Wow, Andrew Cuomo is really going.
Hard to remember when he wasn’t all over the state. Impossible, really — he was managing his father’s campaign for governor in 1982, when he was 24.
Think about it. “Cats” was opening on Broadway, Michael Jackson was recording “Thriller,” and Andrew Cuomo was already in our lives.
Well, the Governor Cuomo version, at least, is on the way out. He resigned Tuesday — effective in two weeks. (You have to really wonder what those 14 tidying-up days are going to bring.)
It was a spectacular dive from the Cuomo the Hero version of the early pandemic, when he gave daily TV addresses that charmed the nation. (“Masks work!”)
The last time I talked with Cuomo was during his top-of-the-charts glory. We were theoretically discussing whether China or Europe should be blamed for the pandemic spike, but the thing I most remember was how horrified he sounded when I told him I was calling from my home in Manhattan.
“You’re where?” he demanded, sounding as if I had been making a phone call from either a Covid ward or Siberia.
Now where do you think he’ll be living? Cuomo, who grew up mainly in Queens, had a very nice house in the suburbs while he was married to Kerry Kennedy. When they split, he moved into an even nicer suburban hideaway with his girlfriend, the cook-show star Sandra Lee. But since they broke up in 2019, it’s pretty much been the governor’s mansion.
Oh, dear. People, try to be sure whoever you elect to high office has a home somewhere. Otherwise, the difficulty in ever getting rid of him quadruples.
Other public figures can learn a lot of lessons from the Cuomo debacle. Many of which, of course, we presumed had already been absorbed. You keep your hands to yourself. Just because an employee doesn’t slap you when you run your hand over her chest doesn’t mean she enjoyed it.
New York voters certainly learned a long time ago how to steel themselves for sex scandals among our highest elected officials. Remember when Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in 2008 after the world learned he was patronizing a prostitution ring? When we discovered our chief executive was best known in certain circles as “Client 9”?
Remember Anthony Weiner, the star congressman who had to quit in 2011 after admitting he had “exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years”? Remember people saying, “He did what?” Remember when Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stepped down in 2018 after being accused of physically abusing women with whom he was having a sexual relationship? Schneiderman repented and moved on to become a meditation teacher. People, can I see a show of hands — how many of you would be prepared to learn meditation from Andrew Cuomo?
Yeah, I thought so.
If you want to give Cuomo a little bit of a positive spin right now, naturally the best tactic would be to compare him to Donald Trump. There are some very practical differences. Working his way up, Cuomo had to spend a ton of time placating the Democratic Party’s establishment base. Trump came from the opposite direction entirely: He was a prepackaged celebrity, and the Republican establishment had to learn to get along with him. (If only Cuomo had had an opportunity to be on TV deciding how to choose, um, his next apprentice insurance commissioner.)
But like Trump, Cuomo couldn’t take criticism, really hated his political enemies and never picked up on all the lessons of the MeToo movement.
Actually, when you really think about these two — the most famous New Yorkers in recent political history — you will notice that their combined social skills would not qualify for a job as a restaurant reservations clerk.
As far as we know, Cuomo wasn’t given to randomly bragging about the ways he used his celebrity to cop a feel. Unlike a certain president we remember. (“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”)
And it’s very sad that this personal/political disaster will probably forever obscure all the things Cuomo accomplished in his 10 years as governor, from gay marriage to raising the minimum wage to a raft of construction projects.
So where do we go from here? The state will be run by Cuomo’s lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul. This will give New York City an opportunity to recall there are parts of the state north of Poughkeepsie. And eventually we will talk about the political future. Just not immediately, since any discussion of the next gubernatorial election will force us to contemplate the candidacy of Andrew Giuliani.
But one great lesson the Cuomo debacle should teach the voting public is to never elect executives for more than two terms. Not only does their political life tend to atrophy; their nonoffice personal life fades away. We’re all they’ve got.
Hard to imagine where his talents could take him now. Andrew Cuomo’s governor-father, Mario, was famous for giving speeches, way more famous, in fact, than he was for governing. But absolutely nobody would turn up for an Andrew Cuomo speech — unless, of course, he was trying to explain why all those women were accusing him of sexual harassment.