Intervention comes in many forms. President Lyndon Johnson, expanding on the thousands of "advisers" JFK sent to Vietnam, dramatically increased U.S. involvement in that war in 1965. President George W. Bush, in the aftermath of 9/11, decided that the way to respond was to invade Iraq.
The latest presidential intervention won't result in nearly as many casualties, but that doesn't mean people won't emerge unscathed.
I'm talking, of course, about the report that President Barack Obama and his political team have made it clear that they want New York Gov. David Paterson to step aside and not run next year, claiming that he would be a drag on his fellow Democrats.
The New York Times, which broke the story on Sunday, reports today that Paterson insists he is running. But the White House isn't backing down either.
The move against a sitting Democratic governor represents an extraordinary intervention into a state political race by the president, and is a delicate one, given that Mr. Paterson is one of only two African-American governors in the nation.
But Mr. Obama's political team and other party leaders have grown increasingly worried that the governor's unpopularity could drag down Democratic members of Congress in New York, as well as the Democratic-controlled Legislature, in next fall's election.
Paterson became governor in March of 2008 after the incumbent, Democrat Eliot Spitzer, resigned in the aftermath of the discovery of his involvement in a prostitution scandal. Paterson never seemed to get off on the right foot, in the opinion of many observers, fumbling the appointment process following Sen. Hillary Clinton's resignation to become secretary of state (and snubbing Caroline Kennedy, an Obama ally, in the process). He didn't make matters much better for himself when he suggested that criticism directed at him was racially inspired -- a suggestion that earned him a public rebuke from ex-NYC Mayor David Dinkins and private grumbling at the White House.
In addition to Paterson's missteps, another part of the Democrats' concern are the polls that show former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), who is mulling a gubernatorial run, with a healthy lead over Paterson.
There is no question that Andrew Cuomo, the state attorney general, has been mulling a challenge to Paterson in next year's Democratic primary. Few think it's a primary that Cuomo could lose. But there are still raw feelings among African-Americans about Cuomo, who took on another black gubernatorial candidate, Carl McCall, in the 2002 primary, only to withdraw late in the campaign when it was clear he would lose. Rep. Charles Rangel, an influential Harlem Democrat, has raised that history whenever Cuomo's name is mentioned.
More from the Times' Hakim & Confessore:
The move by the White House will probably bring new attention to Mr. Cuomo, now the most popular Democratic figure in the state. While only 30 percent of voters in a Quinnipiac poll last month approved of the job that Mr. Paterson was doing, 74 percent approved of Mr. Cuomo's job performance.
NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea reports that Obama, at an event today at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y., started his speech by saying, "A wonderful man, the governor of the great state of New York, David Paterson, is in the house."
His next line was ... "Your shy and retiring Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is in the house."
And he goes on to say that "Andrew is doing great work."
You can hear the Obama remarks here:
LBJ Had Vietnam. Bush: Iraq. For Obama, It's New York State.
In the press gaggle aboard Air Force One today, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs gave what amounted to a non-answer when asked if it was true Obama wanted Paterson to stand aside.
Q On a different topic, did the President order word to Governor Paterson that he does not want him to seek reelection?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think everybody understands the tough jobs that every elected official has right now in addressing many of the problems that we have, and I think people are aware of the tough situation that the governor of New York is in. And I wouldn't add a lot to what you've read, except this is a decision that he's going to make.
Q So you can't say for the record whether the President has directed word to the governor saying, I don't want you to seek reelection?
MR. GIBBS: Again, the President understands the tough job that everyone has and the pressure that they're under.
Header on New York Daily News Web site: "Obama shakes Paterson's hand days after cutting him at knees." Also, some readers' comments on the same site:
Bullying the only blind governor and only the second black governor in the country is not a good look.The republicans are having a field day with this.Obama should mind his own beezewax and concentrate on keeping his own poll numbers from sinking.It is up to New York voters to decide if they do not want their governor for another term-not nosy Obama.
Paterson is done. Without the support of the White House, the NYS democratic party will not support him and will pressure him to step aside. In reality, Paterson was not elected so he should feel no sense of shame here. Clearly he was in over his head from day one. The democrats cannot afford to lose the governors job to Rudy Guiliani, not now.
Prediction: Ultimately, Paterson announces he won't run.