In Britain, soldiers and politicians who came out of world wars with a better reputation have said by their peers that they had a good war. Likewise, in the American coronavirus, some politicians had a good pandemic. But no politician in the country has put on a Churchillian performance in the past year as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo became a hero for Democrats across the country last spring, his stature on par with President Barack Obama.
Cuomo became a hero for Democrats across the country this past spring, his stature on par with President Barack Obama, with daily live-air briefings that projected steely resolve and fatherly authority in the face of a threat. deadly. New York Times media columnist Ben Smith called him the leader best suited to the coronavirus. As the 2020 Democratic presidential primary dragged on, buzz circulated that Cuomo would be a better candidate than Biden.
Brash and seemingly unadorned, he was a welcome relief from former President Donald Trump, whose approach to the virus ranged from denial to conspiratorial gibberish. With Cuomo at the helm, New York would keep a stiff upper lip and flatten the curve on its own. As the pandemic worsened, the approval rating of governors reached its highest level since his inauguration in 2011, and in 2021, it remains higher than at any time since 2018.
Still, the Cuomos star’s turn is at odds with his current record. Governors’ confident bluster has clouded its habit of rejecting scientific expertise in the service of polishing its own reputation and asserting final authority over every lever of state power and policy. Perhaps the best World War II comparison for Cuomo is not Churchill but Joe Keller, the patriarch of Arthur Millers’ defense contractor plays All My Sons, who escapes the responsibility of selling the parts of faulty aircraft engine. Cuomo says he wants New Yorkers to be safe, sure, but he also wants to project an image of total control. And he does everything he can to keep a grip on the spotlight and the decision-making. His Machiavellian impulses too often seem to take precedence over good government, even in times of crisis.
The most glaring example of Cuomos’ preference for control is unfolding right now. A New York State Attorney General investigation found that the board of governors may have misled the public about the number of pandemic deaths in nursing homes after ordering hospitalized seniors with the virus to return to their facilities. (Cuomo refuted this assessment, saying any allegation of inaccuracy was a lie while admitting we should have provided more information sooner.)
Cuomos’ mistakes didn’t stop him from using the pandemic to build a national reputation as an anti-Trump crusader.
Nevertheless, according to Attorney General Letitia James, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) has released data on nursing homes reflected and may have been underestimated by up to 50%. In an astonishing moment, one of his top aides admitted to state lawmakers that the administration refused to release certain data to avoid taking a political blow from Trump. The Brooklyn American attorney and the FBI have also opened a preliminary investigation.
Cuomos’ mistakes didn’t stop him from using the pandemic to build a national reputation as an anti-Trump crusader. But Trump is gone now, and the virus is still there. Democrats need to consider Cuomos’ record and the record of other politicians on both sides of the aisle who have used Trump, the pandemic, or both to raise their profile before 2024 and beyond.
Take the governors’ approach to indoor dining and mass social gatherings like weddings. Cuomo has postponed the date for the reopening of indoor dining for two days to February 12, indicating declining rates of Covid-19 positivity. He promised New Yorkers will be able to organize weddings with up to 150 attendees by April.
But many epidemiologists and public health officials believe indoor dining and large social gatherings are very bad ideas right now, especially as new and much more contagious variants of the coronavirus are emerging across the country. When a reporter asked Cuomo whether restaurant workers who worked shifts at reopened restaurants should get vaccinated, the governor dismissed the question and called it a cheap and insincere discussion. In the spotlight, he reversed course the next day.
Those who have followed Cuomos’ tenure may be less surprised to see him overturn his own experts. As the New York Times has reported in detail, Cuomo has virtually declared war on his own public health bureaucracy, prompting nine senior officials to resign recently in frustration. Instead of relying on public health officials in fact, Cuomo explicitly said he did not trust the experts, the governor had sought advice on the distribution of vaccines to wealthy and longtime political allies like the Cuomo’s “executor” Larry Schwartz, whom the governor also installed on the MTA board despite a shortfall. of any real transit experience.
The pattern repeated itself throughout the pandemic. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has no idea of a proactive, crisis-fighting leader, but when he called for a sheltering order in March, Cuomo dismissed the idea. Fear, panic is a bigger problem than the virus, Cuomo said in mid-March. Soon, of course, city and state had no choice but to impose order, but the delays across America almost certainly exacerbated the spread of the community.
When de Blasio suggested that perhaps schools should remain closed until the end of the 2020 school year, Cuomo once again sidelined him. When the 2020-2021 school year began, only a quarter of the city’s 1.1 million students felt safe enough to resume in-person classes. As business rose in the fall after a summer respite, de Blasio sought to cancel the reopening of the dining room inside, only for Cuomo to ignore it. Inevitably, restaurants inside closed completely in December, as infection rates returned to levels not seen since the virus first emerged in New York City.
And it’s not just Cuomo’s Covid-19 drive that has caught the eye. After establishing a commission to scrutinize the rampant political corruption with great fanfare, Cuomo and his staff meddled in the investigations and ultimately shut them down completely. He sucked millions of dollars from the country’s largest and most important transit system (millions of which went to support struggling ski towns) and undermined his own subway guru, superstar, Andy. Byford, so Byford fled to London. After Republicans lost their last redoubt of power in 2018, when Democrats took over the Senate, Cuomo hired a number of GOP political agents from the state and gave them senior positions in his administration, where they slowed down efforts to legalize marijuana despite popular support.
Cuomos’ record speaks for itself, and it’s a far cry from the rosy picture the national media painted a year ago. His leadership bears little resemblance to the tale of triumph he presented in his memoir about the premature pandemic. New York did not, in fact, beat Covid-19 Mountain through the power of We, as the Cuomo administration suggested in a bizarre promotional poster. Cuomos’ briefings may have been a comfort to many in the springtime, when Trump’s cheerful malice was hardly relieved. But it’s time to stop putting Democrats on the Trump-era curve.
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