When Andrew Cuomo was a candidate for governor, I had several opportunities to chat with him one-on-one. Like many others, I concluded there was a new Cuomo more interested in implementing good public policies than settling political scores.
Cuomo appeared to have a good understanding of the state’s financial and economic woes and seemed determined to govern from the center. As a bona fide conservative living in a very blue state, I figured this was as good as it gets.
In Cuomo’s first months as governor, he took on vested interests to balance a budget that had a projected $10 billion deficit. By the end of 2011, however, the governor began to revert to the old cynical and ruthless Andrew.
He broke his pledge “to veto any increase in personal or corporate or sales taxes” and forced through the State Legislature a bill to extend New York’s biggest income tax increase since Nelson Rockefeller.
In addition to breaking pledges and succumbing to blue smoke-and-mirror policies, Cuomo became increasingly isolated, meeting with few outsiders. Even his public appearances have been completely controlled, generally held at government facilities to avoid protesters or questions from enquiring taxpayers or reporters.
Stories circulate in Albany that Cuomo’s overworked staff has had to put up with his micromanaging, temper tantrums, and verbal abuse. When a low-level employee at the Department of Transportation was quoted in an upstate newspaper without pre-clearance from the governor’s office, the governor ordered the man terminated — even though his comments were favorable. The reason: to instill fear.
It gets worse: Here’s what Cuomo said in January on “The Capital Pressroom,” an Albany radio talk show, about a large segment of New York voters:
“Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault weapons, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
If that’s the standard, the leader of the Catholic Church in New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, is not welcome because he upholds Catholic teachings opposing same-sex marriage and abortion.
Answering accusations that he tampered with the independent Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, Cuomo made this bizarre comment: “The Moreland Commission was my commission. It’s my commission. My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it. I can disband it. I appoint you. I can un-appoint you tomorrow. So, interference? It’s my commission. I can’t interfere with it because it is mine. It is controlled by me.”
Now perceived as a man who has no core beliefs, Cuomo has managed to alienate people on both the right and the left of the political spectrum.
Energized pro-fracking, pro-gun, pro-life voters are expected to come out in droves this November to punish the governor. On the left, supporters of the Working Families Party may put up a candidate to oppose him, or just sit out the election.
Here’s what progressive Bill Samuels, a leading New York entrepreneur and former finance chairman of the N.Y. State Senate Democratic campaign, said of Cuomo on the PBS show “New York Now”:
“He is just not a Democrat. He shut down the Democratic Party . . . It’s over for him as a Democrat nationally. There is no coming back for him. He’s dead nationally unless he becomes a Republican . . . I don’t have any friends in the business community who like [him]. People say ‘I’m afraid of him.’ When history is written, he’ll just be a mediocre governor that had a Nixon personality.”
Cuomo’s mean-spirited behavior is hurting him. And if he continues in that vein, the GOP’s Rob Astorino may begin to look like the guy on the white horse New Yorkers have been searching for to restore the economic and political wellbeing of the Empire State.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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