Thursday, March 23, 2006

Just Because I Like Bluegrass Doesn't Mean I Live in Appalachia

The Democrat and Chronicle ran a good piece on Eliot Spitzer's comments that upstate's problems are akin to that of Appalachia. Maybe the comment is extreme. Maybe it isn't. Elmira certainly has its issues, as well as Binghamton, so maybe the southern tier fits the AG's characterization. But if your going to cut hairs, you can do that here. However, there are better hairs to cut, and the D and C? They cut right to it. Essentially, they call Spitzer on his “I feel your pain” statement for not backing it up with any kind of solutions. As they should. If you're going to sympathize with our plight and you are running for office, you'd better be ready to tell us what you're going to do.

We know we have problems, thank you very much. What, prey tell, are you going to do to help us?

Of course, Spitzer is short on details. I'm not excusing it, but I do expect it. When you are the heir apparent to the Governorship, the less you promise when you run, the more latitude you have when you win. It's the kind of thing I'd expect a politician to pull, but the kind of tactic a real leader would avoid.

Despite the inevitability of Governor Spitzer, I still love a good scrap so I'm hoping that Tom Suozzi brings some substance to the Democratic primary. So far, I've been pleasantly surprised by his candor that he's essentially running against Albany. It's a smart tactic because if you're a kamikaze candidate, it’s the best way to get a connection to the disenfranchised people of New York State. Suozzi is young and tenacious with a solid track record in his county. I get a kick out of the fact that the guy who has essentially, without saying it, has pitched himself as the upstate candidate, is a county executive from Long Island. How do I get to that conclusion? I can’t count the sheer number of Suozzi ads I saw while watching Syracuse play the last two weeks. Sure it was always the same ad, seemingly directed by someone who makes trial lawyer advertisements with an MTV over-edited edge. Despite the snark and the cynicism, they are effective and his approach has put him on people’s radar.

New York needs several reforms and I'm glad there is someone with the guts to say it. Given the fractured state of the GoP field, I'm a little surprised that none of their candidates have really struck the “reform Albany” chord as resoundingly as Suozzi has right out of the box. In a lot of the ways the matter, Suozzi gets this election. Sure, Spitzer has already won, unless he wakes up with a dead hooker in his bed. And the Spitzer inevitability automatically frees all the other candidates to put forth some serious debates on the issues.

I’m serious. If this thing is already decided, which it is, why not force the debate out of the safe realms of public policy and talk about things like growing entitlements with a shrinking tax base, school vouchers, and political reform?

Don't just be another guy in a suit running for office. Why not swing for the fences? Why not try t do something that may matter despite winning or losing? A real leader would use this election as an opportunity to raise the profile of some issues. Maybe, just maybe, that's what Suozzi is doing.