New York Cautiously Hoists Paterson on Its Shoulders

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Judging from the reaction in today's papers, Governor Paterson's decision yesterday to name Richard Ravitch his new lieutenant governor is stirring up conflicting emotions. On the one hand, it's legally questionable, with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, as well as a number of experts we talked to, claiming that the Constitution doesn't give Paterson that power. But on the other hand, it's worth a shot anyway, since the Senate has shown itself incapable of breaking this impasse themselves. (Not incidentally, it would also settle the line-of-succession question should something happen to Paterson.) It's the fact that Paterson took this bold step despite its obvious perils that the people are applauding today. Paterson's moxie was on display again this morning as well: Republicans expected Ravitch to be sworn in at 11:30 a.m. today, and got Supreme Court judge Ute Lally to open up the courthouse in the middle of the night to issue a restraining order blocking him from doing so. But it turns out Paterson had, secretly, already sworn in Ravitch at 8 p.m, beating Republicans to the punch. An auspicious beginning for what one writer today calls Paterson's "Hail Mary."

• The New York Times editorial board says Paterson "was right to take the plunge and name a lieutenant governor in an effort to break the increasingly damaging stalemate in Albany," despite the questionable legality. Paterson showed "wisdom and assertiveness" in his decision. [NYT]

• The Daily News editorial board calls Paterson's move a "bold and masterful stroke" and "an all-around winner." It "settles the critical question of who would be in charge should the governor be incapacitated," pushes the Senate toward ending the deadlock, and gives Albany "a wise head who has no political ambitions." Furthermore, "[n]o judge in his or her right mind would" rule against Paterson. [NYDN]

• The New York Post editorial board believes that "while it's hard to make a sound legal case for Gov. Paterson's appointment of Richard Ravitch yesterday as lieutenant governor, it's easy to understand the frustrations that drove him to such extraordinary action." There was no better choice than Ravitch for lieutenant governor, but "the Constitution seems clear" that Paterson doesn't have the power to appoint him. [NYP]

• The Newsday editorial board says Paterson's move "seems weak" legally. Strategically, it could "further delay the negotiations between Senate factions" and result in legal challenges. Picking Ravitch also wasn't the best idea since he "brings a Manhattan-centric worldview and adds partisanship to an already nasty brew." [Newsday]

• The Albany Times Union gives Paterson credit for "acting in what he perceives to be the interests of all New Yorkers in his appointment of Richard Ravitch to fill the vacant position of lieutenant governor." While the courts "very well might" overturn Paterson's move, it was called for by the "collective behavior of a legislative body to undermine its very legitimacy." New Yorkers can ask themselves, "What was Mr. Paterson supposed to do?" [Times Union]

• Steve Kornacki posits that this could be the "dramatic, unforeseen development that might cast [Paterson's] leadership in a different light," the one he's been waiting for. His sound legal argument and sympathetic position will bring him good publicity. He finally has a chance to "define himself ... in opposition to the man who wants to snatch his job next year," Andrew Cuomo. And it could ease intra-party tensions in the Democratic conference. Paterson's "Hail Mary" is an "unusually bold and savvy move. There should be a pay-off for him. The question is whether it will be big enough." [PolitickerNY]

• Fred Dicker contends that Paterson has "put New York on a course to become a banana republic." His "unprecedented move — in defiance of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and 230 years of state history — is mind-boggling in its implications for democracy," and may scuttle any Senate settlement. [NYP]