Andrew Cuomo is doing his own job well. That doesn't mean he should get to be president

This happened once before with Rudy Giuliani, 'America's mayor', and look where it got us

Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday 25 March 2020 20:51
New York governor Andrew Cuomo says the state's Covid-19 cases is 'spiking'

Andrew Cuomo is doing a rather good job of doing his job.

As the coronavirus crisis has gripped New York, infecting thousands and killing more than 200, the 62-year-old has stepped up in a way everyone has noticed.

He’s held daily briefings where he’s appeared firm-jawed and lean, against a backdrop of emergency supplies and boxes.

He’s marshalled the state’s resources and called on Donald Trump to do likewise. He has even managed to appear empathic and approachable, talking about his own family, and saying, in response to some implying that the economy might be more important than people's family members, “My mother is not expendable."

“The president said it’s a war – then act like it,” Cuomo snapped at one briefing. “They’re doing the supplies? Here’s my question: Where are they?”

It’s fair to say New York, and perhaps beyond, has something of a coronavirus crush on Cuomo, whose father, Mario Cuomo, served three times as governor.

CNN recently ran a headline that said “Thank God for Andrew Cuomo”, and the New York Times treated him to a long, fawning profile. (“Some have described his briefings as communal therapy sessions” was a standout line.)

Meanwhile, the New York Post carried a report saying women of a certain age were tuning in to his daily briefings for “a fix” rather than an update on the number of ventilators to hand. People were also charmed when he popped up live on CNN, to be interviewed by anchor Chris Cuomo, his equally well-connected younger brother.

Only natural, then, that plenty of people appear to think Andrew Cuomo should be president.

“Cuomo says New York will be the first state to hit the peak of cases. He promises he will bring equipment and assistance to the next hot spots. Basically Cuomo is doing Trump’s job,” tweeted writer and activist Amy Siskind.

The outpouring of praise for the New York governor at this moment of high drama tells us several things.

Most obviously it highlights the hapless, flapping performance of Trump and his deputy whose main concerns during the Covid-19 crisis seem to be whether they are likely to be reelected. As Trump has lied and blathered, mocked the sick and denied science, so Cuomo has been unflappable.

While Trump has scored himself "10 out of 10" for his own actions, Cuomo has appeared more humble, less insistent. He has also tried to appear less obviously partisan.

The newfound affection for this famously abrasive politician, who was once married to Kerry Kennedy, also points to our desire for sudden fixes. After Trump was elected, Democrats of a certain slant were convinced that Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey would ride to the rescue, despite both having made clear they had no wish to run.

It also highlights what being in front of the cameras every day can do for someone who has a little charisma. During the Iraq war, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld briefly became something of a must-watch. (Remember “There are known knowns, and known unknowns”?)

It also points to the doubts many Democrats have about the two candidates still in the race to take on Trump in November.

But hold on. We’ve done this dance before, and in the very same city.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the previously highly controversial New York mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared as a steadying and calming presence.

He hugged survivors, and shared the grief of people who had lost loved ones in the Al-Qaeda attacks on the Twin Towers. He was dubbed “America’s mayor” in the same way Rachel Maddow claimed Cuomo had become the nation’s “coronavirus president” this week.

It was enough to relaunch Giuliani’s career. He became a mainstay of the Republican establishment and even launched a failed presidential run. More recently he has drawn notoriety as Trump’s personal lawyer, deeply enmeshed in the scandal over a quid pro quo with Ukraine that led to the president's impeachment by the House.

As it stands, it appears Biden will be the Democratic nominee this election cycle, though it is theoretically possible that Cuomo could be the nominee instead. His name has not been on any ballot and he has no delegates. But if the Democratic Party and its members felt strongly, delegates could – in theory – opt for him rather than the person who “wins” the primary.

This is exceedingly unlikely. It is also very undemocratic (not to mention un-Democratic). By many accounts, Cuomo considered a run in the spring of 2019, but decided against it. What would you say to people who voted for Biden, or Bernie Sanders, in the unlikely event he is the nominee, only to watch the nomination decided in such a manner? A decision like that would hardly be the unifying move voters are desperate to see the DNC make after four years of Donald Trump.

Andrew Cuomo is doing a good job of doing his job. We should thank him for doing so, and leave it at that.

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