George Will

NEW YORK -- Always antic and occasionally comic, the maneuverings for what once mattered greatly, this state's governorship, refute the state's motto, ``Excelsior.'' That means ``ever upward,'' which does not describe the trajectory of the state that soon will cease being the most populous east of the Mississippi.
 Gov. George Pataki is not seeking a fourth term. Polls showed him being trounced by the probable -- but not certain; read on -- Democratic nominee, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Pataki, who favors gun control, gay rights and abortion rights, is nevertheless evincing interest in the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. He recently genuflected to an Iowa god, calling for ethanol to be made in New York and available tax-free at service stations. Ethanol is made from agricultural products, such as Iowa corn.

     Spitzer is the state's most prominent crime-buster since Thomas Dewey, who in the 1940s rode his reputation to the governorship and two Republican presidential nominations. Back then, New York had 12 more electoral votes than the second most populous state (Pennsylvania). Spitzer's prominence flows from his flamboyant use -- many say abuse -- of his office to build a reputation as a scourge of Wall Street, although his record reveals more publicity than convictions.

     Reports of Spitzer's verbal bullying -- which he says are wrong and, anyway, ``You will not change the world by whispering'' -- will not hurt him here, where mere rudeness passes for gentility. But his path to Albany -- en route, his acolytes suggest, to Washington as America's first Jewish president -- acquired an impediment last week.

     Long Islander Thomas Suozzi is the Nassau County executive, with a budget larger than that of seven states. Having won 59 percent of the votes in a Republican-majority county, he has announced that he might challenge Spitzer for the Democratic nomination. Last year Governing magazine named Suozzi one of the nation's eight best executives, largely for rescuing Nassau County from the bottom of the list compiled by Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs that grades the governance of the nation's 40 largest counties.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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