Paterson’s Steady Hand

It wasn’t a popular position, but months ago we argued in this space that Charles O’Byrne ought to remain in Albany as Governor David Paterson’s right-hand man. Turns out we were right: Mr. O’Byrne is coming back. That’s good news for an administration that has been listless since Mr. O’Byrne’s departure.

Mr. O’Byrne, of course, was forced out four months ago because of revelations that he owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. That was before such problems became downright trendy among political officials.

It’s fair to say that Governor Paterson’s administration hasn’t been the same sense. Without his longtime aide’s advice and guidance, Mr. Paterson has been adrift at a time when the state needs aggressive, forthright leadership. It would be an exaggeration, of course, to assert that Mr. O’Byrne is irreplaceable—Charles de Gaulle once observed that cemeteries are filled with indispensable men. But it is clear now that Mr. Paterson was a better governor when Mr. O’Byrne was around to serve as a sounding board, adviser and enforcer.

Mr. O’Byrne was scandalously negligent about his personal finances. His return to Albany doesn’t mean that all is forgotten. Mr. Paterson noted that Mr. O’Byrne made a mistake, “but he paid for it, and he underwent some pretty severe criticism for it.” Mr. Paterson is convinced that Mr. O’Byrne has been punished enough. We agree. He now has a chance to redeem himself by helping his boss lead the state through a terrible financial crisis.