William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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THE PRESIDENT AND THE GOVERNOR - AT 9:58 P.M. ET:  There's a remarkable conflict going on between the president and the governor New York.  Both are African-Americans.  Indeed, David Paterson of New York is one of only two black governors, the other being Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.

Paterson's problem is that Barack Obama wants him to take a walk, right off the plank.  Paterson became governor upon the resignation of Eliot Spitzer, who was caught, literally, with his pants down - in a prostitution scandal.  But Paterson has performed with all the skill of the Syrian Air Force, and his poll numbers are in the basement.  There's a gubernatorial election next year.  Obama fears that if Paterson runs to keep his job, even in heavily Democratic New York, he not only will lose, but will bring down other Dem candidates.  So, there have been some not-so-subtle hints, delivered via surrogates, that maybe running a nice gift shop would be a good career move.

Trouble is, Paterson ain't goin'.  He is fighting, and the display is unseemly:

A beleaguered Gov. Paterson defied President Obama on a national stage this morning, insisting that New Yorkers "are the ones who should choose their governor" during an appearance on NBC’s "Meet the Press."

In the nine-minute interview with host David Gregory, the Democratic executive said that the White House never gave him an "explicit indication" to drop out of the 2010 race for governor, although he admitted that the Obama administration had relayed concerns about his political prospects.

"I’m blind, but I’m not oblivious," said Paterson, who’s legally blind. "I realize that there are people that don’t want me to run, but I have never gotten an explicit indication authorized from the White House that I shouldn’t run." The host responded with a vain attempt to pin the governor down.

"I just want to be clear on this point," Gregory said. "They certainly sent the message that you would not have their support if you ran. They had concerns about you running, that you should not run." Paterson ducked the question.

"They certainly sent the message that they had concerns," he said. "But let me just tell you at the outset that I am running for governor in 2010."

COMMENT:  What's a president to do?  Now, it's true, Obama has a history of throwing friends under the bus and embracing enemies, so maybe this doesn't upset him all that much.  But the other friends have gone under the bus willingly.  Paterson is pulling a Rosa Parks.

Obama favors Andrew Cuomo, currently attorney general of New York, and the son of former Governor Mario Cuomo.  But what if Paterson won't drop out, and there's a primary?  Does Obama reject a sitting Democratic governor, and an African-American at that?

You've got to give Paterson credit.  He's an incompetent governor, but he has some spine, and he's facing a spineless president.  This has the makings of a great political drama that can affect the entire Dem ticket in New York next year, which means House seats.  Stay tuned, and may the better spine win.

September 27, 2009