Put yourself at the table with Andrew Cuomo. You are his most trusted advisor. The one he might listen to attentively, with some power of persuasion. And your objective is not primarily to help Andrew survive but help New York first and foremost or hurt it least.
We envision this because once we were such eminence grise, having been told “as of now you are my counsel” and directed to leave home upstate at 4 am and arrive at the governor’s NYC residence at 7 am to give counsel. We did, but only delayed by 52 hours an unnecessary resignation, with continuing disastrous consequences for the state, that included Andrew becoming its governor.
The currently apposite arguments we made then are far less likely to be successful this time, but are still worth making. They all are designed to keep the incumbent in office until the people who put him there have their say in the 2022 election or removed after impeachment and a trial with due process. Not in pop up polls. When those polls registered voters’ strong preference that Andrew not resign, the mob of electeds calling for his resignation ignored the polls. Now that the pop up polls show a majority favoring resignation, it has become the electeds’ major talking point. A mob once again that includes Kirsten Gillibrand, who led the group that caused Al Franken to leave the United States Senate.
Sitting at that table for most of the time between 7 am on March 10 and 11 am, March 12, 2008, when our state trooper-driven caravan serpentined down Fifth and on to 833 Third where the governor resigned in a moment garnering more media impressions than any in previous American history, we advanced several arguments – all applicable now. One can read them in detail on pages 237 to 258 of Journal of the Plague Year, Skyhorse Publishing 2012. The most directly on point involves the governor(s)-in-waiting, their fitness for office and the very bad things likely to befall New York if they “assume the position.” Back then the lieutenant governor was our friend and a good guy. He had been a very effective state legislator and would have become a good U.S. Senator – as the governor likely would have appointed him when Hillary resigned upon election as POTUS.
But David Paterson did not possess what is required to become an effective governor. As governor he was destined to be manipulated by subordinates and advisors. He was, and from his first full day in office, highlighted by a news conference where he disclosed four extra-marital affairs, including one with a then current subordinate, to his last day on December 31, 2010, New York State was substantially lacking a leader and rudder. Then as now struggling to recover from a massive economic downturn.
The 2021 pretender is Kathy Hochul, who would become governor for roughly 16 months. Plenty of time for a lot of bad stuff to happen. Hochul’s resume includes a single term in Congress, but generally registers skim to 1% on the Butyrometer. Can one recall all the important tasks assigned her by Andrew?
We vividly recall her work as Erie County Clerk in 2007, a position she was appointed to by Governor Eliot Spitzer. When in that same year said governor attempted to make the state safer and relieve the suffering of hundreds of thousands of undocumented by (once again) allowing them to drive with licenses, it unleashed a national shitstorm. This included a nightly cable TV auto-da-fé led by grand inquisitor Lou Dobbs and contributed to Obama beating Clinton because Barack backed Eliot over Hillary’s equivocation and vacillation toward her own governor, who had endorsed her over Obama. There were even New York state officials who vowed not only not to enforce the proposed law if enacted but in Hochul’s case to arrest the immigrants who attempted to lawfully obtain licenses. Hochul’s profile in courage and devotion to the rule of law.
A friend and member of congress tried to assure us that Hochul would keep the trains running on time (my metaphor and allusion). But it was cold comfort. When she left her county clerk’s office almost $800K in checks to the county were found in backlogged mail piled up in her office.
Let us “make one thing perfectly clear.” We know Andrew, don’t like him, have tussled with him, turned him down when invited to chair his transition to Attorney General and know there have been investigations of his conduct in the past that were not appropriately pursued. Preet Bharara’s name springs to mind. We would not vote for him, should he run in 2022.
A second clear thing is that Andrew has been a good governor earning our overall B+ rating and an A for his skillful handling of the pandemic. See HLs 125, 126, 129 and 131.
A third is that the process that is due him has not yet occurred. Unlike the governor we advised, Andrew denies the serious allegations, still unproven, while admitting to those involving atrocities such as the wedding kiss.
When we advised Spitzer to fight for his office he asked what was our estimate of success. 25% to 50% we said then and of course Andrew’s is far less, but not nothing. If he refuses to resign through trial of his highly likely impeachment and fights and succeeds at staying in office (as we recall “deadduck” Governor Ralph Northam did to the great benefit of Virginia) he will spare New York 16 awful months. And like Northam, he will assist in restoring something that seems to have gone lost and forgotten. Elective executive positions like governor, President and mayor are not jobs like yours or ours. They morally require the elected to serve until dead or removed under the law.
One must serve until then not just until a group of political adversaries demand nullification of the will of the electorate.