Cuddle Guv Goes to War

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A classic. Photo: Getty Images

If David Paterson were a supervillain, he'd be that guy from X-Men: The Last Stand who very sweetly hugged a terrified Shohreh Aghdashloo, and then, when she least expected it, his entire body turned into razor sharp spikes, killing her instantly. That's what the Cuddle Guv did to Caroline Kennedy over the past two days. In a demonstration of vengefulness and petulance that we haven't before seen from the seemingly sweethearted Harlem politician, Paterson systematically and deliberately began shredding Kennedy's reputation after she dropped out of consideration to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate.

Yesterday, after rumors that Kennedy dropped out over worries about her uncle's health, her camp put out word that it was actually a separate personal reason that caused her to change her mind. The Paterson camp, for reasons we don't know exactly, took advantage of this to spread the word that the "personal reason" was a tax problem. But mysteriously at the same time, Democratic sources were saying that Paterson had been planning on appointing her — suggesting that any problems that arose during the vetting process couldn't have been that severe.

Later, a source went to the Post and shredded Caroline even more explicitly:

"She has a tax problem that came up in the vetting and a potential nanny issue," the source said. "And reporters are starting to look at her marriage more closely," the source continued, refusing to provide any specifics. "The governor had no intention of picking her because of the botched rollout executed in recent weeks," said the source, referring to Kennedy's media appearances. "She's clearly not ready for prime time. She has no policy experience and she couldn't handle the public stage very well."

"Reporters are starting to look at her marriage"?? Sorry to editorialize, but that's just bush-league. And cruel. (The same source clearly spoke with the Daily News, using nearly the exact same verbiage. Slick, guys.) The Times reports that Caroline's only tax issue on record is actually a minuscule $614 lien that she settled fourteen years ago. But regardless, sources close to Paterson started saying he was never going to pick her in the first place. The Times, fed up at this point, observed that at this point you just can't believe things that come from his camp on this matter. "The governor has often contradicted his own comments about the Senate pick in the course of a single day," writers Nicholas Confessore and Danny Hakim observe.

It doesn't really matter whether Paterson planned on picking her and felt burned, or didn't plan on picking her and was mad he didn't get the chance to look like a tough, independent-minded politician. Sure, Caroline Kennedy was arrogant, and, as Tucker Carlson points out in the Daily Beast, offended liberal interest groups, ticked off the Clintons by endorsing Obama in the first place, and failed to win the charm offensive. But Paterson exacerbated this whole debacle with his inability to make a decision for weeks and weeks. According to a source who knows him, "he's incapable of the chess strategy required to think through what the consequences of anything might be two weeks from now." Nobody would look nearly as bad today if this decision had been made last month.

Paterson Picks GIllibrand for Senate[NYT]
NASTY CAROLINE WAR [NYP]
The Real Reasons Caroline Didn't Make It [Daily Beast]
Caroline Kennedy Was In Over Her Head, But Gov. David Paterson Crew Stoops Low [NYDN]