Tags: Exclusive Interviews | Steve Malzberg Show | Hank Sheinkopf | Mario Cuomo

Hank Sheinkopf: Mario Cuomo Deftly Juggled Church and State

By    |   Friday, 02 January 2015 03:14 PM

Liberal lion Mario Cuomo, who died at the age of 82 on New Year's Day, was a master at mixing politics and religion during his three terms as governor of New York, veteran Democrat strategist and Newsmax analyst Hank Sheinkopf said Friday.

"Mario Cuomo was a very important figure in American politics in the 20th century for reasons that we often forget about," Sheinkopf told Betsy McCaughey, a former New York lieutenant governor and guest host of Newsmax TV's "The Steve Malzberg Show."

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"He was able to bring religion and politics in one place, to talk about moral issues, whether we agreed with him or not."

A case in point, according to Sheinkopf, was the roiling New York City mayor's race in 1977, in which Cuomo squared off against Ed Koch.

"He ran against Ed Koch, whose sole campaign was about the death penalty and Cuomo was opposed to the death penalty and he made that a very important point of his discussion," Sheinkopf said.

"And he lost because it was government by Mario, not government by poll and it's a very different way to think about the world."

McCaughey said that soon after she and George Pataki defeated Cuomo and Stan Lundine in 1994, she ran into Cuomo who "told me I was doing a good job. What an unnecessary, but gracious and lovely thing to do."

But Sheinkopf said that was one of Cuomo's extraordinary traits.

"He was very gracious to people he believed were real, to people he believed were honorable and to people he believed were doing what they were supposed to do." Sheinkopf said.

"He didn't mind competitors in that way, but if you were a liar, nasty and unnecessary in your behavior, that he didn't forgive. And if it was purposeful, he didn't forgive it, either."

Part of his political psyche came from his upbringing in a poor Italian-American neighborhood in New York City, according to Sheinkopf.

"He was a breath of fresh air in American politics because he came from a place where a lot of people talk about, but they didn't really understand," he said.

He came from a neighborhood his father worked for tirelessly, he wanted to be somebody in life, he went to law school, he was top of his class, but he couldn't get hired because he was an Italian Catholic and discrimination was rampant."

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So rampant, that Cuomo's law school dean told him he should change his name so as not to sound like an Italian immigrant — a suggestion he ignored.

"He reveled in his identity and he refused to give up. The truth is when you're attacked for being who you are, those who are smart embrace who they are and fight harder," Sheinkopf said.

"Cuomo did, but that experience taught him, frankly, to stand up for what he believed was right and more importantly, to know that other people were in pain."

Sheinkopf said Cuomo believed that whether you agreed with someone or not politically, there are other things besides the politics that mattered.

"What he saw was a big picture of bringing some morality of some kind that wasn't a morality of conflict, but a morality of consensus to public life and that is very different," he said.

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Liberal lion Mario Cuomo, who died at the age of 82 on New Year's Day, was a master at mixing politics and religion during his three terms as governor of New York, veteran Democrat strategist and Newsmax analyst Hank Sheinkopf said Friday.
Hank Sheinkopf, Mario Cuomo
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2015-14-02
Friday, 02 January 2015 03:14 PM
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