Analysis: Cuomo must ask how much pain he'll inflict on Democrats

UniqueThis 12 Aug 3

As far as the Democratic Party is concerned, the writing is on the wall for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — and it says "resign." Now.

Both Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel called for Cuomo to step down Tuesday — a rare show of bipartisan agreement. A chorus of Democrats in Washington, Albany and New York City said the latest accusations of misconduct were more than they could stomach.

New York Attorney General Letitia James' investigation into Cuomo, which supported a conclusion that he had assaulted or harassed 11 people, was bad enough. Cuomo's efforts to distract from the findings with a video statement that blamed political bias, the media and his accusers made things even worse.

"I now understand that there are generational or cultural perspectives that, frankly, I hadn't fully appreciated, and I have learned from this," he said.

There was no indication, other than his claim, that Cuomo had learned much. He is less penitent following the revelations — including the finding that he harassed a state trooper assigned to his protective detail — than he was before. And after James' report laid bare the planning that went into his past shows of contrition, Cuomo was bombastic and defiant.

Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor in Massachusetts, said on MSNBC, "I wanted to throw my shoe at the television."

There can be no doubt now that Cuomo will say anything to remain in power, some fellow Democrats said afterward.

"The No. 1 thing Cuomo wants to do is stall," said Rebecca Kirszner-Katz, a Democratic strategist who advised onetime Cuomo primary opponent Cynthia Nixon. "His whole point is to create a sideshow."

But the inescapable problem is that, by doing so, Cuomo continues to demonstrate that the one New Yorker he is most concerned about is himself. The public understands self-interest in politics, but not at the cost of everyone else.

The other politicians get that. In addition to Biden and McDaniel, Cuomo heard resignation calls from both of New York's Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as a cavalcade of the state's House members and other prominent political figures.

"It is beyond clear that Andrew Cuomo is not fit to hold office and can no longer serve as governor," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has frequently sparred with Cuomo. "He must resign, and if he continues to resist and attack the investigators who did their jobs, he should be impeached immediately."

The state Assembly, which has the power to begin impeachment proceedings, is out of session, so, at least for the moment, the main pressure on Cuomo is the amount of political pain he is willing to inflict on himself and his party. Speaker Carl Heastie said the Assembly would quickly conduct an impeachment investigation.

A Siena College poll released last month found New Yorkers divided over their governor: 39 percent said he should stay in office but not seek another term, 33 percent said he should run again, and 23 percent said he should resign immediately.

While James didn't announce any charges against Cuomo, the Albany County district attorney, David Soares, said Tuesday that his office is reviewing the report and will ask her office for investigative materials as it investigates Cuomo's conduct.

That's the kind of distraction that really matters for Cuomo's chances of hanging on, Democratic strategist Adrienne Elrod said.

"It will detract from the job the governor of New York has to do, and that's reason enough to resign," Elrod said. "It's a distraction for the people of New York."

"This is something he can't survive in the long term," she said. "He could try to run for re-election, but I think he would epically fail."

Former President Donald Trump might have been able to get away with flat denials of credible sexual harassment allegations because Republicans unified behind him, but Democrats have taken a harder line against men in their party accused of sexual misconduct.

It's not yet clear whether New York voters will get to pass judgment on Cuomo again next year. Sixteen months is several lifetimes in politics. But what they have seen from Cuomo this year is a version that is contrite about the allegations and one that is bombastic about them.

Cuomo pointed his finger at "those who are trying to score political points" — and said he is fighting for New Yorkers.

"Despite it all, at the end of the day, we get good things done for people, and that is what really matters," he said. "My job is not about me. My job is about you."

If he believes that, he may come to the realization that someone else could do it better right now.


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