For New Yorkers who have lived through ground zero of the pandemic, the persona of serious do-good Governor Andrew Cuomo was more media mythology than reality. And while the governor’s daily briefings offered him as the caring anti-Trump as the first wave of the virus slammed New York and America, he’s increasingly showing his true colors.
Cuomo, who’s been promoting his new book on “pandemic leadership,” lashed out at a reporter for asking why parents are confused about why New York City’s schools are closing even as bars and gyms remain open. The governor said that the reporter’s question was “obnoxious,” and that the buck stopped not with him but with local officials. Sound familiar?
There’s a lot of mini-Trump in Cuomo, starting with careless anti-science bravado. Let's check off the boxes of similarity.
Refusal to take the heat, much less any thoughtful probing, from the press corps? Check.
Instead of reevaluating his questionable decisions to reopen indoor dining, gyms, and other non-essential social congregations amid an expected fall resurgence, Cuomo insulted reporters for asking why he’d allow the mayor to close schools, where the positivity rate has been very low, with no game plan for getting them back up and running, while the city’s bars and gyms, which the governor controls and where the virus has been spreading, remain open.
"If you're socially distant and you wore a mask, and you were smart, none of this would be a problem,” Cuomo said at one point, effectively passing the blame to citizens for the virus’ return. “it's all self imposed. If you didn't eat the cheesecake you wouldn't have a weight problem."
That’s an outlandish and offensive thing to say to New Yorkers, especially parents and first-responders, when you are failing to set an example with essential priorities. It reeks of the entitlement and fairy tale thinking that Trump has displayed for months. Not all Americans are able to isolate.
Cuomo promised to heed the science, and yet businesses he's keeping open are the ones considered the highest risk of transmission. It’s also worth noting that New Yorkers are reporting wearing masks, social-distancing, and still contracting COVID. It is critical to push back against complacency, but please turn the daily PowerPoint briefings over to a scientist to lead.
The list of Trump-Cuomo comparisons continues.
Blundering incompetence and incoherence in the face of a pandemic hurtling toward America? Check.
Empowered to shut down the Port Authority transportation hubs, Cuomo could have reacted to the significant international developments and put a pause on incoming travel—measures that were effective in mitigating and are increasingly eliminating the spread in Australia and New Zealand.
This is not a bold claim for those COVID-scarred and traumatized New Yorkers who watched as the governor compared the novel virus to the flu, even after it was plainly obvious from the growing body counts in China and then Italy that this was not the case. Then Cuomo proceeded at various points to criticize editorial boards for minimizing the disease even as it was only journalists and a handful of scientists who were sounding the alarm.
Months-long inaction on economic relief to Americans denying livelihood to millions of Americans? Check.
A foresighted leader would have understood that mobilizing a once-in-a-generation investment in health care, jobs, and infrastructure transcended the usual bottom line and fiscal austerity for which Cuomo has become known. There are no such innovations being developed and the state legislature is not poised to do so without Cuomo's sign-off. With no expected federal stimulus until a Biden administration takes over, it is inexcusable that Cuomo has not acted to help fellow New Yorkers.
Total lack of interest in upgrading the election system to prepare the nation for pandemic balloting? Check.
Cuomo didn't delegitimize voting-by-mail, but he failed to provide automatic registration to all registered voters or strengthen the capacity of local boards of election. They are still counting ballots in New York because of Cuomo and state Democrats' refusal to update state law to count absentee ballots sooner than seven (!) days after the election. Unlike in the vast majority of states, New Yorkers outside the boroughs were unable to track delivery of their mail ballots. If New York were a swing-state, election administrators have said, she would be the epicenter of election dysfunction.
Taking credit where credit is certainly not due, while avoiding accountability at all costs? Check.
Despite his ostentatious victory laps, Cuomo was covering his ass last spring after astronomical fatalities. The truth is he’s never accepted responsibility for the failures at New York’s nursing homes. He hasn’t admitted mistakes and certainly won’t welcome the necessary oversight to make improvements to policies that would save lives in the winter wave.
There's no doubt it’s tough when every other state in the union is a COVID warzone, but right now, Cuomo is neither listening to reality nor getting his priorities straight. And if he doesn’t get his act together, New Yorkers will see through his charade in 2022 much as Americans did Trump’s this November.