Opinion

Cut from Spitzer’s cloth, Cuomo as N.Y. Gov. fits like a cheap suit

Roscoe Conkling Contributor

New York Gov. David Paterson can’t seem to take a hint. Democratic Party leaders from Barack Obama on down have called on him to step aside for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is panting to run. Paterson has refused to budge.

Now things are getting tense in Cuomoland. Andrew’s hunger for the governorship is as big as his poll ratings. Yet David Paterson, the blind black guy who became governor after Eliot Spitzer resigned, refuses to roll over. Despite sagging poll ratings, Paterson has courageously identified the source of New York’s current financial miasma: sweetheart public employees union pension benefit and compensation deals. Paterson has demanded spending cuts that a union-controlled Legislature has simply refused to consider.

Cuomo, who requires the endorsement of the union-controlled Working Families Party, has scrupulously avoided taking any position on the state’s precarious finances or who is to blame for them. His position as attorney general lends itself to equivocation—as the chief law enforcement officer in the state, he isn’t required to opine on anything but legal issues. Yet, like his predecessor Eliot Spitzer, he can indict virtually anyone, so politicians of both parties will give him wide swath … for now.

Although his public image has been rehabilitated, he has more in common with his predecessor Spitzer than not. Short-tempered, dictatorial, and given to threats and tirades, the real Cuomo thinks he is the smartest man on the planet. The more voters saw of Prince Andrew when he ran for governor the less they liked him.

So Team Cuomo played the hole card. White House Political Advisor Patrick Gaspard consistently gives the president advice that suits his personal agenda and that of the SEIU, his former employer, but isn’t in the interest of the president. So far, former community organizer Gaspard has the president embroiled in not only one—but two—bitter internal Democratic fights over the governorship and the U.S. Senate seat held by N.Y. Sen. Charles Schumer sock-puppet Kirsten Gillibrand. At least one half the Democratic Party will end up hating Obama, who is looking more like Jimmy Carter every day.

Obama publicly embarrassed a sitting Democratic governor of a major state by calling on Paterson to take a dive, and in doing so only hardened the resolve of Paterson and his advisor/father Basil Paterson to stay in the race. Smooth move Gaspard!

Just as Jacob Marley came to Ebenezer Scrooge, Cuomo is haunted by the specter of Carl McCall. The last time Andrew Cuomo ran against a black guy he was supposed to beat easily, he was driven from the race. That’s why he doesn’t just declare, his effort to drive Paterson from the race having been a failure.

Cuomo and his Sancho Panza staff aide Joe Percoco labor under the misconception that Cuomo’s strong poll ratings will continue unabated and will never have to answer for the attorney general’s own connection to shady New York pension fund scamsters or, more importantly, his role as Housing and Urban Development Secretary.  It was at HUD that Cuomo, more than anyone in the Executive Branch, was directly responsible for pushing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s ability to buy subprime mortgages and to loosen the lending regulations to give mortgages to people who never had the ability to service them.

State Republicans recently filed FOIA requests for HUD documents that will prove Cuomo’s responsibility for the current financial melt down, and Republican Governor’s Association Chairman Haley Barbour already has $40 million on hand and assures New York Republicans that the money will exist to make sure every New York voter knows about Cuomo’s role in the current financial crisis.

As a candidate for governor, Cuomo will be pressed to say how he would balance the budget and lower property taxes, neither of which can be done without taking on the unions. His response should be interesting. No longer will he be able to be all things to all people.

The road to the governorship will not be the cake walk Prince Andrew arrogantly thinks it will be, nor is he as smart as he thinks he is.