By Kenneth Kowald
Stephen Sondheim has gotten a great deal of play recently for his wonderful song “Send in the Clowns” thanks to the malfunction of the state Legislature, aided by the Queens Three.
Some of the verses of that marvelous work of art apply especially to state Sen. Frank Padavan’s (R-Bellerose) role in this miscarriage of public service:
And where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don’t bother, they’re here.
Padavan’s one great public statement in the stalemate that rocked the Senate was to walk across a portion of the floor of that august body and allow for a quorum to emerge.
Padavan was on his way to get a drink — coffee, soda, juice? Accounts vary, it seems. Of course, once the Democrats convened, they did nothing.
Padavan’s lack of knowledge about the floor plans of the Capitol is stunning. He was elected to the Senate in 1972 and re-elected easily until 2006, when he won a narrow victory, and 2008, when the recount went on for many days and he won by fewer than 500 votes.
But his contribution to the malfunctioning Senate has been his silence in the face of chaos. He is, by length of service and experience, someone to be considered an elder statesman. As such, his words can carry great weight.
Did he protest the short-lived change to the Republican Party by Sen. Pedro Espada (D-Bronx) and former Queens Sen. Hiram Monserrate, those paragons of virtue? If so, he did not do it publicly.
When the smoke cleared, did he protest Espada’s ascent to a position which put him in line for a few weeks to be governor should something happen to Gov. David Paterson? If so, he did not do it publicly.
Given his difficult races the last two times out, what did he have to lose by taking a publicly principled position against the nonsense going on in the Senate? The silence from a veteran legislator was deafening and sad.
Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if somewhere during all this stupidity Padavan, with his years of experience and achievements and the gravitas of seniority, stood up and told his colleagues to shape up and start doing the peoples’ business? It could well have been a turning point and it would have meant that Padavan stood up to the likes of Espada and other power-grabbers.
But it was not to be.
He may be close to the end of his political career. How depressing it is to think he may depart with the fog of political stupidity surrounding him.
In 1653, Oliver Cromwell — not one of my favorite people — said this to the so-called Rump Parliament: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”