February 10, 2010

But What’s My Motivation?


Last night, Hiram Monserrate was expelled from the NY State Senate. In case you don’t remember Hiram, he was one of the ‘amigos’ from the Dem’s side of the aisle who moved over to the Rep side in the coup last summer, giving the Reps a 32 – 30 majority; a week later, he went back to the other side, and eventually so did Pedro Espada, the other amigo, bribed with a leadership post to cross back over.

The reason he’s been tossed is because he was convicted of abusing his girlfriend by dragging her down the hall, forcibly, on the way to a hospital 14 miles away from their home, to have her slashed face stitched up. There’s security camera footage showing the two of them leaving the house, with Monserrate clearly calling the shots, making the misdemeanor conviction pretty much a slam-dunk.

He wasn’t convicted of a felony for slashing her face, which is what he was charged with. One reason there was no conviction on the felony is because, like many domestic violence victims, she said it was an accident and she was not cooperative with the prosecution. Had he been convicted of a felony, expulsion would have been automatic; however, the misdemeanor conviction led to a caucus, and to two resolutions, and eventually to the yes vote on immediately kicking him out, rather than waiting a while.

If you listen to some of the players, including Monserrate himself, you'll hear a few different opinions on why the expulsion was necessary. Ruben Diaz Sr, another Dem, had these opinions, offered in the middle of the voting itself. Diaz is quite the character, as illustrated by his bizarre quotation of Martin Luther King's 'Dream' speech in response to a question of whether he would begin siding with the Reps in the Senate. Note that the Reps were not in favor of keeping Monserrate around, making it somewhat unlikely that they'll be courting Diaz, but stranger things have happened. Pedro Espada, for his part, made a connection between Monserrate’s rights and the rights of terrorists. I'm not sure what the other five who voted no were thinking and I think I don’t want to know.

Although I didn’t know it was a gem from Alfred Hitchcock, like most folks I’d heard this joke many times before: “When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, 'It's in the script.' If he says, 'But what's my motivation?, ' I say, 'Your salary.'”

In the case of our folks in Albany, I'm hoping their motivation was obvious. Those who think the vote was racist in some way, or retaliation for the coup last year I hope are misguided. I think the real reason he was booted is because he’s a jerk who's been convicted of domestic violence; even in Albany, that should have been motivation enough.

Now of course he’s going to appeal the expulsion, and of course there will be an injunction keeping him in the Senate until all legal courses have been exhausted, and of course during this time people in his district are stuck with him. Hopefully they will ignore him, loudly and vigorously and publicly. If his staff is any good, they'll be able to handle constituent service until such time as someone decent is elected to represent them.

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