Andrew Cuomos heel could never fill his dad’s shoes: Goodwin

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Watching Andrew Cuomo’s resignation speech Tuesday, it was impossible not to wonder what his father, Gov. Mario Cuomo, would have thought.  

Mario was difficult and argumentative but smart and honorable. He was elected three times before losing in 1994 to George Pataki.

Mario died on New Year’s Day in 2015, as Andrew was being inaugurated for his second term in the same office. Now the family business comes to a crashing end because the second generation could not match the integrity of the first. 

In his eulogy for his father, Andrew said Mario “was humbled to be in public service and had disdain for those who demeaned it, with scandals or corruption, or cheap public relation stunts.”

Yet here is that same son, demeaning public service with scandals and corruption and one dirty trick after another. 

Later in the eulogy, Andrew said, “I loved winning the Governorship more for him than for myself. It was redemption for my father. Cuomo was elected governor — the first name was not all that relevant.”

Ah, it turns out the first name is not only relevant, it makes all the difference in the world. This apple fell very, very far from the tree. 

Andrew Cuomo had his father’s pile-driving voice and an even greater ambition. He wanted to be president, but threw in the towel rather than face certain impeachment, falling short of his father’s record in office by 16 months. 

He fancied himself a tough street fighter and brilliant tactician, but in the end surrendered like Richard Nixon. Cuomo, in an echo of the disgraced former president, found himself alone, abandoned even by his own party. He resigned rather than become the first governor to be impeached, convicted and removed in more than a century.

Cuomo’s comeuppance was inevitable because his high ambition was not matched by high character. Because character is indeed fate, Cuomo slinks out of Albany, having disgraced his family name.

Even in quitting, he couldn’t be honest. Rather than acknowledge he has zero allies and his public support is collapsing, he tried to paint himself as too good, too principled for the heated battle of the moment.

His ostensible ode to the people of New York in fighting COVID was an undisguised salute to himself. As such, he rubbed more salt into the wounds of the grieving families who lost loved ones because of his catastrophic policy of forcing infected patients into nursing homes. His posture of triumph reflects only heartlessness. 

His plan to stay two more weeks is another reflection of his hollow vanity — and suspicious. Each minute he occupies the office is another stain on New York. Hasn’t he done enough?

There is no reason to believe his habit of abusing power to settle scores has been quenched. Also, the possibility he would destroy evidence in the continuing criminal investigations cannot be discounted. 

And there is no reason taxpayers should be stuck for another minute with legal bills to defend him and the corrupt goons who protected him. Let him and them hire their own lawyers.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, his successor, doesn’t need his help. She and legislative leaders should jointly demand he leave immediately and freeze him out of any transition discussions.

From a distance, Cuomo’s collapse may be difficult to understand. How could Andrew, who was not without political talent, admire his father so much and then conduct himself as he did? 

The answer is as old as the hills and simple to those who know him. A chip on his shoulder, perhaps an inferiority complex, turned into a hunger for power and eventually overwhelmed any other desire. The more power he got, the more he needed, and that need consumed him. 

The groping and sexual harassment of female staffers is one manifestation. He would show them they belonged to him. And while the courage of those women to come forward is what rightfully brought him down, the truth is that his administration lived on the edge for its entire existence. Other, earlier incidents might well have been the death knell.

Scandals were not just occasional interruptions. They were a running theme of his tenure. 

A Ronan Farrow piece in the New Yorker online fills in gaps about an earlier close escape. When Preet Bharara was the Manhattan US attorney during the Obama administration, he probed why Cuomo shut down the Moreland Commission, an investigative body Cuomo appointed to root out corruption. 

I had urged Cuomo to appoint the panel, and when he eventually did, asked if he was serious because I no longer trusted him. I had known him for nearly 30 years, but he increasingly lied to me, even in off-the-record conversations. 

Naturally, he lied again, saying he was “as serious as a heart attack” about cleaning up Albany with the commission. 

But when the probers started sending subpoenas to some of his supporters, the governor throttled its leaders and soon disbanded it. And when Bharara started digging into what Cuomo was hiding, Cuomo called the Obama White House and told Valerie Jarrett that Bharara had to be stopped, Farrow reports.

The whole incident was typical of Cuomo. His talk of fighting corruption was a public relations tool that matched public demand, but he didn’t want the panel to go after all corruption, only that of his enemies and rivals.

Bharara’s team also probed Cuomo later in a separate case and while the governor was not charged, one of his closest aides, Joseph Percoco, was convicted of taking bribes from state contractors. 

In his eulogy for Mario, Andrew had mentioned Percoco, calling him “my father’s third son, who I sometimes think he loved the most.”

But when Percoco was busted, Cuomo played Sgt. Schultz and claimed to know nothing, nothing.

Not long after Mario’s death, Andrew admitted he had picked up a quirky new habit.

“Since he died, when I have a special or difficult day, I wear my father’s shoes: literally!” Cuomo wrote in his book on COVID.

He told Howard Stern he still felt a void from his father’s absence and was striving to be more like him, adding: “Putting on the shoes is almost my conscious affirmative of the void. In other words, I’m saying, yes, I feel that void and now he’s gone and I feel that void even more, and I’m aware of it. And I’m so aware of it that when I need to fill the void, I literally put on his shoes.” 

He claimed he and Mario wore the same size, but that, too, must have been a lie. 

There’s no way Andrew Cuomo could ever fill his father’s shoes.

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