By Steven Sanders
Andrew Cuomo is a walking, talking contradiction. He is as Winston Churchill once proclaimed, an enigma wrapped in a riddle. In his fourth year as governor, people are still wondering aloud, “who is this guy”?
Is he the social liberal who loudly supported women’s rights, marriage equality for gays and lesbians and tough gun controls? Or is he the tight-fisted conservative clamping down on spending for social programs and opposing even a modest increase in taxes for the wealthiest while opposing cost of living increases for low paid direct care health workers? Cuomo says he wants laws containing election campaign fundraising while he amasses the most political contributions, by far, in the history of the state. Is Cuomo the fastidious governor who insists on passing the state budget on time, and has, in every year, or the governor who cannot come to any decision in four years on the critical issue of fracking (extraction natural gas energy) adding jobs to the state’s flagging upstate economy? Is he an environmentalist or more interested in job creation?
Andrew is the son of Governor Mario Cuomo who served in that capacity for 12 years until 1995. After that, Andrew Cuomo accepted a position in the Clinton Administration as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Andrew Cuomo learned politics from both his father and President Bill Clinton. Those two men could not be more different. Mario Cuomo was sort of a “philosopher king.” Highly principled and dedicated to the development of good social policy as he saw it. Bill Clinton was more likened to Machiavelli’s “the Prince,” the ultimate pragmatist with a streak of ruthlessness.
It would seem that Andrew Cuomo ultimately determined that the best way to the top was the Clinton model of politics… which is expediency. With expediency there is no need for a philosophical core or politically correct compass. It is all about the best means to an end. But that begs the question, what is the end?
So if you don’t get Andrew Cuomo, don’t be surprised. He is not guided by consistency or any particular philosophy of governing. He is guided by his own end game, which is to find the surest path to the next highest office, which in his terms would be the presidency either in 2016 or in 2020.
You will likely find Andrew Cuomo committed to those policies that will garner him the right support and the proper image that he seeks to cultivate in his pursuit of political success.
So are there two Andrew Cuomos? No, certainly not. There is only one. The one above all else who wants to be president someday. Andrew Cuomo will continue to say and do whatever he thinks will get him closer to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In that regard, he is not all that unique. He is just better at it than most.
Steven Sanders is a former state assemblyman representing the Town & Village community from 1978 through 2005.