Paterson’s Last Grab for Relevance

Avi Zenilman | August 13th, 2010

Gov. David Paterson

David Paterson is back! Kind of.

As Governor-in-waiting Andrew Cuomo enters what must be the middle stretch of his endless inauguration, the current governor has been trying to stay relevant, in his own way. But, with Paterson, it seems like steps forward must always be matched with a step or two backward.

The state legislature finally passed a budget early last week, just in time for State Senators and Assemblymen to hit the campaign trail and brag about their productivity. It was only 125 days too late.

Then, on Wednesday, Paterson made a bid to solidify his legacy, at least in his backyard of Harlem, by playing MC at Charlie Rangel’s birthday party. This was good for the governor; compared to the embattled Congressman, he’s getting relatively good press these days.

But Paterson’s main stake to the news these days has been his attempt at playing peacemaker, floating a plan to move the proposed “Ground Zero mosque” (which is not exactly a mosque, and not exactly at Ground Zero) to unspecified state land nearby. The compromising— some would say compromised — tone drew a distinction with Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to stand by the plan, but then again, it doesn’t seem as if Paterson has any legal ability to change anything, nor would he be able to loosen up state land for use.

Now, Paterson is on the defensive. In an interview with WOR, he said the opponents of the mosque are merely neighbors, tired of being “badgered.” He added, “How much more foresighted would it be if you were promoting cultural and ethnic understanding if you don’t wait until you build the building to do it and do it right now?”

Paterson, like most of the other participants in the great mosque gabfest, doesn’t live downtown; the badgering seems to exist on a two-way street. However, the content of Paterson’s argument doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we’re talking about his views on something, and not the fact that his former top aide David Johnston was formally charged with assault in the case that basically ended Paterson’s bid for re-election. (Paterson will not be facing charges.)

At least he’s still the governor. For a few more months.