During his sorry/not sorry press conference last week, Gov. Cuomo made a sudden detour to throw mud at Mayor de Blasio. Answering a question about his ability to do his job, the governor veered off course to say the city is “teetering” because of rising crime and homelessness.
“We have to get New York City functional again and safe again and viable again — and we have to do that quickly,” Cuomo said.
To some, the attack was gratuitous and off topic. Cuomo is fighting for survival and stops to slap a sparring partner. Why bother?
The answer becomes more obvious each day. The heart of Cuomo’s defense against growing calls for his resignation is that New Yorkers should be careful what they wish for, lest the whole state end up in turmoil like the city’s.
It was his way of saying, Après moi, le déluge. After me, the flood.
For many New Yorkers, that argument has been a powerful one, and it is not incidental that those leading the charge for Cuomo to be impeached or resign are mostly Republicans or far-left Democrats.
Their attacks fit neatly into the argument Cuomo made for years, including in 2018, when he won a third term with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Like Goldilocks’ favorite porridge, he has positioned himself in the broad center, neither too hot nor too cold.
The strategy now faces its most severe test. The easily understood scandals are mushrooming, and few politicians have had such a rapid descent into danger.
Yet a master of the blame game who fancies himself political royalty, Cuomo is not even being honest with himself about his predicament. His claim to be indispensable reflects the hubris that put him in peril in the first place.
The accusations — propositioning female assistants, lying to the public, lying to legislators and the Justice Department — are all part of a pattern. So are the diktats about opening and closing businesses, as if there is “science” behind the difference of closing restaurants at 10 p.m. instead of 11.
But defy him and you’re out of business. Criticize him and his goons will leak your private personnel file or he’ll call you and vow to destroy you.
As for the grieving families of the 15,000 nursing-home dead, let them eat cake. Don’t they know who he is?
It all worked — until it didn’t. There’s no putting the pieces back together again, with Cuomo’s odds of surviving until the next election declining. Last week was an absolute disaster for him.
Indeed, Friday was extraordinary in that major developments in the two main scandals erupted simultaneously on the state’s front pages.
In the city, where Cuomo got 84 percent of the vote in 2018, The Post and the Daily News led with excerpts of Charlotte Bennett’s interview with CBS News. The governor’s former aide dropped more bombshells from the meeting in his office where Cuomo allegedly propositioned her to have sex.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times featured articles alleging that Cuomo’s office altered a July Health Department report on nursing homes to hide the number of patients who died after becoming infected with the coronavirus in the facilities.
Both topics are the focus of serious investigations, and either one could drive Cuomo from office and land him in legal jeopardy. That they are both reaching the boiling point illustrate how he is caught in traps of his own making.
Although only impeachment and conviction by the Legislature can force him out, resignation is no longer inconceivable. If public support reaches a point of no return, Cuomo could face his Richard Nixon moment: quit or be impeached.
After all, lawmakers fear something more than Cuomo’s wrath: losing an election. If somebody has to leave office, they’ll try to make sure it’s him.
The feedback loop is not his friend. As each new bit of misconduct is revealed, more legislators turn against him. Resulting headlines then lead more New Yorkers to turn on him in disgust.
Cuomo has made two stabs at apologizing, one in writing, one at his press conference. Both bombed, making his situation even more precarious.
The renewed focus on nursing-home deaths is long overdue, given that The Post first wrote in April about the March 25th order that forced the homes to take infected patients being discharged from hospitals. The order prohibited the homes from even asking if the patients tested positive, was issued without warning and took effect immediately — at the behest of hospital executives who are among Cuomo’s top donors.
As the deaths mounted, his first response was to look for scapegoats, blaming The Post, Donald Trump, God and federal guidelines. He also secretly changed how the state counted the dead, assigning them to nursing homes only if patients died there.
Through the spring and into summer, as other media also focused on the March order as a cause of so many deaths, Cuomo’s team created a shoddy report declaring that nursing-home workers brought the disease into the homes. That report, which McKinsey & Co. shamefully helped to prepare, underscored his desperation to hide the truth while writing his lucrative book on leadership and preening for his celebrity Emmy friends.
In effect, Cuomo tried to cover up the truth about his lethal policy decision with two lies. Now that they are exposed, he has no hiding place.
And so the misleading report has, like nearly all the governor’s recent efforts, backfired spectacularly. Beyond public outrage, his lies to the Justice Department could bolster the case for criminal charges in the probe by Brooklyn federal prosecutors.
It remains possible, of course, that Cuomo will retain enough support to survive in the short term and that neither investigation will lead to charges. In which case, he might still be able to win a fourth term in 2022.
But as things stand now, don’t bet on it.
Reader Robert Arnold believes the left is using the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol to paint all Trump voters as dangerous villains, writing: “Being thousands of miles away doesn’t stop the guilt-by-association perspective. I was a deplorable before, a bad person, and now I am even worse. Some 74 million Americans are either clowns in a carnival or murderers.”