Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Quote of the Day (Elizabeth Kolbert, With an Early Hint About Andrew Cuomo’s Management Style)

“[Andrew] Cuomo can be charming and funny in a dark, sarcastic sort of way, and, at least in front of me, he treated his aides with teasing good humor. But HUD is not considered an easy place to work. Cuomo is known to be a demanding boss who expects his staff to be available pretty much at all times. Even though he is now a Cabinet secretary [of the Department of Housing and Urban Development], he continues to function as if he were in the midst of a political campaign, revising speeches until the last minute and taking a disproportionate interest in media coverage. He tends to operate within a relatively narrow circle of advisers, and in the dozen years that I have covered politics I have never heard anyone’s staff members referred to so often by others as ‘minions.’”— Elizabeth Kolbert, “Cuomo’s Mojo,” The New Yorker, July 19, 1999

As of early this morning, Andrew Cuomo has officially lost his mojo—if one identifies “mojo” in his case as the office of Governor of New York—in part because he turned the people that others regard as staffers first into “minions,” then, more damagingly, into “victims” and “enablers.”

One wonders if this single paragraph buried in Kolbert’s 1999 six-page profile was her warning to readers to lift the hood of the Cuomo car (a metaphor that the auto-philic now-former governor might appreciate). When the sexual-harassment scandal broke out into the open in early spring, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist tweeted, “I covered his dad for many years, and confusing bullying for action seems to be a family flaw.”

Perhaps. But Mario Cuomo was never accused of hitting on female “minions,” or, for that matter, anyone. (After Andrew’s scandal broke, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who had covered his father as a young reporter, wrote, “I can tell you that the closest he ever made to making a move in his office was reaching for a book by Teilhard De Chardin to give me. I still have it.")

At his departure from office after three terms, for all his indecisiveness about seeking the Presidency and his late-night verbal jousts with reporters, Cuomo I was respected for his intellect and for taking stands on principle even if they cost him politically.  

The same will not be said for Andrew. Whatever hopes he may have harbored for a political comeback were pretty much dashed with his farewell address yesterday, when he blamed everyone but his dog Captain for his legal woes and political unraveling.

In its glowering, dark defensiveness, Andrew Cuomo’s last televised speech as governor could credibly be called “Nixonian.” But, in his shameless denial of sexual harassment against 11 women, the tone might be better labeled “Trumpian.”

Remarkably, over the course of nearly 40 years in politics, Andrew Cuomo did more than make enemies; he forget to make friends. All he had these years were allies who feared him. When his power seeped out, they abandoned him with a haste not so much unseemly as delighted.

In his last words to the public that tired of his antics, Cuomo implied that his downfall was caused by “a political firecracker on an explosive topic,” a fad of the moment: the #MeToo movement.

In actuality, it was caused not by enemies’ exploitation of a shift in public mood, but his own reworking of the feudal practice of droit du seigneur: i.e., a lord’s taking of what he saw as his sexual due from the females associated with his vassals.

In the process, he has wrecked all he touched: not just his future political prospects but also his brother’s credibility as a cable commentator, his aides’ careers, the TimesUp hierarchy he co-opted, and his family’s legacy as the hope of progressives.

About the only positive thing he has done is unite left and right—warring about every blessed thing under the sun these days—in a single belief: that he was a creep not to be trusted a day more with ultimate authority in the Empire State.

(The image accompanying this post was taken by Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin, on a happier day for Andrew Cuomo, as he led the inaugural ride of the Second Avenue Subway on December 31, 2016.)

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