit them. I’d rather elaborate on things you rarely if ever read about, and that was the disloyal, dishonest, and disingenuous behavior of certain Democrats as the governor twisted in the wind.

You want disloyalty? Then look no further than U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Governor Paterson picked the little-known upstate congresswoman to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year, giving Gillibrand almost two years to build a record as an incumbent U.S. Senator before facing the voters in 2010. Yet when the governor announced his bid for a full term at Hofstra University on Feb. 20, Senator Gillibrand was nowhere to be found. That gives you some insight into her character, and is worth filing away.

You want dishonesty? Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) offered up heaps of it to the Associated Press. Rep. Israel eagerly told the AP that he called the governor ‘as a friend’ (the AP’s positioning language) last Thursday, and urged him to end his campaign. There’s life after Albany, Rep. Israel told Paterson, according to the AP. True enough, but where’s the sentence or two in the AP story about how Paterson rejected Rep. Israel’s bid for a gubernatorial appointment last year to the U.S. Senate, or how the congressman subsequently capitulated to the White House’s request that Rep. Israel not run a primary against Senator Gillibrand this year? Paterson needed sound political advice last Thursday but I doubt he was eager to hear from a Senatorial wannabe with an axe to grind.

You want disingenuousness? Check out the Thursday, Feb. 25 resignation letter sent to the governor by Denise O’Donnell, the state’s deputy secretary for homeland security. “I regret to inform you that recent events make it impossible for me, in good conscience, to remain a member of your Administration,” she wrote. “Please accept my resignation, effective immediately.”

O’Donnell was an appointee of Governor Spitzer, not Governor Paterson, and got a state post after running a disastrous campaign for attorney general in 2006. How bad was it? O’Donnell spent months laying the groundwork for that year’s Democratic primary, and then dropped out before the September 2006 election. Guess what? O’Donnell is, according to many published accounts, eyeing a 2010 bid for attorney general, a position which will be vacated given that AG Cuomo has a clear path to the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Hey, leaving her day job will give O’Donnell more time to work on her political career.

I understand that politics is filled with treachery and deception. But Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Israel and Ms. O’Donnell give those traits a bad name. More talented political figures, when being treacherous and deceitful, are at least able to hide it better.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: