Leo Durocher was one of the most famous managers in baseball history, the skipper of the Brooklyn Dodgers and later the New York Giants. But he’s best remembered for a quote about a cellar-dwelling team with personable players.
“Nice guys finish last,” he said.
Watching Barack Obama greet David Paterson at Albany International airport this week, the quote for some reason popped into my head. Most describe President Obama as a “nice guy,” and I’m sure he is – to his family, to little old ladies and to people who need health care.
But politics is different. You don’t get to be President being Mr. Nice Guy. And Mr. Obama demonstrated that by the way he tossed David Paterson under the campaign bus.
You see, David Paterson has become a problem for Democrats in New York. Most believe he would not have a prayer running against Rudy Giuliani. His poll numbers are falling fast, and there are no signs of impending improvement. Dems would love to have the Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, step in and lead them to the mountain top.
However, none, including Cuomo, prefers to challenge the first African-American Governor of New York State. Therefore, who better to provide cover than the first African-American President of the United States? Obama plays the bad guy.
But the President may have a hidden agenda. You see, if Rudy Giuliani runs against Paterson, and wins, he would be the sitting Governor of New York state, and a threat to challenge President Obama in 2012. A Rudy-style Republican, one who is not part of the right-wing fringe, is the real threat to Obama if the economy goes further south and Afghanistan gets worse. A moderate could take back some of the swing states that Obama picked off last year.
Yes, you are all saying, Rudy? Mr. Florida? Okay, it is a long shot, but crazier things have happened (remember 2008!)
So President Obama has a vested interest in making Governor Paterson go away. And how does he do it? In the old West, they would tell you to “get out of town by sundown.” In the mob, they would give you a kiss on both cheeks (and make you an offer you can’t refuse.) Barack Obama gave David Paterson a hug on the airport tarmac (after sticking him with leaks in The New York Times).
Governor Paterson for his part has chosen to play David against Goliath. His supporters point out that it’s a bad year for incumbents, and nobody is trying to dump Jon Corzine across the river in New Jersey.
Paterson vows he’s not getting out. But how long can he hold out? And who will stick with him?
Obama would do well to remember that while he may be President of the United States, he’s not President of New York State. He’s already meddled in the race for U.S. Senate, scaring off potential competitors against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. What’s going on here? Can’t anyone run for any office anymore? Or must the fix always be in?
For the record, like many a politician, Leo Durocher says that history has blown the meaning of his famous quote. He insisted that he meant that, even though the guys on the Giants were nice guys, who would finish last, he didn’t mean that all nice guys finish last.
David Paterson is a nice guy. He’s not finished. At least not yet.
Dick Brennan: Dbfox5news@aol.com