THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Which Cuomo was that?

SO WHAT HAPPENED to Andrew Cuomo?

Not all that long ago Andrew Cuomo was the heir apparent to all of New York State politics. After all, his father had been governor of New York for three four-year terms and as it turned out, Andrew was to match but not exceed his father’s record. So what happened? Why was Andrew’s political career apparently (up to now) cut short? Why isn’t he a presidential contender?

It’s funny about politics. Part of the formula involves fame. Andrew is the son of Mario and the former governor was extraordinarily well known and beloved by many. It seems like just yesterday Mario was the governor of New York. As I have said countless times, one of Mario’s single greatest faults was his need to extol his son. Just before he died, Mario put his hand on Andrew’s face and spoke about what a good boy Andrew was. It was really quite touching. I am sure that Mario believed in Andrew’s ability to succeed him but if Mario is the model, Andrew has failed—that’s because we loved Mario.

I spent years talking to Andrew and more years speaking to Mario and I can tell you, the son is by no means the father. Mario may have had a little bit of a mean streak in him, but I can positively tell you from many conversations with both father and son, the kindness Mario demonstrated was never all that apparent to me when I spoke to Andrew. Comparing Andrew to Mario is hard. It’s sort of like Michael who became the Godfather in Puzo’s fiction—he was successful, alright, but it was just never the same.

Andrew is rough around the edges. He has all the makings of a very successful politician. He is the king of substance. He knows the issues backwards and forwards. He knows how to play rough and from a policy perspective, he has admirable goals. He was more than a little remiss when it came to picking some of his associates. If you listened to Mario, you know that you were listening to a man who had mastered both the political and the English language. Andrew never had that gift. Maybe he just never had the ability to choose the right people to carry out his substantive requests. I speak to a lot of people about Andrew. You hear the word “tough” a lot and believe me, in this game you need to be tough but there is a wide chasm between being tough and being corrupt. Andrew is not, and never has been, corrupted, but he has chosen some associates who didn’t understand all of that.

We now have Governor Kathy Hochul, who has never been perceived as corrupt. Oh, she has taken money from contributors who may want something back for political contributions but if we start to count that as political corruption, you may as well turn over the Monopoly board and go home. Part of the problem is that despite their denials, politicians still inevitably trade access for contributions.

I have seen many politicians up close and personal. Sooner or later, you’ve got to decide whether you truly like the person you are writing about or speaking with on the radio. If you like them, it’s a cinch. The audience can hear it. If you read the beginning of this piece, for instance, it won’t take much for you to figure out whether I really like Andrew Cuomo or whether he likes me. That’s pretty crucial as you try to figure things out.

It’s important to remember that politicians are people. They are not gods but like it or not, they are players in our system. I suppose we all have to live with that.

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