Presidential campaigns rarely begin out in the open; first there must be hypocrisy. And in this respect, Andrew Cuomo is ramping up his game.
Wasn’t it a month ago that President Trump appeared in Cuomo’s bogeyman catalogue somewhere between Beelzebub and Vlad the Impaler? But there was the governor on Wednesday, wearing his cat-ate-the-canary smirk to a White House lunch.
The meeting came soon after Cuomo cautioned congressional Democrats away from exercising their new impeachment powers.
“Impeachment — to play politics? God, no, and terrible for the Democrats,” said the man who would play politics with a grade-school birthday party if there were an advantage to be had.
Cuomo and Trump aren’t quite at the “two jamokes from Queens” stage, to be sure, and probably never will be. But Cuomo just loosened Trump’s thumbscrews a couple of turns, and it is fair to wonder why.
Sure, to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war, as Churchill said, and any governor should be on speaking terms with the White House. But it isn’t wrong to suspect that America also is being served a full ration of weapons-grade bushwa here.
“I’m governor of New York, and I have a lot to do,” Cuomo told a New York City radio host last week. “I am ruling out” a 2020 presidential run.
“It’s not going to be enough to be anti-Trump,” elaborated the famously ferocious anti-Trumper — just before his lunch date with the Donald.
“We need a candidate who brings credibility and experience to the job,” continued the governor about to enter his third term — a fellow who’s been in the game since his pop, Mario, was elected chief executive in 1982, and who just won a profile-raising, policy-making position with the National Governors Association.
Finally, said the fellow who just siphoned up the dregs of the New York GOP, his party needs to find “someone who can connect with the people we lost as Democrats — the working men and women of this country who went with Trump because of the void left by the Democratic Party.”
All this adds up to something less than a clear declaration of Cuomo’s intent, to be sure. But it also looks a lot like a self-portrait.
Certainly, the governor’s recent rhetoric suggests a move to the middle in a party increasingly dominated by progressive tub-thumpers and their grifting fellow travelers. And if everybody’s leaning hard left, somewhere in the middle probably wouldn’t be a bad place for a fellow to be in a year or so.
This especially would be true if that fellow could show how to commandeer the party’s lefty luminaries, absorbing and redirecting their energy while keeping their rhetoric from chasing moderate voters out onto the fire escapes.
And, as fortune would have it, Cuomo is perfectly positioned for such a demonstration.
He’ll be delivering his annual State of the State address next month to the first unambiguously Democratic-controlled Legislature in two generations, a body almost certain to be animated by the progressive rhetoric that brought many of its new members to office.
Atop their to-do list will be single-payer health care; an effective end to vacancy de-control of rent in New York City; sharply higher taxes on high-earners; and further softening of public-school standards and criminal statutes. Maybe even an end to Cuomo’s signature property-tax cap.
The governor’s challenge will be to appear sympathetic to such an agenda, while subverting it.
As it happens, Albany lawmakers are as easy to roll as drunks up an alley. So it shouldn’t be a heavy lift for a governor as practiced in corrupt persuasion as this one to take control the Legislature.
Just as it shouldn’t be difficult to convince disappointed progressives not to be too noisy about it.
“The short memory of the American voter is what keeps our politicians in office,” said Will Rogers, who didn’t have Andrew Cuomo in mind, but who might just as well have.
The governor has never let consistency stand in the way of expediency. Nor will he this time, it appears.
Bob McManus is a contributing editor at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.
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