Viewpoint: Cuomo resignation is final act in this Greek tragedy

Karen Rubin, Viewpoint Columnist

Andrew Cuomo’s resignation as New York state governor is the final act in what is truly a Greek tragedy, whose character flaws have been the undoing of a superior leader.

But I find the bum’s rush to remove Cuomo troubling.

Articles listed the prominent Democrats (President Biden, who himself was accused of sexual harassment to derail his candidacy; state Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs, Assembly Leader Heastie and Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins among them) calling for him to resign or be immediately impeached.

But it is interesting that every article included a comment about Cuomo’s pugnacious even bullying style, is vindictive to those who cross him, lost support of his political allies, and reflected on his strong-arm tactics to accomplish his objectives.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine another governor accomplishing what Cuomo has in the 10 years he has been governor, and how he demonstrated in an era of extreme partisanship, paralysis and dysfunction, that government could actually work for its people – which is why this whole thing is such a Greek tragedy.

Infrastructure. Public transit. A clean green economy. Women’s reproductive rights. Marriage Equality. Immigrant rights. Civil rights. Voter access. Downtown revitalization. Economic development. Criminal justice reform. Gun control. Health care. $15 minimum wage. Balanced budgets delivered on time. Prosecuting hate crimes.

And yes, laws against sexual harassment – the ultimate in this Greek tragedy, especially when you consider his effort to place more women in executive positions than any other administration.

And most significantly, if anyone can think back that far, he did in fact invent procedures to defend our state against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cuomo characterized his achievements as proving to cynics that government could work and, while proclaiming innocence of the worst accusations, said, “Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing state government should be doing, and I cannot be the cause of that.

The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. Therefore that’s what I will do. Because I work for you, and doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you.”

But I am disturbed by the process – the very fact that yes, an investigation was done, but I don’t believe Cuomo was given his due process to defend himself or challenge his accusers.

But most of all, I am disturbed that the consequences do not fit the allegations. Of the 11 accusations, three could be considered serious enough for criminal prosecution. One of these is now referred to Albany and the sheriff there says it would amount to a misdemeanor.

Forgive me for seething over the fact that while Gov. Cuomo is being forced to resign and Governor Gavin Newsom of California is fighting off recall, Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida are committing malfeasance, abusing their power and actively endangering their residents, school children even, with their COVID-19 orders. Matt Gaetz, accused of sex trafficking, is still in Congress, and Trump, accused of rape and sexual molestation by two dozen women faces no consequence. Whataboutism? You bet.

I am disturbed by the pile-on by politicians who see it politically advantageous in this hour of Times Up to side unequivocally with #MeToo. As Attorney General Leticia James said over and over, “I believe the women.”

A pendulum has swung. “Women should be believed,” has replaced “Women should be disbelieved, attacked, vilified” if they dare charge sexual harassment. But the pendulum can swing back again.

“This hasn’t been and not going to be a fair process,” Cuomo’s lawyer Rita Glavin stated, after spending an hour dismantling the allegations. “I think women should be believed and should be treated fairly. I also believe that men should be believed and treated fairly….Everybody should have a chance to respond and everybody should be scrutinized for what they say by facts, evidence. That hasn’t happened here. Our country has a rule of law. I believe in the rule of law. Not mob mentality. And not media mentality.”

“There is a difference between alleged conduct and concluding sexual harassment,” Cuomo stated. “This is not to say there are not 11 women I truly offended. There are, and for that I truly apologize. In my mind, I never crossed the line with anyone. But I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”

Every attempt at apology or explanation has been rejected, mocked, dismissed – “too little too late”, “tone deaf”. But I can sympathize with Cuomo’s statement that there is a generational, cultural difference in how older men deal with younger women now in positions they had never before occupied.

I believe there is truth to what he said that “This is not about facts, truth, thoughtful analysis, how do we make the system better. This is about politics and our political system today is too often driven by extremes. Rashness replaced reasonableness. Loudness replaced soundness. Twitter has become the public square for policy debate. There is an intelligent discussion to be had on gender-based actions, generational and cultural differences…. finding reasonable resolution. But the political environment is too reactionary. It is unfortunate.”

There have to be better due process and procedures and better definition of offenses rather than lumping them all as “sexual harassment.” And if consequences are warranted, they should be appropriate. Every murder does not result in the death penalty.

Cuomo said that while his instinct was to “fight this controversy,” he is troubled “this situation by current trajectory will generate months of political controversy. That is how the political wind blows. It will consume government, cost taxpayers millions, it will brutalize people…[It will cost] time and money that government should spend managing COVID, guarding against Delta, reopening the state, fighting gun violence.”

His resignation enables him to repair his reputation, perhaps to rise like a phoenix back into political office, though, in this Greek tragedy, the women are still pushing for impeachment and disqualification, removing another appropriate remedy for a flawed candidate’s character, the people’s vote.

Thankfully, we have a strong, competent lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, to take up the reins, becoming (again, almost ironically), New York’s first woman governor. I have said throughout her tenure as lieutenant governor that she is the hardest working, most engaged, hands-on and competent of any.

A moderate from upstate, it will be interesting to see if she is able or willing to finish implementing the visionary Build Back Better agenda that Cuomo advanced with his sharp political elbows.

Indeed, New York politicos, instead of gloating over forcing Cuomo out, praised Kathy Hochul.


About the author

Karen Rubin

Share this Article