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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The saga of Eliot and Deval

They could hardly be less alike.

The governor of New York
, the son of a real estate magnate who dresses down his roots by saying he is from The Bronx, not its upscale Riverdale enclave.

The governor of Massachusetts, the son of an absentee jazz musician who rose from his roots in the projects of South Side of Chicago.

Eliot Spitzer is a hard-charging, take no prisoners politician, shaped by his time in public service. His calling card to winning office is the actions he took as his state's attorney general against Wall Street and other miscreants.

Deval Patrick is a laid-back, inspirational politician, reflecting his formative years in corporate board rooms. His ticket to the corner office was an inspirational style that trumpeted his belief that "together we can."

What they share, as the first year of their much-anticipated terms come to a close, is the harsh reality of unmet expectations. That's because they both expected to shake up the entrenched political culture that rules Albany and Beacon Hill.

Spitzer, battling with an independent-mind, partisanly-split legislature is licking some self-inflicted wounds caused in large part by an over-zealous press aide who may have tried to peddle a story designed to destroy the Republican Senate President.

Patrick, at odds with a Democratic-controlled legislature used to having its way after 16 years of GOP governors, is still dealing with fallout of "scandals" about car leases and office furniture that could have been better managed by a more experienced press aide.

Spitzer started fast and cooled off after "Troopergate." He then stumbled badly with a proposal to provide undocumented immigrants with driver's licenses -- a topic that earned him nightly derision from Lou Dobbs and became a factor in knocking Hillary Clinton off the inevitability pedestal.

Patrick started slowly and has really failed to gain third gear. He did get a budget that included most of what he wanted -- except of course for a revenue package that would allow him to make good on a campaign promise about property tax relief.

And casino gambling -- Patrick's signature proposal coming nine months into his first year -- seems to already be on life support with local opposition building to join excessive skepticism if not downright hostility from House leaders.

What happened?

A New York observer of Spitzer uses a baseball analogy:
"I see Spitzer as a young Koufax. Early on, Sandy Koufax had great stuff but was inconsistent, until he was advised to loosen his grip on the ball. If Spitzer learns to relax his grip a little, trust his stuff, he’ll be fine. Get ahead of the hitters."
Patrick's problem, at least to start, was, to overdo the analogy, poor coaching. But that problem was remedied by March and he still is taking too much off his fastball.

It's also worth noting, as The New Yorker's Nick Paumgarten observes, that lots of effective leaders have had bad to worse first years -- Michael Bloomberg, Bill Clinton, even Spitzer hero Teddy Roosevelt.

Maybe the expectations for both men were too high. George Pataki did not evoke the same level of disdain as Patrick's absentee predecessor, Mitt Romney.

And Patrick faced what Spitzer did not -- a capital city press corps capable of blowing up his gaffes at least one news cycle sooner than the reporters squirreled away in Albany.

Each man has two more years to get things rolling before getting serious about the next election and Patrick is not likely to face a challenger as ambitious and strong as New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

But both could learn from the observation of a New York legislator:
“Tip O’Neill said all politics is local. In Albany, I say, all politics is personal.”
Just change that to "On Beacon Hill." Bill Weld learned that after running against Senate President Billy Bulger. Unless both men learn to play nice, they may end up envying Weld's record of accomplishment.

And who knows, Spitzer may even have to run against him.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Miss Welby said...

hi, I just gave you a link, reciprocate if you like :)

December 09, 2007 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with the Patrick folks is a total lack of savvy in dealing with the legislature. Romney didn't want to deal with them and actually wanted to be able to run against them. Patrick, luckily, doesn't want to play that game, but he doesn't seem to know how to engage them and build alliances.

On the casinos, by his behavior, you would not think that this was a major initiative on his part. He has disappeared on the subject since mentioning it. Of course the opposition would coalesce given this vaccuum.

December 09, 2007 6:21 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Thanks Miss Welby. I might consider if I could read Italian and knew what I was linking to! (Oops, just found the English only side -- let me think about this!)

December 11, 2007 5:40 AM  

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