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Janison: Tips for Espada on spinning political episodes

New York State Sen. Pedro Espada (D-Bronx) addresses

New York State Sen. Pedro Espada (D-Bronx) addresses a rally in Albany. (June 15, 2009) Credit: AP

To hear all the news reports of recent months, you might think of Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. (D-Bronx) as some crude political opportunist who milks the system for whatever he can, whenever he can, and needs to be taken down.

The latest episode: The hiring of his son, ex-legislator Pedro G. Espada, in a $120,000-per-year job on the Senate payroll that hadn't previously existed.

That hiring was canceled, after an unfortunate uproar.

Emergency! Is there a media guru in the house?

Clearly the majority leader, his colleagues and kin need help. If this had been spun with skill, the latest Espada episode could instead have been treated as a proud assertion of family values.

At least it was an episode true to Capitol tradition. Who are the masters of the State Senate supposed to hire at insane pay for concocted maybe-show positions in the middle of a recession? Their enemies?

The goal of salvaging the senior Espada's image offers New Yorkers of a certain trade a great opportunity. It could become a public works project for public-relations consultants, a Bronx Project to match the way the Manhattan Project once galvanized our best physicists.

There seems to be no political problem these days that the spinmeisters cannot resolve.

People have variously been convinced that George W. Bush was a good ol' cowboy, that Barack Obama is a radical change agent, that Eliot Spitzer would surely clean up Albany, that AIG was a good solid company, and that exporting manufacturing jobs would help U.S. workers.

Even amateur cranks enjoy success selling novelty stuff on the Internet. You know, like how Freemasons bent on world domination created Obama in a Petri dish or how the CIA hired unemployed accountants to carry out the terrorist attacks.

The humbler and more immediate challenge for Espada is illustrated in a recent Siena poll showing relatively low esteem for him across party and ethnic lines. Even among Latinos, the first Hispanic Senate majority leader has approval ratings in single digits.

So, since all you seem to need for this scene is hype and audacity, here is a five-point program for rehabilitating the senior Espada's media image:

Spin his past criminal acquittal in a case involving campaign money and his Soundview Health Center, which at one point paid him up to $379,000, as a victory for American rights and opportunity. Ignore the part where other Soundview employees were convicted.

Spin the one-month abandonment of his party and subsequent return with fat rewards as "selfless bipartisan cooperation." Cite the Republicans' past hailing of Espada's bravery in joining in the coup against Democratic Senate leader Malcolm Smith, and the Democrats' later welcome "home."

Spin his chronic failure to abide by campaign finance disclosure laws as a victory for privacy rights.

Spin his apparent residence in Westchester as a fair-minded outreach to New York's suburban heartland. Remember - he's been a leader in the majority for both major parties in the same season.

Spin his blend of activities as an effort to help Attorney General Andrew Cuomo look good by giving him obvious fodder for a serious investigation.

When the makeover artists get done with him, we'll be running Espada for even higher office.

If Espada can't be sold as a public hero, the American huckster class has lost its edge.

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