Cuomo’s legacy of success clouded by final chapter, analysts say

ALBANY – Andrew M. Cuomo’s life advice to young people has long been simple: imagine your obituary, then go back.

Before his resignation under criticism on Tuesday, he would be remembered for building bridges and rebuilding airports, controlling spending, legalizing same-sex marriage; strict gun control and leading the state through Super Storm Sandy and the COVID-19 pandemic for three terms.

But not more. Now one theme will be the fact that he was forced to resign over allegations of sexual harassment, a despicable end for perhaps the most powerful governor in state history, political scientists have said.

“No matter how good you have done, in politics you are only as good as your last mistake,” said John McEneny, former Democratic Assembly member and New State political historian York.

Several analysts agree that Cuomo was a gifted politician, determined by troubling interpersonal skills and a complicated relationship with his father, Governor Mario M. Cuomo, and their competing legacies.

“It is now almost inevitable that Andrew Cuomo will go down in history as New York’s most self-defeating modern governor,” said Gerald Benjamin, distinguished retired political science professor at SUNY New Paltz. “His aspirations were defined by his desire to surpass the accomplishments of his three-time elected father Mario Cuomo. He was almost there.”

Ultimately, Cuomo, 63, was denied the fourth term he asked for in part to avenge his father’s denied fourth term in 1994, when he was defeated by a little-known Republican senator from Peekskill, George Pataki.

“Andrew Cuomo’s resignation is a disappointing end to what could have been a much longer political career with national possibilities,” said Meena Bose, political scientist at Hofstra University. “In more than a decade as governor of New York City, Cuomo has shown energy and initiative in shaping state policy, from budget negotiations and infrastructure development to management. crisis, albeit often with poor interpersonal skills that have been evident since Cuomo’s early days in politics. “

Andrew Cuomo grew up in the scorching heat of politics. As a teenager, he first lived in an apartment in downtown Albany with his workaholic father, then lieutenant governor, and later in the Executive Mansion. At 22, Andrew Cuomo worked as his father’s advisor for $ 1 a year when he, too, was expected to one day be governor. Like his father, he became a lawyer.

He has spent decades cultivating political allies rather than friends and surrounding himself with facilitators rather than advisers who might challenge his behavior, which political analysts say contributed to his crushing downfall.

“He needed a type of Brooklyn neighborhood boss who could say, ‘You’re full of shit,’ but nobody said that to any Cuomo,” McEneny said. He said lawmakers hired by Cuomo as commissioners were told, “You are making the governor’s wishes come true. Period.”

An Aug. 3 report by state attorney general Letitia James, a Democrat, claimed that a toxic and abusive atmosphere in Cuomo’s executive chamber had encouraged him to sexually harass young women and urged his employees trying to cover up the accusations. The report, in what it described as retaliation, claimed top staff leaked former staff member Lindsey Boylan’s employment records to reporters in an attempt to discredit her.

“It’s also the arrogance of power when it was surrounded by a lot of sycophants,” said Paul Grondahl, a former Albany Times Union reporter who had interviewed the Cuomo on several occasions and is the author of a book on politics in the city of Albany. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupt in this matter… I think he spent his life trying to understand his father’s legacy, to come out of his father’s shadow”,

Analysts lament that while Cuomo has a long list of accomplishments, he could have had many more in New York and nationally.

Cuomo succeeded in rebuilding New York to a level the state had not seen in nearly a century: he led efforts to rebuild LaGuardia Airport, replacing the old Tappan Zee Bridge, which he had named for his father, and led the massive overhaul of Penn Station in Manhattan to create the Moynihan Train Hall.

In politics, he legalized same-sex marriage and crafted the toughest gun control law in the country after the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

On the fiscal front, he kept the increase in state spending at around 2% per year, passed most budgets on time, and got approval for a 2% cap on tax growth. land tenure which has escaped the last three governors.

He also forced reforms in the way the police treat his community, and in particular young black men, as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement and extended rights and protections to women in the workplace as well as to LGBTQ New Yorkers.

“Shakespeare wrote that ‘Wicked men live after them; the good are often buried with their bones,” said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University and longtime journalist and political commentator. dated. “Whatever you think of what Cuomo has done in the area of ​​sexual harassment, he’s done tremendously good as a leader, including, and perhaps most importantly, for Long Island.”

Levy notes that Cuomo led state spending for major Long Island economic development and major infrastructure improvements, including a third track for the Long Island Rail Road.

“Our water and our air are cleaner because of a lot of the projects he did that dragged on for a very long time,” said Levy.

Bruce Gyory, a political consultant, agreed that Cuomo’s legacy is now overshadowed by its end, but historians will have the final say.

“It would be a mad rush to try to conclude how historians will assess this,” Gyory said. “Today we are only talking about what led to its end, not its governance productivity.”

But he said historians’ final decision was likely a decade or more away.

“Andrew Cuomo’s legacy – like his decade as governor – is a roller coaster with ups and downs,” said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College Research Institute poll. “He will rightly include notable accomplishments … however, those accomplishments may well be eclipsed, leaving Cuomo’s legacy to be defined – as in a Shakespearean drama – by personal flaws that have demonstrated his character and proven his downfall.”

Some of these flaws were shared by father and son, including a hot temper and a long memory for grudges, analysts said.

Cuomo told reporters that his father’s upset by Pataki in 1994 devastated his family for years. But Cuomo saw an opportunity to further his goal of becoming governor when President Bill Clinton appointed him assistant secretary for housing and urban development. This followed Mario Cuomo’s invaluable support for Clinton during his presidential race.

In Washington, Cuomo would soon lead the HUD and Clinton would become Andrew’s mentor. Cuomo’s indoor office is full of humidifiers and other gifts from Clinton and Cuomo’s HUD days as well as photos with the president.

But after Clinton’s tenure, Cuomo lost his gubernatorial bid in a 2002 Democratic primary against H. Carl McCall. Yet still the fighter, he regrouped and tried to reinvent himself as a gentler Andrew Cuomo chastened by defeat and a nasty public divorce from Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, the former senator and prosecutor. General of the United States, ending what the tabloids called “Couomolot.” After looking down and winning praise as an attorney general for one term, he won the first of his three terms as governor in 2010 and set an unprecedented build pace based on borrowing policies and progressive.

From March 2020 to February 2021, Cuomo reached new heights in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic and gained national and international stature he had never seen before. Her daily webcast press conference was a mix of stories about her father and mother, her brother, CNN presenter Chris Cuomo; and his three daughters. Schmaltzy as they could be, they have been adopted across the country as a counterpoint to President Donald Trump’s name-calling, tweeted assaults, and denial of the COVID-19 virus threat.

He won an Emmy for his webcasts and his memoir about his leadership in the pandemic – for which he received $ 5.1 million – was a bestseller.

But the carefully crafted image cracked. Cuomo has been charged with sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior towards 11 women. The US Department of Justice continued an investigation under Trump into whether Cuomo provided inaccurate numbers for deaths of nursing home residents after demanding that nursing homes accept COVID patients from hospitals.

He was forced to give James the power to investigate the sexual harassment allegations against him. Soon James and the Assembly expanded the investigations to include the number of nursing homes, the alleged use of state employees to help edit his briefs and report that he gave preferential access to testing. COVID-19 for his family and friends.

After several women accused him of harassment in the spring and after James’ report, Cuomo was called on to resign Democrats – including President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – and Republicans, many of whom were angry for decades taking advantage of support. for his agenda.

In the end, he had no friends but a long list of enemies with suppressed rage.

“They just wanted us dead,” said a staff member close to Cuomo.

“Andrew pursued a Machiavellian policy based not on love – no longer his father’s predilection – but on fear,” Benjamin said. “Fear doesn’t make true friends. Ultimately, Andrew’s abuse of his ever-increasing, almost absolute power during the COVID era, confirmed Lord Acton’s observation of the corrupting force of power. When Andrew’s repeated excesses in the use of this power became known, when the hypocrisy in the contrast between the political positions of the public figure and his abusive private behavior became known, few were left willing to stand up. hold on with him. “

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