Spitzer vs. Cuomo
Everyone knows about Cuomo’s antagonistic style. We’ve all been aware of it for years.
Think about that moment in 2011 when Steven Cohen uttered his famous line: “We operate at two speeds around here: Get along…and kill!”
When you heard that, you thought: “Wow, did he really say that?”
And then you thought, “OK, it’s a quip, it’s a joke. But then again, it isn’t, and that’s the cleverness of it … but is it too clever? Doesn’t it speak to a kind of arrogance and isn’t it going to harden people against them?”
Interestingly, neither Cuomo nor Cohen nor anyone else in the administration ever felt the need to temper, modify or otherwise explain that extraordinary comment. They just let it stand.
In the modern history of state politics and government in New York, there’s probably never been a more candidly in-your-face articulation an administration’s governing approach.
In fact, nothing even compares. “Day One: Everything Changes” now seems ridiculously tame and trivial.
At the time, almost a decade ago, everyone was talking about Spitzer’s arrogance. People were aghast at his supposed “steamroller” tactics.
But consider Spitzer and Cuomo, and representative actions by each.
Spitzer went to the editorial boards of newspapers in the districts of a handful of lawmakers. His intention was to “let constituents know how their lawmaker voted.” Everyone professed shock that he would do such a thing – which today seems like a good government exercise.
Spitzer also had the Troopergate scandal. This is supposed to be the ultimate example of Spitzer’s over-the-top approach. He was said to have “used” the State Police to “smear” Joe Bruno. But remember who framed it that way and who kept the storyline going. It was Cuomo.
If you set Troopergate aside (and even if you don’t) and you think carefully about who has actually been more confrontational as Governor – Spitzer or Cuomo – there’s really no comparison.
There’s Spitzer disagreeing publically with lawmakers over their vote on the comptroller matter, and there’s Spitzer supposedly generating a negative news story in an upstate paper on Bruno’s questionable use of state aircraft.
And there’s Cuomo creating a Moreland Commission to investigate individual lawmakers. The commission subpoenaed their bank records and other personal information, as well as campaign accounts – a move the legislative leaders decried as unconstitutional.
An interesting nuance is that rather than releasing information, as Spitzer did, Cuomo used what he found for leverage in legislative talks. He didn’t release the information his commission uncovered. In fact, depending on what Preet finds, he may have concealed wrongdoing.
There’s another interesting comparison to be made.
Spitzer can be said to have worked against certain lawmakers – Bruno and his GOP conference, for sure. And he also took on 1199 and some other interest groups.
Cuomo, too, has worked against a bevy of lawmakers and elected officials. Just ask DeBlasio, Minor, Schneiderman, Dinapoli, Gianaris, etc. And he’s also taken on the Progressives.
What’s the key difference? Spitzer did battle with Republicans, while Cuomo, exclusively and gratuitously in the view of many, goes after fellow Democrats.
All of the preceding recollections have been by way of background for repeating and underscoring this New York Times construct from today:
“Confronted with a restive party, Mr. Cuomo, 57, now faces the most consequential political choice of his second term: whether to appease downtrodden Democrats by adjusting his personal style, or to continue relying on a set of hard-edged methods that his supporters call essential to maintaining political order in the state.”
The nub of it is this: Can he adjust his personal style? Is it even possible?