It’s put up or shut up time in Albany

The games of politics and baseball have a lot in common. In politics as in baseball, every game has a winner and a loser. Except in the very rarest of situations, there are no ties in either baseball or politics. They are both games of strategy and it is very easy to see how mistakes can be made on the spot. Politics is a little bit more difficult to play and the sanctions can be far more severe when you break the rules. Like baseball, however, strategic decisions have to be made quickly. To cover up an unfortunate event or not is one such strategic decision. In politics, it is generally held that a cover-up is almost always more dangerous than the occasional mistake. Hoping to derail a coming Hillary Clinton presidential run, the Republicans are hoping to prove a cover-up in the Benghazi probe.

Likewise, pressure is exerted in state politics when a high and tight fastball comes across the chest of the Cuomo administration. Put yourself in the governor’s place as a trickle of public corruption turns into a river of rot. Here is Cuomo, who has promised to clean up Albany. He started when he was attorney general and received high marks for his efforts. Now, however, he finds himself having to clean up those who are partners in the game with him in making public policy. So far that has proven to be very difficult. If he hadn’t promised to be the key player, it wouldn’t matter that the heavy lifting is being done by the FBI and federal Department of Justice officials. The governor will tell you, “You wouldn’t believe how dirty some of these people are” and he’d know, since he reviewed their files when he was AG. Now is the time for him to reinvigorate his efforts. He needs to threaten to use his power to create a Moreland Act Commission to investigate legislators and other public officials.

Unlike the FBI, Cuomo doesn’t really have the power to tap the phones of would-be perpetrators. In a classic display of chutzpah (unbelievable gall) we are hearing some legislators complain that because so many phones are being tapped, they don’t know who they can talk to. Isn’t that too bad? Never have we seen a better reason for setting term limits for public officials. We are now seeing a spate of bills to create term limits. One recent attempt by two minority party members of the Legislature involves changing the terms from two years to four years and then saying you can only serve for three terms. What a bunch of nonsense. The only way to make any meaningful change is to turn the heat up to intolerable levels and then have an ambitious office holder like Cuomo say to his colleagues, “If you’d like more pain, trust me, I can deliver it to you.”

There is so much posturing going on at the moment that Shakespeare would have been proud of the theatrics. Every politician is trying to pass some self-serving reform that is ill-intentioned and going nowhere. The difference is, we all know that the game is up and no one will be judged by phony bills or pronouncements — they’ll be judged by results. Andrew Cuomo has been calling for one new agency after another and has been threatening Moreland Act Commissions of different stripes for months now. It’s put up or shut up time. As long as the FBI keeps the criminal du jour coming, the people of New York will stay sick to their stomachs and will not accept any more platitudes about fixes.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 5/13/13

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