Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Roving Storm Returns

The Roving Storm: Straight to the Source

It’s 2009, and the fear is back, bigger than ever. 2008 was the “Year of Hope” and the “Year of the Underdog”; from the Giants victory of pompous Patriots, to President Obama’s historic triumph in November, it was truly a year to not stop believing. In contrast, 2009 will be the “Year of the Survivor.” Things have been brutal recently for Governors, NBA coaches and young Wall Streeters, and soon enough you can add 2009 college graduates and MTA riders to the top of the list.

After a year of writing political dispatches on the presidential campaign, I’ve decided that instead of scouring the country for meaty 2010 Senate races (as usual, keep your eyes on North Carolina, Ohio and Florida) or speculate about what slaughtered lamb the Republicans will offer up in 2012, I am taking things back to the streets of New York City, where clearly not all is well. Think of RovingStorm as channeling the “Powers of Ten”, covering events from the Presidential Inauguration to a dispute over bicycling lanes in South Williamsburg. I’m telling you now, reading some of the new dispatches might remind you what it felt like to hear “Everything In Its Right Place” after you’d waited three years for a new Radiohead album. That’s because we are going Straight to the Source.

In “More Than a Bike Lane” (coming tomorrow) and “Cash or Credit” (written by guest columnist Zaid Hydari), we are going to be doing the best we can to bring information to the community with as much first-person investigation and reporting as possible. In future Dispatches, you can expect significant coverage of the MTA Crisis, the 2009 New York City elections, and the rise of the progressive movement in Brooklyn. And, of course, we’ll keep our eye on the big stage, because any politico will tell you that unlike a sports season, campaign season never ends. Ironically, the first political team to grasp the concept of a ‘permanent campaign’ was Jimmy Carter’s administration (Pat Caddell, Hamilton Jordan and Jody Powell), but its best efforts were not enough to spare the peanut farmer four brutal years in the White House.

In recognition that this is, above all other things, The Brief Age of Transition, below are my thoughts on New York’s search for a Senator. Incidentally, if you want to get to deep into the Caroline Kennedy saga and read a staggering journalistic tour de force, see the iconic Wayne Barrett’s take on the topic here:

“Hi, I’m Caroline Schlossberg, and I’m interested in your open Senate position”

As I write this, NPR is broadcasting Senator Clinton cruising through her confirmation hearings, which means the hour of Governor Paterson’s choice is upon us (Chairman Kerry implied that the Senate vote could come on Thursday). As much as Paterson would love to answer clamors for a Hispanic, female or upstate appointment, and pick someone who can win a 2010 race, there is no prominent political figure who can kill all of those birds with one stone. That leaves Caroline Kennedy, Andrew Cuomo, Kristin Gillibrand and Brian Higgins as the leading candidates. Despite Kennedy’s media blitzkrieg, her verbal stumbles have catapulted Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to the top of the list, as far as New York voters are concerned. The selection of Cuomo, my potential employer next year, would be politically safe and sound. Though Paterson and Cuomo are often talked about as rivals, they both have what they want for now: Cuomo is most likely weighing whether he’d rather run for Governor as the favorite in 2014 (leaving Paterson to cruise in 2010) or head down to Washington as a Senator.

And while I never thought the day would come that I’d actively oppose a Kennedy, Caroline’s coming out party has been a big disappointment. First, her non-answer to whether she would support the Democratic candidate against Mayor Bloomberg this year calls into question whether the party should give her its most coveted appointment. Sure, Democratic leaders like Ed Koch have crossed party lines in the past, but as much I hold my nose at such actions, at least those individuals can contrast such endorsements to a history of working for the party. Kennedy, who until this year has done almost nothing to help the Democratic Party, has no such capital. Her support for Bloomberg bothers me because much of her allure seems to be based on the notion her voting and legislative record will mirror that of her uncles, former Senator Bobby Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy, despite a complete lack of transparency about where she stands on issues and which issues matter to her.

Second, there’s this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfpqMfCs8lU&feature=PlayList&p=7794F2BC02247B72&playnext=1&index=2
The “you knows” avalanche in Caroline Schlossberg’s first interview about being Governor Paterson’s Senate appointee is revealing. Not because it suggests she is unintelligent (she is a Columbia Law grad), or even unable to articulate when she has to be (her stumping for Obama on the campaign trail went fine). The “you knows”, the refusal to disclose her finances, the terse and rehearsed press statements are all signs of someone who has never had to prove herself before. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, as jealous as the rest of us might be, but the fact is, those privilege will not follow her to the U.S Senate. As one of 100 Senators, you bet she’ll have to prove herself. Starting with the day she is appointed, she will have to prove herself to a vicious press. And most of all, her Republican opponent, likely the class-warfare hawk Peter King, will make her prove herself. Are we, as New Yorkers and/or as Democrats, ready to take the chance that Kennedy doesn’t have the stomach, toughness or ability to handle the rigors of being the Junior Senator from the Empire State?

Given the lack of upstate representation in the higher ranks of New York’s elected officials and the dire economic problems that have pained upstate New York even before this recession, I think it would be a slight (yeah, short of an injustice) to pass over two qualified Congressmen in Brian Higgins (Buffalo) and Kirsten Gillibrand (Gerrymandered district on the east border from the Catskills past Saratoga Springs) in favor of someone who steadfastly refuses to provide her critics, the press or prospective voters with anything except her name. Plus Gillibrand graduated from Dartmouth in the 80s, so she will know how to bring good times to the Senate.
Enjoy 2009, my friends. Things look bleak, but in our dreams even slumdogs can become millionaires. Oh yeah, and the MTA is shutting down the Z-line, to the chagrin of Jay-Z historians everywhere. The JM line, however, remains. Does that mean I can take my place as the new king of Brooklyn?

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