That was awkward…
When President Barack Obama landed in Albany, New York, on Monday, the leader of his welcoming party was a man whose name has been linked with his in some news reports lately — New York Governor David Paterson. Or perhaps he should be referred to as “Governor-for-now.”
According to recent news reports, the Obama administration is so worried that his fellow Democrat Paterson’s unpopularity will drag down New York’s Democratic members of Congress and the Democrat-controlled state legislature in the November 2010 election that the president asked him to withdraw from the race. According to The New York Times, Obama’s request that Paterson step aside was put forward by his political advisers, but approved by the president. Paterson said Sunday he was still running for office.
Paterson was standing at the bottom of the stairs to greet Obama when Air Force One reached Albany. The jet engines were so loud that no one could hear their exchange, but they shook hands and had a brief exchange that looked cordial. “Obama did a kind of half-embrace with his back to the press corps, and said something to Paterson, who listened for a moment and then said something back,” a White House press pool report said.
Paterson sat in the front row during Obama’s speech at a local community college. The president shook hands with him again on entering, and put his left hand on Paterson’s shoulder briefly. At the beginning of his speech, Obama said, “A wonderful man, the governor of the great state of New York, David Paterson, is in the house.”
The reports about Obama’s recommendation had raised some charges that Obama, the first black U.S. president, was guilty of racism against Paterson, currently one of only two black governors of U.S. states. Michael Steele, the first African-American to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, raised the issue Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” television program.
“I found that to be stunning, that the White House would send word to one of only two black governors in the country not to run for re-election,” he said. He said it struck him as strange that Obama did not raise the same question about New Jersey Governor John Corzine, who is white and also trailing in opinion polls.
“It will be very interesting to see what the response from black leadership around the country will be about the president calling the governor to step down or not run for election,” Steele said.
Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama shakes hands with Paterson at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.)