Commentary Magazine


Topic: Andrew Cuomo

Democrats Fail to Notice the Latest Writing on the Wall

Back in 1884, when Republican presidential standard bearer James G. Blaine sat down in New York for dinner with some of the wealthiest and notorious men in America, including financier Jay Gould, the gathering was widely lampooned in the press as a new version of the Book of Daniel’s Belshazzar’s Feast that preceded the fall of Babylon. The point was that the GOP and its cash-and-carry candidate was so blinded by its alliance with plutocrats that they were unable to read the proverbial writing on the wall. Unfortunately for Blaine, there was no latter-day Daniel available to translate that writing for him, and the scandal-plagued candidate became the first Republican to lose a presidential election in 28 years.

Last night, some 126 years after “Belshazzar Blaine” dined his way into the history books, that corrupt feast of the politically blind was replayed in the Big Apple. Except this time it was the Democrats’ assuming the part of the powerful potentates who care nothing about the rapidly approaching day of political judgment. The 80th-birthday party for embattled Rep. Charles Rangel at the Plaza Hotel drew out the high and the mighty of the New York Democratic Party: Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo all showed up to express solidarity for Rangel despite the numerous ethics violations with which he has been charged. A day after Rangel defiantly harangued the House of Representatives, challenging them to expel him for his pay-to-play shenanigans and tax cheating, the paladins of the party of the people were unashamed to associate themselves with the new poster child for congressional corruption.

Indeed, the most telling moment of the evening may have been before the festivities started when, according to the New York Times, former mayor David Dinkins responded to a heckler outside the hotel (who told him, “You know you are attending a party for a crook”) by giving that citizen the finger.

While the usually more dignified Dinkins was the only attendee who seems to have literally flipped the bird at the voters, it is fair to say that his party’s leaders gave the state the moral equivalent of the finger by backing Rangel’s fundraiser. New York Democrats are apparently so confident of their hold on the state’s highest political offices that they were not worried that the three top names on their ballot in November — Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand — were willing to associate themselves with a left-wing scoundrel so foul that even the New York Times has thrown him overboard. In fact, in an editorial today, the Times noted that Rangel has not only been an embarrassment to his party, but that by bringing up the way he had channeled money to fellow Democrats, he also “drew the curtain back on the money machine that so often trumps ethics” in Washington politics.

If the Republican Party in New York were not an empty shell, then perhaps Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand might have thought twice about honoring Rangel just as his dishonor was becoming a matter of public record. But the rest of the country is a different story. Across the Hudson, most people are rightly viewing Rangel as the symbol of what a joke House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to “drain the GOP swamp” of congressional corruption has become.

As Democrats partied the night away in honor of Charlie last night, it appears they were not interested in hearing any messages from the voters about their coddling of the corrupt. But just as Blaine was, like Belshazzar, “weighed in the balance and found wanting,” Democrats may well look back after November on the night of Rangel’s birthday bash as a date when they refused to read the writing on the wall.

Back in 1884, when Republican presidential standard bearer James G. Blaine sat down in New York for dinner with some of the wealthiest and notorious men in America, including financier Jay Gould, the gathering was widely lampooned in the press as a new version of the Book of Daniel’s Belshazzar’s Feast that preceded the fall of Babylon. The point was that the GOP and its cash-and-carry candidate was so blinded by its alliance with plutocrats that they were unable to read the proverbial writing on the wall. Unfortunately for Blaine, there was no latter-day Daniel available to translate that writing for him, and the scandal-plagued candidate became the first Republican to lose a presidential election in 28 years.

Last night, some 126 years after “Belshazzar Blaine” dined his way into the history books, that corrupt feast of the politically blind was replayed in the Big Apple. Except this time it was the Democrats’ assuming the part of the powerful potentates who care nothing about the rapidly approaching day of political judgment. The 80th-birthday party for embattled Rep. Charles Rangel at the Plaza Hotel drew out the high and the mighty of the New York Democratic Party: Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo all showed up to express solidarity for Rangel despite the numerous ethics violations with which he has been charged. A day after Rangel defiantly harangued the House of Representatives, challenging them to expel him for his pay-to-play shenanigans and tax cheating, the paladins of the party of the people were unashamed to associate themselves with the new poster child for congressional corruption.

Indeed, the most telling moment of the evening may have been before the festivities started when, according to the New York Times, former mayor David Dinkins responded to a heckler outside the hotel (who told him, “You know you are attending a party for a crook”) by giving that citizen the finger.

While the usually more dignified Dinkins was the only attendee who seems to have literally flipped the bird at the voters, it is fair to say that his party’s leaders gave the state the moral equivalent of the finger by backing Rangel’s fundraiser. New York Democrats are apparently so confident of their hold on the state’s highest political offices that they were not worried that the three top names on their ballot in November — Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand — were willing to associate themselves with a left-wing scoundrel so foul that even the New York Times has thrown him overboard. In fact, in an editorial today, the Times noted that Rangel has not only been an embarrassment to his party, but that by bringing up the way he had channeled money to fellow Democrats, he also “drew the curtain back on the money machine that so often trumps ethics” in Washington politics.

If the Republican Party in New York were not an empty shell, then perhaps Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand might have thought twice about honoring Rangel just as his dishonor was becoming a matter of public record. But the rest of the country is a different story. Across the Hudson, most people are rightly viewing Rangel as the symbol of what a joke House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to “drain the GOP swamp” of congressional corruption has become.

As Democrats partied the night away in honor of Charlie last night, it appears they were not interested in hearing any messages from the voters about their coddling of the corrupt. But just as Blaine was, like Belshazzar, “weighed in the balance and found wanting,” Democrats may well look back after November on the night of Rangel’s birthday bash as a date when they refused to read the writing on the wall.

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Andrew Cuomo’s Challenge

In the New York Post today, I suggest the overwhelming favorite in this year’s race for governor of New York has a problem:

Andrew Cuomo faces a profound test of character over the course of the next five months — a test that will go a long way to demonstrating his ability to lead New York state should he be elected its next governor.

Cuomo has to keep himself from destroying himself.

That should be a simple test, but Cuomo has failed it before. And early indications suggest it would be a great pity if he were to fail it this time — because the candidate is saying some pretty extraordinary things.

The piece is here.

In the New York Post today, I suggest the overwhelming favorite in this year’s race for governor of New York has a problem:

Andrew Cuomo faces a profound test of character over the course of the next five months — a test that will go a long way to demonstrating his ability to lead New York state should he be elected its next governor.

Cuomo has to keep himself from destroying himself.

That should be a simple test, but Cuomo has failed it before. And early indications suggest it would be a great pity if he were to fail it this time — because the candidate is saying some pretty extraordinary things.

The piece is here.

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Look Who’s Coming to the Tea Party

Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor of New York yesterday. According to the Daily News editorial, he says:

No to raising state taxes. No to borrowing to close historic budget deficits. Yes to capping state spending. Yes to capping local property-tax hikes. Yes to freezing the salaries of state workers. Yes to trimming “benefits and pensions that are out of line with economic reality.” Yes to charter schools. Yes to slashing by 20% a state government that has, by Cuomo’s count, 1,000 agencies. Yes to nonpartisan redistricting and full financial disclosure.

That’s the platform that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey ran on as a Republican last November and beat the incumbent, deep-pocketed Jon Corzine, handily, despite the latter having President Obama campaigning for him. But Andrew Cuomo is, of course, a Democrat. He was married to a Kennedy. His father was governor from 1983 to 1995.

The father didn’t even try to reform Albany’s dysfunctional ways (although he gave nice speeches — in San Francisco and Terre Haute) but rather conducted business as usual with the state legislature and cooked the state books to hide the deepening fiscal crisis. Now his son has begun his campaign for his father’s old office by, effectively, declaring war on the legislature:

Cuomo is well aware that the Legislature – most especially [Assembly speaker Sheldon] Silver — has become expert in making stumblebums out of governors by acting as a defiantly obstructionist law unto itself. That’s why he plans to ask legislative candidates in this fall’s election to declare where they stand on his programs, with the intent of endorsing those who side with him.

I hope — for the sake of the state where I was born and have lived nearly all my life — that he means what he says. If I think he does, come November, I might even vote for him.

Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor of New York yesterday. According to the Daily News editorial, he says:

No to raising state taxes. No to borrowing to close historic budget deficits. Yes to capping state spending. Yes to capping local property-tax hikes. Yes to freezing the salaries of state workers. Yes to trimming “benefits and pensions that are out of line with economic reality.” Yes to charter schools. Yes to slashing by 20% a state government that has, by Cuomo’s count, 1,000 agencies. Yes to nonpartisan redistricting and full financial disclosure.

That’s the platform that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey ran on as a Republican last November and beat the incumbent, deep-pocketed Jon Corzine, handily, despite the latter having President Obama campaigning for him. But Andrew Cuomo is, of course, a Democrat. He was married to a Kennedy. His father was governor from 1983 to 1995.

The father didn’t even try to reform Albany’s dysfunctional ways (although he gave nice speeches — in San Francisco and Terre Haute) but rather conducted business as usual with the state legislature and cooked the state books to hide the deepening fiscal crisis. Now his son has begun his campaign for his father’s old office by, effectively, declaring war on the legislature:

Cuomo is well aware that the Legislature – most especially [Assembly speaker Sheldon] Silver — has become expert in making stumblebums out of governors by acting as a defiantly obstructionist law unto itself. That’s why he plans to ask legislative candidates in this fall’s election to declare where they stand on his programs, with the intent of endorsing those who side with him.

I hope — for the sake of the state where I was born and have lived nearly all my life — that he means what he says. If I think he does, come November, I might even vote for him.

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Choose Your Kennedys

In response to Ted, Patrick and Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama on Monday, three of Robert’s children–Robert Jr., Kerry (formerly Andrew Cuomo’s wife) and Kathleen Kennedy Townshend–reiterated their support for Hillary Clinton in a Los Angeles Times op-ed on Wednesday. Can both sets of endorsements from this media-loving family just cancel each other out?

In response to Ted, Patrick and Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama on Monday, three of Robert’s children–Robert Jr., Kerry (formerly Andrew Cuomo’s wife) and Kathleen Kennedy Townshend–reiterated their support for Hillary Clinton in a Los Angeles Times op-ed on Wednesday. Can both sets of endorsements from this media-loving family just cancel each other out?

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Spitzer, Stained

It’s been a swift fall from grace for New York’s new governor, Eliot Spitzer, who took office in January with 69 percent of the vote and (many think) visions of a future presidential run. Spitzer vowed, as a candidate, that “on Day One” of his administration, “everything changes.” But little has changed in scandal-rich Albany. Spitzer is now involved in an affaire some are calling Troopergate, and the governor is being compared to Richard Nixon. [Full disclosure: I worked as Policy Director for Tom Suozzi, the Nassau County Executive who ran against Spitzer for the Democratic nomination.]

Spitzer stormed into office with a series of high profile and frequently profane battles with the powers-that-be, calling himself a “f***ing steamroller” and State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno “a senile piece of sh*t.” Name-calling helped shore up Spitzer’s reform credentials even as he signed a budget that dramatically increased spending, and dressed up anodyne compromises as bold reforms. Now it appears that high-ranking members of Spitzer’s administration concocted a scheme to take out Bruno, his chief legislative antagonist. Spitzer’s team leaked state police records of Bruno’s frequent use of state planes and helicopters to the Albany Times Union.

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It’s been a swift fall from grace for New York’s new governor, Eliot Spitzer, who took office in January with 69 percent of the vote and (many think) visions of a future presidential run. Spitzer vowed, as a candidate, that “on Day One” of his administration, “everything changes.” But little has changed in scandal-rich Albany. Spitzer is now involved in an affaire some are calling Troopergate, and the governor is being compared to Richard Nixon. [Full disclosure: I worked as Policy Director for Tom Suozzi, the Nassau County Executive who ran against Spitzer for the Democratic nomination.]

Spitzer stormed into office with a series of high profile and frequently profane battles with the powers-that-be, calling himself a “f***ing steamroller” and State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno “a senile piece of sh*t.” Name-calling helped shore up Spitzer’s reform credentials even as he signed a budget that dramatically increased spending, and dressed up anodyne compromises as bold reforms. Now it appears that high-ranking members of Spitzer’s administration concocted a scheme to take out Bruno, his chief legislative antagonist. Spitzer’s team leaked state police records of Bruno’s frequent use of state planes and helicopters to the Albany Times Union.

After the New York Post exposed the role of the governor’s office in the leak (complete with a before-the-fact cover-up plan involving fake Freedom of Information Law requests and fast-changing stories from the governor’s office), new Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued a report earlier this week that found Spitzer’s administration had abused state police records. Now Bruno is threatening Senate hearings on the matter, and to subpoena the governor. (In a potential countermove, the State Ethics Commission, which Spitzer functionally controls, yesterday announced plans for a probe of its own.)

Spitzer, a famous micromanager, is claiming that his closest aides launched a coordinated attack on his chief enemy without consulting him. (It’s just the sort of dubious claim he sneered at when a Wall Street CEO presented it to him.) Even Spitzer’s backers at the New York Times have been forced to play the story up, and the Times Union, which worked with him to publish the police records, editorialized that “It’s time for Governor Spitzer to come forward and start answering questions.”

Predictions that the scandal will force Spitzer from office are probably off the mark (unless Spitzer is caught lying about what he knew and when), but there’s no doubt the governor is badly damaged, and that his presidential aspirations are for the moment in tatters. The best thing he can do now for himself, and for the people of New York, is to return to the reform agenda he was elected to implement. More likely, though, we can anticipate another three years of a badly-damaged governor’s limping along, while Albany continues to legislate the Empire State’s decline.

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