And That, I Suspect, Is the Ballgame for Andrew Cuomo

·4 min read
Photo credit: Pacific Press - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pacific Press - Getty Images

Update, 6:11 p.m. ET: And you don't exactly need the Enigma Machine to translate the handwriting on the wall. From The New York Times:

Asked at the White House if Mr. Cuomo should leave office, Mr. Biden responded bluntly: “Yes.” He stopped short of calling for Mr. Cuomo to be removed if he refuses to resign. “Let’s take one thing at a time,” Mr. Biden said.Mr. Biden, a longtime friend of Mr. Cuomo’s, had avoided addressing the accusations when they arose earlier this year, appearing content to stay on the sidelines of a growing rift between the Democratic Party and the increasingly isolated New York governor.

And that, I suspect, is the ballgame.

That sound you heard from Albany was the boom lowered by New York Attorney General Letitia James on the state’s suddenly not-presidentially-viable Governor Andrew Cuomo. An investigation into harassment complaints prompted James’s office on Tuesday to release a torpedo of a report that very likely sank Cuomo’s political career. From The New York Times:

“Governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state laws,” Ms. James said. “The independent investigation found that Governor Cuomo harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and by making inappropriate comments.” Ms. James said the report revealed “a deeply disturbing, yet clear picture” and “conduct that corrodes the very fabric and character of our state government and shines light on injustice that can be present at the highest levels of government.”

As the Times points out, more trouble is rolling in. The local district attorney in Albany has asked for the material developed by James’ office, and there was almost immediately talk of impeaching Cuomo, whose time in office has been marked by his ability to make enemies in and around politics. You have to remember back during those glorious days of the early pandemic when Cuomo’s daily press briefings were both televised and were a useful contrast to the disinformation and chaos in the White House. Cuomo was the country’s stern father, laying out the truths the White House either couldn’t or wouldn’t share. His stock rose conspicuously.

Photo credit: David Dee Delgado - Getty Images
Photo credit: David Dee Delgado - Getty Images

However, with the election of the president in November, charges concerning Cuomo’s behavior began to pile up, particularly in February and March, when women came forward on the record to make them.

In late February, Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development official in the Cuomo administration, became the first woman to outline her claims against the governor. Ms. Boylan said Mr. Cuomo suggested they play “strip poker” on a plane while on a work trip and said the governor kissed her on the lips in his Manhattan office. A few days later, Charlotte Bennett, a former executive assistant to Mr. Cuomo, told The New York Times that the governor made comments that she took as sexual overtures while they were alone in his Albany office last year. Ms. Bennett said Mr. Cuomo said he was looking for a girlfriend and asked her whether she was monogamous and had sex with older men.

Cuomo’s rapid response to James’ report succeeded in being rapid, but not very well as a response. There’s a mixture of denial, outrage, and explanation, the latter on the theme of Cuomo’s admitting that, yes, he is an affectionate, demonstrative Italian male given to platonic abbracci, which could be easily misinterpreted. As proof of this, Cuomo’s response contains page after page of pictures of Cuomo—and other politicians, including presidents Obama and George W. Bush—hugging people, as though that in any way exonerates him. This is not a compelling response and tends to devalue the other parts of Cuomo’s case, including his flat denials.

Cuomo’s fall is an epic saga of being nice to the people on the way up because, you know, etc. etc. He stomped through Albany with his own agendas, even setting up a personal satrapy within the Democratic legislative majorities that confounded the other Democrats. In April, the Democrats voted to strip Cuomo of the emergency powers that had made him a star in 2020. On Tuesday, when the AG’s report was released, he looked around and found himself friendless. That is not likely to change as the sands run out on his career which, to be honest, never was as golden as a lot of people made it out to be.

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