Readers of my column know that during most of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s time in office I was one of his staunchest critics.
When he was first elected, I did agree to be the “conservative” voice on his transition team and on his Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors. However, I was quickly disillusioned.
The man I thought would govern as a centrist quickly moved to the far left. He abandoned his solemn promise not to raise taxes and he promoted and signed into law extremist legislation on social issues that I opposed.
From his second year in office until he resigned in 2021, I maintained a “Cuomo Watch;” critiquing his fiscal, economic and social policies.
When accusations against Cuomo hit the papers—I was at first skeptical. I grew up with many Italians in Queens County and knew they hug and kiss—both men and women—particularly at family, social and religious gatherings.
I am not a hugger. But I have been hugged by both Mario and Andrew Cuomo. It’s part of their ethnicity.
But after reading the Report of Investigation into Allegations of Sexual Harassment by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released by state Attorney General Letitia James on Aug. 3, I concluded the governor may have pushed the “affection envelope” too far and was politically cooked.
I was reminded of the post-Watergate comment made by Richard Nixon during the famous May 1977 David Frost interview concerning his political enemies: “I gave them a sword. And they stuck it in. And they twisted with relish. And I guess, if I’d been in their position, I’d have done the same thing.”
I, like others, sort of enjoyed twisting the political sword into Cuomo. Many experienced what the Germans call “schadenfreude,” which means “joy over some misfortune suffered by another.”
When he resigned in late August 2021, I wrote at that time that his fall was inevitable. His ruthless approach to governing took its toll. He had few friends and a long list of enemies.
And when Albany Sheriff Craig Apple filed a criminal misdemeanor complaint against Cuomo for allegedly touching a female aide “for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires,” it fortified my belief that Cuomo had to depart.
Since that time, however, circumstances have broken in Cuomo’s favor.
In November, Albany District Attorney David Soares delayed Cuomo’s arraignment to January because the sheriff’s complaint was “potentially defective.”
As Cuomo waited to be arraigned, there were other developments: The district attorneys of Nassau and Westchester declined to prosecute him for any sexual harassment allegations.
Next, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office ended its investigation into Cuomo’s mishandling of nursing homes during the 2020 pandemic lockdown.
While there is no doubt in my mind that his wrongheaded policies caused the deaths of thousands of our seniors living in nursing homes, the DA’s office concluded “there was no evidence to suggest that any laws were broken.”
Then on Jan. 4 Albany prosecutors moved in court to drop their case because there was not enough evidence to “meet our burden at trial.” Albany City Judge Holly Trexler granted the district attorney’s motion.
Looking back, despite his cries of innocence and unfair treatment, Andrew Cuomo had to leave office last year.
First and foremost, his political support collapsed.
The other reason: If he remained in office and was impeached and convicted, he would be unable to run for office ever again.
The New York State Constitution states: “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, or removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any public office of honor, trust or profit under the state.”
But now with various charges dropped, a Jan. 7 New York Times headline declared that “Some See a Possible [Cuomo] Comeback.”
Will he seek his old post? He certainly has the money in his campaign chest to finance a comeback. He may run to vindicate himself to spite his critics and to restore his family’s honor.
Such a move, in my judgment, would be a mistake. It would open old wounds and his enemies would have a field day sniping at him.
The brooding, angry, former governor must not let his pride cloud his thinking. Cuomo should be mindful of the Biblical proverb, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”