March 3, 2010

Real World: Albany Edition

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Move over, Snooki, your situation is nothing compared to what we have here in upstate New York. On what seems like a daily basis, the Empire State’s politicians are embarrassing themselves in a parade of ethics scandals and subsequent self-aggrandizing explanations that are fooling no one and enraging everyone. And these ongoing mishaps are not coming at a particularly convenient time for New Yorkers — the state is facing a budget deficit of more than $8 billion.

Our deepest sympathies to those in the land-grant colleges: Your educations are partially in the woefully unsteady hands of incompetents and liars.

Let us begin at the top: Gov. David Paterson had his normal schedule of mediocrity interrupted last on Feb. 24 when The New York Times broke the news of what it later called a “ham-handed cover-up to avert a scandal involving a top aide.” Two days later, Paterson — who, lest we forget, replaced another New York governor ousted by scandal — ended his campaign for re-election, only six days after it officially opened. Yesterday, it was revealed that Paterson accepted $2,125 worth of free World Series tickets, then lied about it under oath to an ethics investigator for New York State. Among those calling for Paterson’s resignation is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Gillibrand has also found her way into the melodrama, most recently when her challenger in the Democratic primary election, Harold Ford, Jr., decided to drop out of the race, then publish an inflammatory, finger-pointing op-ed in The New York Times. Ford, Jr., bitterly claimed that Democratic party bosses tried to force him out of the race, then went on to cloak his decision to drop out with the justification that it was the best decision for his party.

One congressman from New York is past the point of making a decision to benefit his party. Rep. Charles Rangel stepped down from his post as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee after suffering a dressing-down by the House ethics committee for violating gift rules and accepting paid trips to the Caribbean.

Cornell University enjoys a number of unique benefits due to its close relationship with New York State. But in times like these, it is hard to avoid looking longingly at peer Ivy League institutions: Private, independent and unfettered by the travesty that this state’s politics has become.