When Eliot Spitzer resigned as governor, the word on everyone's lips was schadenfreude - pleasure at the misery of this man who had angered so many during his short tenure.
New Yorkers were distracted by the black socks and didn't immediately consider the consequences - the ensuing chaos, the loss of talented people Spitzer had attracted into government. As Gov. David A. Paterson's term seems to be coming apart in slow motion, leak by leak, we have the leisure to consider that life without him will be no walk in the park.
First, the man who would succeed him, Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, was appointed, not elected. The state Court of Appeals was divided, 4-3, about whether the appointment is constitutional. Ravitch's personal dynamism aside, that is shaky ground from which to govern.
Also, if Ravitch, 76, were incapacitated, the next in line to the governorship would be none other than Senate President Malcolm Smith (D-Queens). A charity he cofounded to help Hurricane Katrina victims is under federal investigation. So before he took his hand off the Bible, a Gov. Ravitch would need to name a lieutenant - yet another unelected official.
A change at the helm would also deliver even more power to big-spending Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Ravitch is a Silver ally and has mused publicly about ways to issue debt more cheaply. That isn't a good strategy, unless there are strings attached, to force the state to cut its spending.
Paterson may yet resign over his role in the domestic violence allegations against his aide. But that doesn't mean the problems will end for New York. hN