To refresh your memory or enlighten you if you’re outside the purview of New York State politics, last spring Governor Eliot Spitzer (former Attorney General, reformer, crusader, blah blah blah) resigned under a cloud of embarrassment when it was revealed that he was a regular patron (Client #9, famously) of a high-class prostitution service.

David Paterson, the Lieutenant Governor, was subsequently elevated to the higher office and made news, as he was both the first black governor of the state and the second legally blind governor of any of the 50 states (the precedent was set by Bob Riley, Governor of Arkansas for 11 days in 1975).

I like this photo because the fragment of the Tribeca Film Festival logo looks a bit like an eye chart.

It’s a feel-good story and Paterson has been doing a relatively good job, especially under the current economic hardships, what with the Wall Street collapses and debacles. Also despite the revelation soon after he took office that both he and his wife had had extramarital affairs (but everything’s all better now).

I’m all for him succeeding, but there’s one aspect of his story that irks me. Everyone praises him for his ability to memorize his speeches as he is unable to use a teleprompter. Here’s a typical example:

But what David Paterson really needed was some time to just listen — 60 hours, to be exact. That, he said, was the time it would take him to memorize his hour-long speech, which the legally blind governor does by listening to a recording of one minute at a time.

“I can’t read the speech. Since I’m not totally blind, I never learned Braille, so I can’t read the speech by hand and then recite. So, I basically have to memorize it,” he said.

— from


Sixty hours?!? Seems to me that the 54-year-old Paterson, whose vision was compromised as an infant, might have made the sage decision to acquire the skill of Braille fluency at some point in his life, whether during school, law school, his early political career, somewhere along the line. It couldn’t take more that a few, maybe as much as a dozen, speech-memorization sessions, could it? But it certainly would have been worth it.  True, I know he couldn’t have predicted his unlikely rise to such an exalted office, but he’s obviously an intelligent, capable, and ambitious individual, so the lapse surprises me. This fact undermines my estimation of the esteem he deserves. Especially since a governor’s job is to make informed, responsible, and well-considered decisions.