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“Who the hell are you to question my man?” 

August 26, 2014

Some of you have written to us expressing dismay that our renewed posts haven’t been more critical of the governor. You think we’ve changed our tune regarding Mr. Cuomo. And the plain truth of it is that we have indeed evolved in our thinking. It’s complicated, and we feel we ought to explain.

But first, an absurd digression. We once had a strange experience in a WalMart parking lot. We came upon a heavy-set fellow yelling at a small woman. He kept saying to her: “No, no, no.” Thinking that we were doing the right thing, we intervened, saying: “It everything ok here?”

The next thing we knew, the woman we thought was so vulnerable had unleashed a string of obscenity aimed at us. The gist of it was: “Who the hell are you to question my man?”

This is kind of how we feel about Mr. Cuomo. Yes, we know he can be a brute, but he’s our brute and we don’t want just anybody challenging him.

It’s ok when say Bill Hammond calls him to task for being vague on the Tappan Zee financing.  It’s ok when Alexis Grennell dismisses his idea for a women’s party. It’s even ok when Fred LeBrun carries on about Moreland cover-ups. But when people we regard as not having the proper standing do it or people whom we think have obvious conflicts do it, we want to defend him.

Why exactly?  Well, it’s unmistakable to us that he’s been a good governor overall. He ended the chaos and dysfunction and scandal that was Spitzer and Paterson. He restored the state’s finances. He accomplished a lot legislatively. He also developed an economic development policy – START UP –  that is actually working. Taken together, this is more than any other governor has accomplished in a long time.

That said, we know our man. Brute is too strong a word. So is bully. But arrogant, overbearing and controlling – all of those adjectives are apt. (And he knows it, too.)

Everything for Cuomo is about getting the result he wants, and to do so, he manipulates the process in ways that make everyone uncomfortable. He also pressures people – sometimes intensely.

In the past, we placed greater emphasis on the stylistic. We thought then that conducting one’s self with equanimity and honor was all that mattered. We believed that doing so contributed to one’s success in office.

As we’ve gotten older, however, we’ve come to believe that strength is key. In our state government, nothing happens except as a result of real strength. It requires pressure – more often than not very intense pressure to get things done. Results matter, not style points for being nicey nice.

As we watched Cuomo in action these last four years, we’ve come to appreciate his off-putting ways. How can that be? Well, as it turned out, it was exactly what was needed.

Let’s start with guns. You might think Cuomo is a real SOB, and he may well be, but give him one thing. He’s the only governor in the nation with the guts to stand up to the gun nuts. How do you not applaud him for that?

Consider the way he’s managed the state’s finances. You can think Cuomo is an awful person, and maybe he is, but what do you say to the fact that NYS now has the highest bond rating in 50 years. That just didn’t happen. It’s wasn’t luck. It was the result of him saying “no” a thousand times.

In this regard, here’s some behind-the-scenes info for you, dear readers: The big public sector unions took a pass on endorsing Cuomo recently and that was because he’s not sufficiently “progressive” for them, right? Bullshit. They offered to endorse him. They were eager to do so. But he said “no” to their offer because of the price they attached. He would have had to restore cuts he implemented to balance the state budget, and he would have had to promise not to cut the workforce in the future.  Other governors facing reelection would have made that extortionist deal. But Cuomo refused it, and he deserves a damn medal for doing so.

Speaking of progressives, let’s revisit the left, which is so angry with Cuomo. One of the core groups in that world are so-called education advocates. We know some of these folks and we like them, but it’s always stuck in our craw that New York spends more than any other state – far more – and doesn’t get outstanding results. Yes, Cuomo went overboard in criticizing the advocates last year, but he was right in saying that the answer can’t always be more and more money. He was and is right to say “no” to the advocates and to the teacher unions and everyone else clamoring for ever more spending.

Again and again, we’ve seen Cuomo defy people who deserve to be defied. We respect that. We applaud that.

And here’s an additional, subtle point. It takes more than simply being defiant. Spitzer took on powerful people, too. But he didn’t know how to manage the ensuing conflict to ensure that nuclear war didn’t break out.  Cuomo forces confrontations all the time and then he compromises, getting what he can out of the process, while avoiding a complete breakdown in relations that would result in dysfunction.

Cuomo gets criticized for not getting more at times, but we think it’s naïve for people on the outside to say: “Oh, he should have held out for more.” Only someone at the table can make that kind of judgment. While we, too, would have liked to see him get more, we’re not going to conclude automatically that “getting more” was even possible, especially given the bizarre balance of power in the legislature.

So we find ourselves in a weird position here. Four years ago, we were appalled that the media wasn’t challenging Cuomo more aggressively. We felt he was getting free pass after free pass.

Now we see an effective governor potentially being undermined by a lot of cheap shots from people who have their own selfish interests. That includes gun nuts, unions, the lefties and PB, too.

Hard edges and all, Cuomo is our man. We want him there to continue to say “no.”

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