August 5, 2014 by alanchartock
“Is Andrew Cuomo in trouble because of recent New York Times revelations?” is a frequently asked question. The answer is “maybe.” It’s hard to believe that a man who will probably come into this election period with about fifty millions dollars in his campaign account could lose to a little known Westchester County Executive, Rob Astorino. While the polls will show a tightening of the race, the present gap between the two men seems insurmountable. Already it is hard to turn on a television without seeing a Cuomo ad. All the Cuomo accomplishments from the extraordinary gay rights legislation to the SAFE Act which attempts to bring order to the gun violence mayhem really are something to behold. The number one thing that I hear about the guy is that “He gets things done.” People may not love the guy, but they have the impression that he cares and that he is tough enough to do important things. That impression may be endangered.
The Cuomo problem is that he has incurred the wrath of two of the most important institutions in the United States, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney and the New York Times, the newspaper that remains the most important newspaper in the world. It is as if a hurricane had landed on Cuomo’s door. Anyone who thinks that even the popular son of a fabled governor can take on those two institutions better think again. For his part Cuomo has put people in jail as an attorney general for ethical and criminal violations. The sense of rectitude surrounding the guy is what has made him the politically popular man he is. Now the bloom is off the rose. The revelations that Cuomo appointed a crime fighting commission and then killed it for political reasons has undercut the moral high ground from under him. Because he has always been seen as “Andrew Tough Guy,” he has a lot of enemies who have been scared to death of him. Anyone who has ever perceived themselves as the victim of a bully knows that when the bully gets into trouble, people who thought themselves oppressed will suddenly develop guts.
Cuomo’s problem is that the insiders, many of whom have been waiting for this day, have now been emboldened. The reason for their fear of Cuomo has always been that the young governor is immensely popular with the people. So it is with breathless anticipation that the next round of polls is anticipated. If, as expected, the new Cuomo revelations take their toll, you had better believe that all those who have issues with the guy will become more and more emboldened. That’s when inside people leak more. As it stands now it is hard to believe that U.S. Attorney Bharara has enough to indict anyone around Cuomo, but there is the old adage that a DA can indict a ham sandwich. People are wondering just how far Bharara will go. The Times has published its extraordinary revelations about Cuomo and his actions and Cuomo has actually frontally attacked the credibility of the Times. I used to have a colleague in my first academic job at Rutgers who would assess a situation and then yell at the top of his voice, “MISTAKE!”
Now Cuomo says he will adhere to my eighth grade math teacher’s admonition to me to “Keep shut.” I have always said that Cuomo is a strategic genius but he appears not to be averse to the single thing that kills politicians, “arrogance.” Cuomo has indicted and jailed politicians who thought they could do anything because of their sense of self importance. Cuomo, like the rest of us has a character that was formed in the early years of his life. It seems clear to me that his political survival and advancement now depends on his ability to “mature,” take stock and make friends. If he becomes encircled and continues to instill fear in to those who surround him, he could be in trouble.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 8/4/14