Cuomo’s aggressive, bullying style has now become one of many scandals engulfing him. His attempts to threaten and cajole his critics have only ended up reinforcing his political problems. Cuomo’s treatment of these critics was something of an open secret—any journalist who has covered his administration, even in passing, has stories about the governor, his press shop, or both that can fill an entire happy hour. For political rivals, the threats were existential. Given Cuomo’s stranglehold on New York politics, crossing him could result in serious consequences.
As a result, most people kept quiet about the threats he and his allies used to maintain his chokehold on political power in New York state. But now there is no longer a cost for criticizing the governor, and a decade of stories are coming out. When the investigation kicks in, the stories will get worse.
Cuomo himself appears to have realized this, albeit belatedly. After the first aide accused him of sexual harassment, he strongly denied the accusations. When the second aide came forward with similar accusations, he pledged to launch and cooperate with an “outside investigation” that was, in a classic Cuomo move, going to be handled by a former U.S. district judge with close ties to one of his top advisers.
On Sunday, as criticism continued to boil over, he relented, ceding control of the inquiry to James. He also released a tepid but revealing apology: “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” he said in a statement. “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”
It’s not much of an apology. “I’m sorry if you were offended” rarely works, even in benign situations; as a defense for sexual harassment, it is wholly inadequate. [Continue reading…]
The biggest problem for the governor at the moment is that he is facing an open revolt in the State Senate and the Assembly. Even in the moderate suburban swing districts where Cuomo is supposed to have electoral strength, lawmakers fear that he will be a liability if he were to run for a fourth term in 2022. They are also anxious to reclaim some of the prerogatives of governing that Cuomo’s domineering style has taken away from them. And after years of abuse from Cuomo and his aides, many lawmakers are ready to exact revenge — none more so than New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been on a national TV tour tearing into the governor over the sexual-harassment allegations and the way he has treated his rivals in government.
“The problem he has right now,” said one Cuomo ally, “is that everybody hates him.”
Plus Cuomo’s leaving would loosen up a sclerotic state political apparatus. It wasn’t lost on many lawmakers that one of the first Democratic members of Congress to call for Cuomo’s resignation was Kathleen Rice, a moderate Long Islander who was once Cuomo’s pick to be attorney general. “Everybody has their eye on the next job,” said one Democratic lawmaker. “This is essentially a one-party state. The only way you can move up is if somebody quits. So Cuomo quits, Tish runs for governor, Rice runs for attorney general, a job she has always wanted, and then some state senator gets to run for Congress and some Assembly member gets to run for the State Senate. That’s behind a lot of the push to get Cuomo out.” [Continue reading…]