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Cuomo’s Glass Housing

His HUD closet is full of skeletons.

By From the January-February 2014 issue

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Try as I might, I cannot rule out the possibility that the Democratic Party is some sort of elaborate performance art piece. One of those subversive ones where the real point is not the performance itself, but the reaction drawn from an unsuspecting audience. There was a cocktail party where the artist explained his vision, but we squares who are part of the patriarchal consumer culture weren’t invited. They are just seeing how far they can push this thing before we catch on. That must be it. 

There can be no other acceptable explanation for the straight-faced rationalizations many of us have had to sit through as to why 500,000 people getting insurance under Obamacare is more significant than 5 million Americans losing it, or how abridging the rights of lawful gun owners will somehow make us safer. I keep waiting for a narrator, clad only in a goat mask and a diaper, to emerge and make a rambling, postmodern speech about how we need to be awakened from our complacency. Unfortunately, the performance seems like it will never end. And Harry Reid is the closest we ever come to that narrator.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that presidential hopefuls have already started to crawl out of the woodwork. Twenty-sixteen can’t come soon enough; if Obama keeps showing just how much he cares for us, we might not make it. But there are plenty of high-profile Democrats who could vie for the chance to finish us off…er, that is, finish what Obama started. Some of the most intriguing potential candidates include a man equally suited for the job of crazy uncle as for his current gig as vice president; a first lady cum senator cum secretary of state who is as well-known these days for presiding over a humiliating attack on a United States embassy as for being generally unlikeable; and, who knows, newly minted Senator Cory Booker, could follow Obama’s proven path to the White House as an untested, partial-term member of the Senate—if he can keep his head down in the meantime and resist the urge to accomplish anything of meaning.

Another name being floated to execute the Democrats’ contract on America is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who took office in 2011 as the Empire State shook off the disastrous tenures of call girl aficionado Eliot Spitzer and his bumbling accidental replacement David Paterson. Cuomo is New York political royalty of sorts. He was married for 15 years to Kerry Kennedy, daughter of New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy, himself a presumed Democratic presidential candidate until his assassination. His brother is CNN journalist Chris Cuomo, who recently took flak for not recusing himself from an interview with his elder sibling in the aftermath of a fatal train derailment. And for those who prefer garments to governance, his sister Maria Cuomo Cole is married to Kenneth Cole, the fashion designer and social activist.  

But most importantly, his father is former Empire State governor Mario Cuomo, who served three terms in the ’80s and ’90s. Andrew cut his political teeth as a staffer on his father’s failed 1977 bid for mayor of New York City. It was a bare-knuckle campaign in which Andrew was accused of pulling no punches. Someone placed signs on Queens Boulevard (the main drag through the Cuomos’ home borough of Queens) that read: “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo,” a reference to the late Ed Koch, Mario’s chief rival in the Democratic mayoral primary. Koch was a fundamentally decent man and a combat infantry veteran of the Battle of the Bulge whose ambiguous sexuality was long the topic of gossip in New York. He understandably took umbrage at being called a queen on the streets of Queens. Conventional wisdom was that the signs were hung by someone within the Cuomo campaign, perhaps even Andrew. Koch went on to defeat Mario in the primary and served three terms as mayor.  He is fondly remembered by New Yorkers as a self-proclaimed “liberal with sanity” who restored the city’s fiscal condition after the imprudent spending of previous liberal mayors. But he never quite forgave the Cuomos for those signs.

Mario had better luck in 1982 when he again faced Koch in a Democratic primary—this time for governor. He was helped by an unforced error; Koch made snobbish remarks about the quality of life in upstate New York to an interviewer for Playboy. (I can relate to Koch. My father and stepmom live in Rochester and they keep a map of New York on their refrigerator which has the phrase “This is New York State” written over the metropolitan area and “This is too” over the remainder of the expanse.) But Mario was also helped by the political savvy of his son, Andrew, promoted this time around to campaign manager. During his father’s tenure as governor, Andrew served variously as a gubernatorial staffer, assistant New York district attorney, private lawyer, chairman of the New York City Homeless Commission, and founder of a homeless services charity.  He did a competent job in these positions, by all accounts. 

It is worth noting that the elder Cuomo is no stranger to presidential speculation himself. A seasoned public speaker, his keynote address at the 1984 Democratic National Convention catapulted him to prominence, and he was considered a potential frontrunner in ’88 and ’92, though he never formally entered either race. The Cuomos, father and son both, were immortalized in the roman à clef Primary Colors as Orlando and Jimmy Ozio.

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About the Author

Bill Zeiser is a communications consultant living in New York City and a 2012 Publius Fellow of the Claremont Institute. Follow him on Twitter @BillZeiser.