[guest post by JVW]
Ramesh Ponnuru points us to a profile of Andrew Cuomo published by New York magazine back in 2006, when he was running for Attorney General of New York in the hopes of spring-boarding into the governor’s office in due time. Here was what the writer, Jennifer Senior, told us:
Back in 2002, Andrew Cuomo didn’t just lose his bid for governor, he cratered. No one, least of all he, could have predicted the stunning indignity of the outcome, especially considering his pedigree: the Kennedy wife, the Cuomo name. His ambitious plan was to enter the primary; defeat his rival, Carl McCall; and go on to defeat George Pataki, the man who defeated Andrew’s father, Mario, in 1994. Instead, he began his campaign with an unforgettable barb about Pataki—that he’d merely held Rudolph Giuliani’s coat in the aftermath of September 11—which, while admirably candid in retrospect, was remarkably unattuned to the sensitivities of the day. On the hustings, Cuomo could never make the basic themes of his campaign clear; in his ads, voters decided he looked angry. The party, meanwhile, lined up foursquare behind McCall, a well qualified if uninspired candidate, who as state comptroller had put in all the requisite hours at the state-party wingdings and as an African-American had a chance to make New York history.
By the time the Democratic state convention came around, Cuomo had alienated so many party leaders it was unclear whether he could muster enough delegates to earn himself a place on the ballot. He refused to attend. By August, he’d fallen roughly 24 points in the polls. One week before primary day, he pulled out of the race. What was supposed to be an opera of exquisite revenge had become one long, vaudevillian skid on a banana peel.
Well hey, at least after a tough loss you can count on your loyal staff and your family to help you rebound, right?
That turned out to be the easy part of his year. Ten months later, the news broke that Kerry Kennedy, his wife, was having an affair, and his marriage dissolved with almost the same painful, public garishness—in no small part because Cuomo’s own people clearly leaked the story to the tabloids. Dynasties, apparently, are more fragile than they seem.
Fear not, Asshole Andy made his political comeback in winning his party’s nomination for the Attorney General position, mostly by virtue of raising seven times as much money as his nearest rival. Of his reputation among fellow New York Democrat operatives, Ms. Senior tells us this [bolded emphasis added by me]:
Whenever anyone makes an argument against Cuomo, it’s generally based not on his qualifications for the job, but his character. It is staggering how ugly his reputation is—especially considering how playful, silly even, he can be. [. . . ]
[. . .]
Yet merely mention Cuomo’s name—it almost doesn’t matter to whom—and one hears the same set of complaints: He’s abrasive. Stubborn. Terribly conceited. He condescends, and Lord even knows why, because it’s not like he’d be anyone without the Cuomo name. [. . .]
As we are seeing in his damage control over both the reporting of nursing home dead and his problems with inappropriate behavior around fetching young women, the Andrew Cuomo of 2006 was already a master at the art of accepting responsibility then in the next breath letting you now that it’s not exactly his fault:
And publicly, anyway, Cuomo seems at least to have adjusted to the idea of taking responsibility for his 2002 campaign. “Whatever mistakes were made were mine,” he tells me one day. Less than a minute later, however, he adds, “But a lot of it was situational.” His usual list of explanations follows: He hadn’t been in New York during eight of the ten years preceding the governor’s race but in Washington; he was running against a highly qualified African-American whose time had come; September 11 had engendered a certain caution in the electorate.
Ms. Senior writes of what she thinks is Andrew Cuomo’s playful and charming side too, but I’m in no mood to include it hear so you’ll have to read about it in the original article. In what is now clearly ominous foreshadowing, she describes Cuomo fils working a room, slapping the backs of young men and — yes — cupping the cheeks of young women in the palms of his hands. His hard-headedness, reluctance to compromise, and sensitive relationship with his father have brought him this far, but Ms. Senior’s piece suggests that at the same time these could be exactly the thinks that cut short his third term in office, like Sonny Corelone at the tollbooth.