How Pataki Won

Governor Strikes Strongman Pose, Wipes His Hands Clean

The assembly member whose comments were most descriptive of Pataki's NBA-style defensive flop was William Parment, who was labeled in Dicker's story "a business-friendly sometimes maverick from Jamestown." Parment told the Voice he was "very unhappy about the legislative budget" and "was a little surprised" that he wasn't contacted.

"There was certainly an opportunity to approach me, because I was invited to a prayer breakfast, right around the passage of the budget, where I spoke with the governor," said Parment. "But he didn't mention anything about the budget." After Dicker's story naming him came out, Parment said he "would not commit to answering questions about whether or not I would override because I was hoping there would be more negotiations." Waiting by the phone for the call that never came, Parment laments now: "I hoped there would have been some compromise."

Dicker himself recently wrote an item suggesting just how bogus Pataki's supposed veto war was. "I received one message on my cell phone saying the governor was trying to reach me," recalled Senator Hugh Farley of Schenectady, who is described by Dicker as "seen by many as at least potentially prepared to side with Pataki." Farley said he returned the call "and was told the governor wasn't taking any calls" and "that's the last I heard from him."

Knowing when to play and when to fold, Pataki is now positioned as the state's fiscal prophet.
Knowing when to play and when to fold, Pataki is now positioned as the state's fiscal prophet.

This is, of course, precisely the kind of detail that will never fit into a sound bite. Even the print media—which has been markedly critical of Pataki's stated positions—has not looked behind this sham performance. Reporters from The Buffalo News to the Syracuse Post-Standard to the Times have noted, for example, that Pataki "secretly" supported a 1.25 percent increase in the sales tax in "private," pre-veto meetings with Speaker Shelly Silver and senate leader Joe Bruno. It's a claim both leaders have made, and that Pataki denies. But every story so far has buried this explosive charge—which strips bare the governor's no-tax pose and puts him squarely on Bush's anybody-but-the-rich side of the tax debate.

Instead of portraying the actual Pataki—one who tried to cut a consumer-gutting deal and, once that failed, only pretended to block the budget he railed against—the media are allowing the governor to cast himself as a fiscal crusader. This is hardly a media favor for political reasons, as was the electoral cover-up of 2002. It's just lazy, cookie-cutter journalism.

Assemblyman Parment said it best: "The governor got the great political position on this. Any rise in the rate of unemployment or future economic problems of the state will now fall at the feet of the legislature." Can we let this slippery skell, who lied his way to re-election, get away with that too?

Research assistance: Zoe Alsop, Michael Anstendig

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