ON MESSAGE: To Bury Paterson, and to Praise Him

“A wonderful man, the governor of the great state of New York, David Paterson, is in the house.”—Barack Obama

Here, the president shows us what you do when, on the eve of a long-scheduled appearance with the governor of a major state, news leaks that your administration is actively trying to muscle that governor out of running for a full term in the next election.

Mr. Paterson was onstage with Mr. Obama on Monday, so custom dictated that the president recognize him and say something nice about him. But if Mr. Obama offered even remotely positive words about Mr. Paterson’s stewardship of New York (“a man who’s doing a good job at a tough time,” or something like that), it would prompt an obvious question: If you think he’s doing a good job, why do you want him out?

So Mr. Obama framed his praise in strictly personal terms. It was, as one pundit put it afterward, the kind of thing you might hear at a funeral.

When it came time to acknowledge Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general who wants Mr. Paterson’s job, the president joked that the “shy and retiring” AG was present. Then he went a step further and told the crowd that “Andrew’s doing great work, enforcing the laws that need to be enforced.”

So if you’re keeping score, that’s one job-related compliment for Mr. Cuomo and none for Mr. Paterson. Got it? ON MESSAGE: To Bury Paterson, and to Praise Him