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On Complicated Relationships

January 6, 2015

Two smart people sent us comments about our Bad Form Awards post. We respect both individuals and feel as though it would be bad form for us to ignore what they had to say.

The first comment was from Dave Schaffer,  brains at the Business Council . Dave suggested that our attention to Fred Dicker might not be proportional to his actual role with what’s really wrong in Albany. Our first impulse was to disagree and note the various ways in which Fred is a corrosive influence. But a phrase Dave used really resonated with us.  He spoke of the “pathologies” of Albany. As we began to reflect on that, it occurred to us that a single reporter’s churlishness might be more of a symptom than a cause of the underlying problem. We’re going to think some more about this and write a longer post that examines said pathologies.

The second comment came from a reader with a good memory. He told us to look up a 2011 article written by Michael Barbaro about the gay marriage fight in New York. When you do this, when you see what was written, and it changes everything.

In this article, Andrew Cuomo opines on the nature of gubernatorial success.  He says some achievements, such as balancing budgets,  are “operational,” while others, like authorizing gay marriage have much greater significance.  Keep in mind that this is Andrew speaking in 2011.

Fast forward to this weekend, when the Times used the same quote for an article about relationship between Andrew and Mario.  The Cuomo people had a fit when they read it. They lashed out, acting as if this was a plant in the Times from an enemy of the administration.

But this wasn’t some new attack on the administration at all. It was a recycling of Andrew’s own words from 2011.

So what gives? Why the hubbub?

Well, obviously, the Cuomo people, given the current context, didn’t want a piece that portrayed any awkwardness between father and son.   And in their typical fashion, they hit back without remembering the Barbaro piece and without thinking.

The really curious thing, though, is why the Times issued a correction to the weekend article. In this regard, the newspaper said that the article written by Adam Nagourney and Sue Craig was wrong in using this specific quote to suggest that Andrew had critiqued his father’s record. Instead, Andrew supposedly was critiquing his own administration with the quote.

But that doesn’t make any sense. Why would Andrew, after achieving a victory on gay marriage, critique his own administration?  In fact, he wanted to set himself apart from his father and other governors as having achieved more. That’s what he was doing at the time. That was obvious then and now.

So why would the Times respond by issuing a correction? We are troubled by that. By doing so, they created a new situation that can’t stand.  If the weekend article was wrong in any way, so was the original Barbaro piece. One can’t be right and the other wrong because, again, they say the same thing.

We suspect what happened here is that the Cuomo people responded so intensely that the Times simply agreed to issue the correction to help defuse a sensitive situation.

But that’s not right. Barbaro wasn’t wrong and neither was Nagourney and Craig. The paper shouldn’t have buckled to the administration.

Saying something adamantly doesn’t make it so. That was true about this situation with the Times, and it was true in Andrew’s eulogy of his father. He went out of his way to say that reporter’s commentary about the “complicated relationship” between him and his father was “a lot of hooey.”

Alas, Andrew’s speech proved otherwise.  Calibration here: We’re inclined to cut any man a break who has to eulogize his father on such a setting. That said, while there were some gracious references to others, some poignant reminiscences and very nice lines about Mario, the speech was not a conventional eulogy about the dead man. In large part, it was about Andrew, his agenda, his relationships with others, and, yes, his complicated relationship with his father.

With our Bad Form Awards post, we had really just wanted to suggest that there ought to be this period in which everyone sets aside contentiousness and just honors the memory of Mario.  But look at what has happened — we’ve been drawn into exactly the sort of thing we were criticizing others for doing.

One Comment leave one →
  1. societax permalink
    January 11, 2015 3:21 PM

    “Why would Andrew, after achieving a victory on gay marriage, critique his own administration?”

    A critique assesses both the good and bad of something, just as a movie critic could love a movie and give it a “thumbs up.” Thus, a critique properly would review both the successes and failures to explain how an artist or performer (as all politicians must be) stands apart from contemporaries and predecessors in a field.

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