Suddenly Malcolm Smith the Deal-Maker has become Malcolm Smith the Fighter for Principle. Smith says the state senate Democrats are “suspending negotiations” with the three dissidents who had been muscling the party for perks “because to do otherwise would reduce our moral standing.” He also said “real reform cannot and should not ever include limiting the civil rights of any New Yorkers,” referring to a proposed gay marriage bill — Dissident Ruben Diaz had insisted it be killed as his price, but Smith now says that’s too dear a price to pay. So he and most of the Democrats are “prepared to wait if we have to to come into the majority” if the Gang of Three follow through on threats to go Republican.
As you might expect, gangster Pedro Espada, who was to become majority leader under the arrangement, is enraged. He seems particularly upset that his proposed office was deprived by Smith of money. “There was no budget, there was no power, it was just a title,” raged Espada to Capitol Confidential. He said he would not “make myself a party to that kind of fraud.” Diaz, for his part, lamented that whereas before “the Hispanic community would get something,” now “there’s nothing for us.”
Is it a matter of honor or a tactic? Given that Espada has caucused with the Republicans before, the Democrats must know he’s capable of doing it again. Maybe Smith and Paterson wouldn’t much mind if the GOP were left on the hook for the coming financial debacle.