People who are driven from public office by scandal usually take a timeout to recover from the shame.
Those who later try to return do so with promises they learned their lessons, and some even go on apology tours to ask for a second chance.
Then there’s Andrew Cuomo.
Humble pie is not for him.
He resigned as New York’s governor in August 2021 rather than face certain impeachment and conviction over a slew of issues but never admitted guilt or serious error and soon began plotting a comeback.
When polls showed he would finish a distant third in a three-way race for his former job in 2022, he took a pass.
Now, with Cuomo opposing the congestion pricing plan he signed into law and making other city-based comments, there are hints he will run for mayor in 2025 if Eric Adams’ free fall continues.
Voters don’t forget
Cuomo’s actions, including his continuing attacks against his accusers and denials of all charges, suggest he still believes he can get away with skipping the reflection and remorse stages of a political comeback.
I think he’s wrong.
Voters are often forgiving people, but only to candidates who first admit they screwed up.
That’s not in Cuomo’s character.
He has never accepted responsibility, let alone apologized, for the two big issues that hounded him out of office: the finding that he sexually harassed multiple women and his deadly order forcing nursing homes to accept patients infected with COVID.
If he runs for dog catcher in full denial of what the public knows and believes on those topics, any campaign would almost certainly result in him being bombarded at every stop by women’s groups and families still furious at his nursing home order.
Opponents would pound him, big donors would shun him, and the media would demand he answer questions about the charges against him.
Meanwhile, Cuomo, as a private citizen, wouldn’t have a government stinger with which to intimidate critics and opponents.
In short, it’s hard to see a successful comeback unless he drastically changes his tune.
Especially so when there is overwhelming evidence against him, thanks to state probes.
Recall that outside investigators hired by Attorney General Letitia James concluded “Cuomo did sexually harass multiple women — including former and current state employees — by engaging in unwanted groping, kissing and hugging and making inappropriate comments.”
It went on to say “the governor and his senior staff took actions to retaliate against at least one former employee for coming forward with her story” and that he fostered a “toxic” workplace that enabled “harassment to occur and created a hostile work environment.”
Similarly, an audit found that his aides hid about 4,100 nursing-home deaths while Cuomo was writing a book about New York’s success.
He got $5 million for the book, which would not have been published if the truth about his nursing home calamity had been revealed.
As state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office conducted the audit, said about the effort to hide the 4,100 deaths: “The public was misled by those at the highest level of state government through distortion and suppression of the facts.”
Cuomo has consistently rejected those findings, but has not been able to sell a tale of innocence.
With voters believing he’s guilty, running without contrition would be a fool’s errand.
Knowing and covering him for decades, I don’t believe Cuomo is a fool, but I also don’t know if he’s capable of admitting his wrongdoing.
I’ve never seen any evidence he’s wired that way.
His electoral career, first as state attorney general and then as governor, was built on an image of toughness to the point of being ruthless.
He believed voters would forgive almost anything if a politician got big things done.
That was true until it wasn’t.
The irony is that his downfall came just when his profile and popularity were at their peaks.
Widely embraced by Democrats as their answer to President Trump during the COVID pandemic because of the governor’s daily televised briefings, Cuomo clearly had his eye on the White House.
Had he not destroyed himself, he might now be the party’s alternative to a failing Joe Biden for next year.
Count that as another casualty of his hubris.
Although he and Biden had been close, the president’s declaration that “I think he should resign” was the final nail in Cuomo’s reign.
Realizing the Legislature, controlled by his party, had abandoned him, he soon quit before he could be fired.
Bullying control freak
The saga proved Cuomo couldn’t handle success any better than he could handle failure.
He was a control freak and his critics, many of them fellow Dems, routinely called him a thug behind his back.
He didn’t seem to mind, believing all would be forgiven if he built a record of accomplishment, especially if it involved big-government construction projects.
He once told me legislators needed a powerful governor to keep them in line, even if they didn’t know it.
Of course, no discussion of Andrew is complete without references to his father.
Mario Cuomo cast a giant shadow, and the son struggled to please his father while also forging a separate identity.
Both men won three terms as governor, but Andrew never finished his third term, which was certainly not the distinction he craved.
Still, it would be understandable if, at the age of 66, he felt he could redeem himself by getting back into politics and perhaps winning his old job again.
Maybe, just maybe, he could even top his father by winning the White House.
But until he admits what the public already knows is true, the dream of a comeback is a fantasy.
Cheat way to the top
Reader Ray Starman concludes that plagiarism might be a ticket to success.
He writes: “Harvard’s Claudine Gay is not the only president to have been caught in the act. Joe Biden acknowledged that in his first year of law school at Syracuse University, he plagiarized a paper he submitted that did not give attribution to some of its sources.”
“He was first flunked for lifting without citation five pages from a law review but was later allowed to repeat the course, and his professor then vouched for his student’s high character.”
Now ‘urine’ California
Headline: “Drought-prone California OKs new rules for turning wastewater directly into drinking water”
Ah, so that’s why they call it the Golden State.