Every day brings a new cascade of evidence regarding allegations of scandalous and perhaps even criminal conduct on the part of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. While Democrat Cuomo is presently personally being scrutinized by the media and the electorate in the court of public opinion, he soon will be engaged in responding to investigations in the legal/governmental arena.
The “smoking gun,” however came last Thursday night, with the New York Times and Wall Street Journal stories describing the attempts of the Cuomo administration to falsify the number of deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes.
As stories of Cuomo scandals spread like wildfire over the past few weeks, Cuomo tried unsuccessfully to contain the political damage by recommending the appointment of a Cuomo administration-friendly federal judge to conduct the investigations. As such investigations must be unhampered by conflicts of interests, this was a grossly offensive and unethical intervention with the rule of law and proper legal process.
Cuomo is one of the most unethical and dishonest governors in the nation, however. His contempt for propriety and his blissful lack of concern for avoiding the appearance of impropriety are disgraceful.
I admired the late Mario Cuomo, Andrew’s father, for his intellect, character, ethics, and honesty. And I have high respect for Andrew’s brother, Chris Cuomo, an excellent journalist who brings insight and fairness into any subject he covers.
I have nothing but contempt for Andrew Cuomo, however. And my antipathy towards him goes back 44 years, to the New York City Democratic mayoral primary of 1977.
The two leading candidates in that primary were Ed Koch, the ultimate winner, and Mario Cuomo. I have been a fervent admirer of Koch for half a century.
During the campaign, signs were posted that said, “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo.” I have no evidence as to who was responsible for this, and I don’t believe Mario Cuomo had anything to do with it. But I will always believe that Andrew Cuomo knew who was responsible and did nothing about it.
Independent probes will soon be in place on both sets of allegations against Cuomo: 1) evidence that the Cuomo administration deliberately undercounted and underreported deaths from COVID -19 in nursing homes; and 2) charges of at least four women claiming sexually aggressive conduct on the part of the New York Governor, including claims involving conduct in the workplace.
None of this comes as any surprise to longtime observers of Andrew Cuomo. One has to look no further than his actions regarding the Moreland Commission, established by him in July, 2013 to investigate and root out corruption in state government. The Cuomo governor’s office proceeded to significantly obstruct the work of the Commission and prematurely disbanded it in March, 2014.
It is too early to forecast the legal outcome of the pending probes. I have no doubt, however, that in the court of public opinion, Andrew Cuomo is finished. He will never be elected President, and it is virtually impossible for him to be reelected to a fourth term as governor in 2022.
Unlike the great majority of the Republican members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, who continue to slavishly support Donald Trump in spite of the January 6 insurrection in the Capital, a significant number of Democratic members of the New York State legislature and other prominent New York State Democrats have already called for the resignation of Cuomo.
The first significant call for Cuomo’s resignation was made by Democratic Congresswoman from New York Kathleen Rice, who tweeted last week, “The time has come. The Governor must resign.”
The most significant Democratic repudiation of Cuomo came yesterday from the Democratic leaders of the New York State legislature, Senate leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly speaker, Carl E. Heastie. Stewart-Cousins outright called for Cuomo’s resignation, while Heastie questioned the “governor’s ability to continue to lead this state.”
And last Friday, the New York State legislature approved a bill that would strip Cuomo of temporary emergency powers he was granted last year to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right now, Cuomo has become a sexual predatory version of Richard Nixon, a leader who in the face of politically existential crisis isolates himself from reality with acolyte aides. It is highly likely that he will not resign, unless impeachment and removal become inevitable.
Yet there is one thing that I can predict with certainty. The scandals will make it impossible for Cuomo to run for a credible campaign for a fourth term as New York State governor.
My prediction is supported by the results of a Quinnipiac Poll taken March 2-3, which found that 55% of New Yorkers believe Cuomo should remain in office while 40% believe he should resign. Yet this same poll found that by a large margin of 59% to 36%, New Yorkers would not like to see Cuomo run for a fourth term.
And the irony of all this is that the vile misogyny of Andrew Cuomo will make it overwhelmingly probable that in 2022, New York State will elect its first woman governor, likely to be the current Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul of Buffalo.
Hochul has had a superb, scandal-free career in government, including service as a member of the United States House of Representatives and as Erie County Clerk. She would make an outstanding governor.
If Hochul falls short, the Democrats have another excellent possibility, New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Her name will soon become a national household word as she pursues her investigations of Donald Trump and the Trump Organization. She would be New York State’s first elected African-American governor (David Patterson was an African-American governor, but he was not elected. Instead, as Lieutenant Governor, he replaced Eliot Spitzer after the latter was forced to resign in 2008.)
The Republican candidate for New York State governor in 2022 is likely to be Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. As a Congresswoman, she has been a total Trump lackey, and that dooms her candidacy in a state where Trump toxicity is at an all-time high.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the Cuomo scandal has resulted in a political sideshow, in which the Republicans, in particular their gubernatorial nomination frontrunner, Jack Ciattarelli are trying to link Governor Phil Murphy to the Cuomo scandals. This effort is supported by the Republican Governors Association (RGA).
But the effort is laughable and likely to backfire badly. It is prompted by the moribund condition of the Ciattarelli campaign. Jack is unable to gain traction on any issue, and the Trump albatross has placed his campaign on life support.
Ciattarelli has irrevocably worsened the impact of the Trump albatross by his own actions. In his 2016 campaign, he courageously refused to endorse Trump for president, but in 2020, he became a strong Trump supporter, saying that the Donald was good for America. He even attended the Trump rally on behalf of Jeff Van Drew back in January, 2020.
And since presidential election 2020, Ciattarelli’s actions regarding Trump have been downright foolhardy.
He attended a “Stop the Steal” rally in December, and while he did not state at the rally that Joe Biden had stolen the election, his presence gave credibility to the extremists in the party asserting this Big Lie.
Worst of all, Ciattarelli steadfastly refuses to ascribe primary blame on Trump for the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Instead, he has outrageously attempted to blame both parties equally when Trump is by far the primary culprit.
Ciattarelli’s unwillingness to ascribe primary blame to Trump for the January 6 insurrection will cost him dearly among independent voters. So he is desperate to develop an ad hominem issue against Phil Murphy: hence, his effort, supported by the Republican Governors Association to tie Murphy with Cuomo on both the sexual predator and nursing home issues.
The problem for Ciattarelli is that any comparison between Murphy and Cuomo on either issue is odious.
To begin with, in direct contrast to Cuomo, there has at no time emerged even a scintilla of evidence ever of any sexual harassment or any sexually aggressive behavior on the part of Murphy.
And on the nursing home issue, again in direct contrast to Cuomo, there is no evidence whatsoever of any effort on the part of Murphy or his administration to undercount or underreport COVID-19 nursing home deaths. In fact, the reverse is true – the Murphy administration went out of its way to be transparent, including in nursing home deaths those who had died in hospitals but had been residents of nursing homes.
Now there was an unholy political alliance between a New Jersey governor and Andrew Cuomo. But that governor was Republican Chris Christie, not Phil Murphy.
Christie and Cuomo shared a remarkable closeness, not surprising in view of their common personalities and styles of governing. Each is a Sonny Liston – like political thug, attempting to move their governmental and private political agenda through bullying and intimidation.
And each was willing to violate trusts and moral obligations in pursuit of their unholy alliance. The best example of this took place during the 2014 New York State gubernatorial election. at which time Christie was the chair of the Republican Governors Association.
The Republican candidate for New York State governor was Rob Astorino. As RGA Chair, Christie had a responsibility to provide support for Astorino. In the interest of preserving his unholy alliance with Cuomo, Christie refused to do so.
There was indeed an absurdity in the Christie-Cuomo unholy alliance. Each believed their own press clippings and defied the truth. This was revealed most vividly when Christie invited Cuomo in 2019 to Seton Hall to open his series of guest lectures at the Christie Institute for Public Policy, to speak on civility in politics.
Christie inviting Cuomo to speak on civility is tantamount to Bill Clinton inviting Newt Gingrich to speak on marital fidelity and monogamy.
The people of New Jersey hardly want to be reminded of the Chris Christie – Andrew Cuomo unholy alliance. Yet this may be the ultimate result of Jack Ciattarelli’s foolhardy and ill-founded attempt to link Murphy and Cuomo.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.