There was nothing warm or familiar in the half-handshake, one-armed hug between President Obama and Governor Paterson today.
Looking bewildered, Governor Paterson greeted Air Force One when it landed in Albany for a speech President Obama will give on the economy at Hudson Valley Community College. Both the Post and the Daily News described it as a handshake, while those fuzzy-wuzzies over at the Times described it as “an awkward hug.” The President leaned over and whispered something in Paterson’s ear, which could not be heard above the roar of Air Force One’s engines.
It’s the first time the two men have seen each other since Paterson defiantly announced yesterday that he will not bow to White House pressure to step down from the Governor’s race. The News describes a chipper, smiling Obama bounding down the stairs of Air Force One, but his “smile faded as he shook hands with an equally grim Paterson,” before the President “appeared to perk up as he exchanged pleasantries with the rest of his reception committee.” Clearly, Paterson hasn’t been welcomed back into the fold. Not only was he unable to hitch a ride with the President, when they left for the speech, Paterson’s car was ninth in the motorcade.
Obama will meet later today with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who the latest Marist poll has leading the Governor 3 to 1 in a primary, head-to-head. Cuomo’s poll numbers
put him in a superior position to fend off Republican candidates in the general election, from the likely (Rick Lazio) to the purely speculative (Rudy Giuliani).
Obama and Paterson are the two African American “firsts” to hold their respective offices, but there is a big difference between breaking that barrier from running a national, grass roots campaign and, say, gaining it because the previous occupant nailed a hooker he trafficked across state lines. In reality, the Obama-Paterson alliance is (was?) pretty young, anyway. Paterson backed Obama’s rival, then Senator Hillary Clinton, throughout the presidential primary campaign. He was right by her side the night she refused to concede at Baruch College, after the last of the Democratic Primaries was over, the band had gone home, and the lights were out.
Maybe Paterson can now get Secretary of State Clinton to help thaw relations with her new boss?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 21, 2009