This is a year for books by New York governors. Former Gov. George Pataki's new book details the response to the Sept. 11 attacks. Next month, incumbent Andrew Cuomo will publish a book on the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
And David Paterson this week published his own account of being a governor in a time of multiple crises and struggles.
The book "Black, Blind, & In Charge: A Story of Visionary Leadership and Overcoming Adversity," is part political memoir, autobiography and American history.
The memoir portion is a telling of Paterson's rise in New York politics as a vision imparied Black man who was confronted with crisis after crisis. Some of these were troubles brought on by large-scale systems like the 2008 financial meltdown. Others were human tragedies like Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal, which catapulted Paterson into the governor's office.
Other crisies are self-inflicted, either by the people around Paterson or Paterson himself: A botched selection process for filling a high-profile U.S. Senate seat being chief among them.
Paterson's voice takes on a Job-like quality at times, he often can't believe he's finding himself in such bizarre situations, mixed in with humor that's at home at a Catskills country club.
Paterson retells the story of how he became governor upon Spitzer's implosion and, upon the advice of his father Basil Paterson, begins to call state leaders. Then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton is the first person to call him back. Paterson's first thought is a maladroit one.
"How do you explain a sex scandal to Hillary Clinton?" he writes. Cue laugh track.
Like any politician, Paterson has a long memory, even for episodes that are largely forgotten.
He recalls a negative article written by the late Wayne Barrett for the Village Voice when he was running for the state Senate which called into question his resume as an assistant district attorney in Queens.
Former Assemblyman Rory Lancman is put on blast, as his union president Stuart Applebaum, all for reasons only Paterson cares to recall.
The former governor also laments the fate of colleagues like former Sen. Malcolm Smith, who was convicted in a sweeping bribery case stemming from his efforts to get on the New York City mayoral ballot.
"I don't think Malcolm has a criminal bone in his body, but sometimes his judgment gets the better of him," Paterson writes in the book.
Paterson often writes about cricumstance in the book, how it's possible to be in the right place at the wrong time. The poor handling of the U.S. Senate appointment, which diminished virutally everyone in the process, is called even "more devastating" to him than the Wall Street meltdown a year earlier.
The very public and messy process with Caroline Kennedy almost receiving the appointment led to the selection of Kirsten Gillibrand, a relatively unknown House lawmaker who represented a swing district in the Capital Region.
Andrew Cuomo, Paterson writes, was the "most qualified" for the seat. He is largely complimentary of his successor, especially his recent handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, Paterson takes note of the messy effort to get him to not run again in 2010 by President Obama in favor of Cuomo and the then-attorney general's opposition to Paterson appointing a lieutenant governor.
Paterson writes he warmed to Gillibrand when she sympathized with the governor over the cruel impression of him by Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen. Gillibrand happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Paterson's blindness and race are constant themes in his life. His blindness, he writes, has not created special advantages for him with other senses. And being a Black man led him to be discriminaed against by other blind people.
But his circumstances in life also have bestowed upon him empathy, a quality that has more political currency these days.
"The lack of vision creates a different culture," he writes. "You perceive the world through a different prism. You evaluate yourself much different than others do."
Later he writes that, "Being Black and blind, I wanted to be in charge of bringing a voice to the needs of these and other disparaged communities."
I began my time as a working reporter at the Capitol in 2010, the final year of Paterson's time in office.
State government was a messy, angry place. Its political and financial systems were both broke, the budget wasn't approved until August. Paterson seemed like a man who desperately wanted to be anywhere else.
He's since taken his time in office in stride. Paterson has bristled at being called an "accidental" governor, that it somehow diminished his accomplishment. He is, afterall, the first Black man to serve in the role.
Since leaving office, Paterson has served as the Democratic Committee chairman, gotten remarried, and been a spokesman for some half-baked efforts like bringing a casino to New York City or, for a handful of days, leading a coalition against tax hikes for the rich.
Paterson is most at ease, it seems, when he is telling a self-effacing joke. And that's what has made him stand out from governors in recent history. Pataki's crisis management, Spitzer's near-mania, and Cuomo's public sterness all seem to be of a piece.
Paterson's humor and struggles, imposed at birth or self-inflicted mistakes, perhaps make him most human of all.