New York State’s notorious resistance to efficient governance owes a lot to geography. The state is vast, by Eastern standards, and its cities are far-flung. Seen one way, it is a rural state, with a right-angled corridor of denser settlement and industry which more or less follows the course of the Hudson River and the Erie Canal, from Manhattan to Lake Erie. Imagine a backward, rotated L, or a mirror image of a long-division tableau. In recent decades, Buffalo, at one end, has suffered a steep decline, while New York City, at the other, has flourished, as though good fortune had flowed down along the L, draining Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica along the way. The capital, Albany, is at the joint of the L, and seems to benefit—thrive would be too strong a word—whichever way the fortune flows, but it is still remote, in the way of capitals, like Brasília or Canberra, that were designed not to favor one constituency over another, except perhaps the one in residence. As such, Albany is the arbiter in New York’s ceaseless upstate-downstate tug-of-war, which simultaneously pits rural Republicans against big-city liberals, and Rust Belt Democrats against supply-side suburbanites. The proliferation of cross-purposes and strange bedfellows makes for pernicious and complicated arbitrating. This is one (but far from the only) reason that Albany is home to what may be the most dysfunctional state government in the nation.
体育投注平台A year ago, Eliot Spitzer, the real-estate scion and crusading attorney general, won a lightly contested race for governor, against a Republican named John Faso, by promising to put an end to that dysfunction. Since then, Albany has in many ways become more dysfunctional than ever. The addition of an aggressive personality with an ambitious agenda has, perversely, gummed up the works. The acrimony between Spitzer and his enemies, born of scandal, policy disagreement, political desperation, tactical blundering, and personal animus, has all but stalled the workings of the government, or at least those which require the collaboration of the executive chamber and the Legislature.
The Governor’s aides like to refer to “the Spitzer brand.” Before his first year in office, Eliot Spitzer was a populist avenger, a media darling, a rising Democratic star, a progressive’s Rudy Giuliani, a panacea-in-waiting, a front-runner in the first-Jewish-President race. Somehow, he’s become an unpopular governor careering from mess to mess. Allegations that his office used the state police to smear Joseph Bruno for misusing state aircraft (an affair known as Troopergate), and a doomed proposal to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, have compromised the brand. His head shot has appeared repeatedly in the Post over the words “DIRTY TRICKS.” Lou Dobbs spent a month ridiculing him on CNN. The throngs of Wall Streeters who despised him for his unyielding prosecutions when he was attorney general have been joined by scores of affronted political professionals, whose egos, customs, or survival instincts demand that they indulge their negative reactions to his way of doing things. Against Faso, he got sixty-nine per cent of the vote; a few weeks ago, a poll found that only twenty-five per cent would vote for him if an election were held today. The common perception—the dominant story line—is that Spitzer doesn’t have the collaborative temperament or the tactical elasticity to be a governor. To his critics, who complained that he exploited the attorney general’s office to gain the governor’s mansion, he was too political to be a prosecutor and yet is now too prosecutorial to be a politician.
体育投注平台But amid all the rancor, the bad press, and the souring of his prospects, the Governor has kept at it, admitting little in the way of doubt or regret, and seeing the “pushback,” as he and his circle describe it, as evidence of headway. He has continued to conduct whatever business he can, drawing on the ample power granted him by the office, while travelling around the state, announcing initiatives and presiding at groundbreakings, as though taking refuge in the expanse of his obligations and the far reaches of his domain. He has not spent a great deal of time in Albany, the epicenter of his troubles, availing himself of the state-owned air fleet—a source and symbol of geographic freedom and power (and of its occasional abuses). As the early astronauts observed, altitude and distance bring a certain cohesion into view.
“The enormity of this state, it’s awesome,” Spitzer said one afternoon in October, while passing over it in an airplane, on his way from Buffalo to LaGuardia Airport—an Albany-less trip along the L’s hypotenuse. The plane, a twin-turboprop Beechcraft King Air, can seat eight passengers comfortably. Gray cloud cover around Lake Erie had given way to clear skies and sprawling inland vistas in high-autumn orange. “I think we’re seeing the Finger Lakes right up here,” Spitzer said, looking out his window. “Sometimes you can see the windmills.” He unfolded a tattered highway map. “I’ve had this in my briefcase going on nine years now. It’s from back when I was driving myself around, campaigning for attorney general, in ’97, ’98.” He pointed out where he thought we were (near Geneva), as well as where he’d been the day before (Albany, Potsdam, Camden), where he’d started in the morning (Syracuse, to speak at a conference of entrepreneurs), where he’d flown next (Buffalo, to make the first in a blitz of announcements of “City-by-City” upstate development projects), and where his family’s farm was (on a crease in the map, in Columbia County). The map was dense with gubernatorial significance and opportunities for Spitzer to demonstrate a prodigious grasp of policy detail.
Spitzer, who is forty-eight, has a prominent nose, chin, and forehead, a hard jawline, and deep-set eyes whose intensity can give the extremely mistaken impression that he wears eyeliner. When he smiles or gets angry, his jaw juts out, underbitishly. The vigor in his features and in his manner, and his lean frame, tend to inspire descriptions of a man tilting into the wind. On the flight, he was fidgety, in keeping with his reputation for impatience and hyperactivity, but he displayed an acuity for brisk small talk: sports, kids, Bruce Springsteen. From the first time I’d met him, however, a month before, and in the course of a half-dozen interviews this fall, he strove to devote our conversations to the substance of governing, to assess his first and next year in terms of his accomplishments and goals. He had, it is true, got a lot done (especially by Albany standards) before the acrimony took hold. He had recently looked at his State of the State speech from last January and concluded that he’d accomplished three-quarters of what he’d hoped to do. He had reformed the budget process, the workers’-compensation system, and the financing of health care and education. Like politicians everywhere, he seemed frustrated that the media was so focussed on the tumult—that his message wasn’t getting out. For months, the papers had been full of intricate accounts of political or legal maneuverings, many involving his deepening feud with Bruno. On the day of the Governor’s flight from Buffalo, the Post ran a picture of Bruno and Spitzer at a memorial service for firefighters, in which Bruno is standing with his back to Spitzer, with the headline “BACK ‘BURNER’: JOE GIVES SPITZ THE TAIL END.”