One thing they are certainly talking about in Albany today is last night’s Saturday Night Live. The main course during the Weekend Update segment was Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, he of the careless tongue and criminally challenged ethics. SNL used his wiretap/corruption travails as an excuse to lampoon New York Gov. David Paterson. What do the two have in common? Well, both get to name the replacement of a Washington-bound U.S. senator, and both follow a disgraced governor. But, other than that, there isn’t much overlap. That didn’t stop SNL; it used that slight nexus to send up a caricature of Paterson. He was portrayed as a bumbling, unprepared, unqualified, cocaine-addicted Mr. Magoo.
Granted, caricature by definition is over the top, excessive, a distortion of another’s essence. Still, I thought SNL missed the mark, by a lot. For one, I don’t think that unprepared or unqualified get at what most people regard as Paterson’s essence. He was, after all, a former lieutenant governor and Senate minority leader. And since taking office in March, he very often has been one of the few lucid voices out of Albany.
I also don’t think that New Yorkers, in the media or beyond, see Paterson as bumbling or cocaine-loving, conclusions SNL seemed to set forth as present-day facts. Paterson jokes about his blindness but the reality is, if someone didn’t know that his vision was impaired, that fact would not be self-evident. He certainly doesn’t go around bumping into things. The governor’s speeches, which he memorizes, are fact-laden, to the point, often as substantive as they are entertaining, and as clear-eyed as government speeches go. When Paterson first entered office, he did become a serial confessor of sorts, spilling his own beans about prior drug use and extramarital affairs. The self-inflicted wounds were damaging but short-lived. He eventually stopped confessing and focused on governing. He continues to get favorable ratings in most polls; lots of Albany watchers see him as part of the solution, not the problem.
All that said, during the presidential campaign, I laughed like so many others at the caricatures of Gov. Sarah Palin. Prior to her being selected as John McCain’s running mate, I wouldn’t have known her from Alice. Maybe the Alaskans felt as I do now; that some people just don’t get our governor. But knowing that the SNL scribes watch the same Albany that I watch, read the same headlines that I read, hear and see the same press coverage that I do, I feel pretty comfortable saying that SNL simply missed the mark.
They wanted to tell Mr. Magoo jokes, so they did. It just wasn’t funny.