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Spitzer avoids prosecution for his dalliances

   Eliot Spitzer, who spent a lifetime in public office condemning wrongdoers, got lucky Thursday with the decision by federal prosecutors to not charge him with a crime for his role in a prostitution ring.

   The former governor, who thought one day he could become president, has been sweating since March that he would be charged for patronizing a prostitution ring. His allies -- and there are not many of those left -- say Spitzer, who was brought down from office by the scandal, already was punished, and is still being punished, for his sexual dalliances.

   Prosecutors were clear they found nothing illegal in how Spitzer paid for the services. There was no money laundering and no campaign funds were used.

   The public statement from the U.S. Attorney's office did not say why it did not use the Mann Act -- a law making it a crime to cross state borders to engage in acts of prostitution -- to go after Spitzer.

   Michael Garcia, the top federal prosecutor in the Justice Department's Southern District in New York City, said simply that the "public interest would not be further advanced" by charging Spitzer with a crime.

   Now what?

   Will Spitzer, who talked at the time of his March resignation of someday trying to get involved with some higher cause, return in any way to a visible public scene, such as through some charitable work? Or is he destined to use his law degree and credentials to keep working out of his wealthy father's real estate development company?

   -- Tom Precious

After years of hubris, Obama offers humility

   CHICAGO -- Now comes the hard part.

   For Barack Obama, the challenges of a campaign -- the constant travel, the ups and downs of the polls, the darts thrown daily by your opponents -- will pale in comparison to the financial crisis and the two wars that await him. Both Democrats and Republicans agree on that.

   The trouble for Obama is, that's about all that they agree on. And while Obama will have enlarged Democratic majorities to work with in both the House and the Senate, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton proved that Democratic majorities are not enough to guarantee success for a Democratic president.

   But there are some things that seem decidedly different about Obama. Most notably, he's starting out by naming a chief of staff who actually knows Capitol Hill: Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.

   And for another, just listen to our new president-elect:

   "Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long," he said Tuesday night. "Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House -- a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty and national unity.

   "Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.  As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends -- though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection."  And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -- I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too."

   I can't help but wonder, though: after years of bitter partisanship, how will Republicans -- and Democrats -- react to a president who talks like that?

   -- Jerry Zremski

Democrats take charge of New York

   Politics and government as we know it in New York changed on Tuesday.

   The people of New York not only joined the rest of the nation in electing Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States, but the state now sees all-Democratic rule for the first time since 1935.

   With the Democratic takeover of the State Senate, Republicans are now shut out of all positions in the executive branch and all leadership posts in the legislative branch. They won at least 32 seats in the 62-seat house, and are now ready to firmly imprint their brand on Albany.

   Key to that new Senate majority was the win by incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Stachowski of Lake View, who faced the toughest challenge of his long career from suspended Buffalo Detective Dennis A. Delano. Early polls showed Delano - fueled by the national fame of his Cold Case Squad career - with a substantial lead.

   But Delano and his Republican handlers threw the dice with a strategy that portrayed him as a "non-politician" who refused to participate in debates and forums - even those sponsored by such respected and non-partisan groups as the League of Women Voters.

   In the end, that tactic may have cost the GOP a tie in the Senate, as local Republicans Michael H. Ranzenhofer and Dale M. Volker prevailed in their hotly contested races.

   Now the Democrats prepare to run Albany. They face a daunting task, especially with a $9 billion deficit predicted for the next fiscal year.

   Will they adopt some of the fiscal conservatism their once ultra-liberal governor, David A. Paterson, has suddenly embraced? Or will they turn out to be a free spending bunch that will face up to deficit problems in their own way?

   What do you think one-party rule now means for our state?

  --- Robert J. McCarthy

History is waiting

   History will happen Tuesday, but if you really think about it, history has been happening from the moment that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and John McCain announced their bids for the presidency.

   Think of the epic drama we've witnessed. We've watched Obama's rise from freshman senator to master of a new kind of political machine based on a few dollars here, a few dollars there. We've seen the Clinton campaign collapse amid mismanagement and internecine warfare. We've seen McCain's campaign
collapse only to rise again … twice. And of course, we've seen Sarah Palin (and Tina Fey).

   And think of the characters we've encountered. We've seen a trash-talking minister do his best, wittingly or unwittingly, to destroy the candidacy of one of his congregants. We've seen a excitable ex-president damage his wife's campaign by ruminating about race. We've met Joe the Plumber. And of course, we've seen Sarah Palin (and Tina Fey).

   David Broder of the Washington Post, who has been covering presidential politics for 50 years, calls it the best campaign he's ever seen. And I've had the privilege of seeing it all close up, in countless trips around the country that culminated in a visit to Ohio, where I met a guy named George Pounders.

   A 60-year-old Goodyear retiree from Akron, Pounders went to an early-voting site Saturday, and after all that drama, voted for ... nobody.

   So how about you: Would you do the same? Or do you see, in Barack Obama or John McCain, the temperament and leadership skill to keep America safe while leading us out of war and rebuilding our broken economy?

   --- Jerry Zremski

New York, keeping the turnout down

  On Tuesday, as on Election Days going back generations, millions of voters here and across the state will finally get the chance to cast their ballots in this fall's election.

   While nearly all New Yorkers have had to wait until Election Day, residents in dozens of states around the country have been voting for more than a month.

   More than 30 states allow early voting, either in person at designated polling places or by mail-in ballot.

   Elections experts say the states that allow early voting and that allow same-day voter registration have higher voter turnout than more restrictive states such as New York.

   In the Empire State, only those who can't physically get to a polling place or those who will be out of town on Election Day are able to vote early by absentee ballot.

   This means almost every New Yorker has to go to a polling place on Election Day, often waiting in line during prime-time voting hours.

   Once there, voters will be using the same levered machines they've been using for decades — with some machines dating back to the 1930s.

   Some advocates are calling for New York to change its voting laws to make it easier for people to cast their ballots, and the state soon will have to change over to optical-scanner voting machines.

   Do you think New Yorkers should be allowed to vote early without any restrictions? Would you like to see voting by mail for everyone?

   Should people be able to register to vote on Election Day, as in Minnesota and some other states?

   And why do you think states are having so much trouble finding a new, foolproof machine to replace the old levered machines and punch ballots?

— Stephen T. Watson

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