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Monday, August 02, 2010

Andrew Cuomo - Mario Cuomo: New York Dynastic Politics Sutra

This blogger was melancholically ruminating about the tragedy of Charlie Rangel and the curious cyclical and dynastic nature of New York City politics this weekend. We don't go in for the easy. Rangel, though he doesn't seem so at present, was once a crusading, vibrant pol. He actually constructed legislation in "empowerment zones," which brought vivid change to small businesses in then beleagured Harlem. That, unfortunately, has been forgotten as Rangel -- who IMHO ought to stop clinging to Power and retire with dignity -- is being burned alive in effigy as a poster boy for bad behavior as election season 2010 approaches.

The gods at New York magazine must have been listening because they came out today with an Andrew-Mario Cuomo article that goes deeper into their own political dynasty ("And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon/ Little boy blue and the man in the moon .."). Cuomo, clearly, is about to be handed the reins of the Empire state in a landslide. But it wasn't always that rosy for the Cuomo's of Queens:

"On the evening of September 19, 1977, a few hours after being dealt a humiliating defeat by Ed Koch in his bid to become mayor of New York, Mario Cuomo held a quiet conversation with his oldest son, Andrew, and his wife, Matilda, in their home in Holliswood, Queens. Mario was by then a crusading lawyer with a reputation for eloquence and passionate social commitment, already on his way to becoming a kind of philosopher-statesman. Yet as a politician, he seemed destined to be a footnote—'a loser,' as one political observer later said. Andrew refused to accept that fate for his father. The son was a tough, competitive, smart, though not terribly bookish, young man, with a Queens accent so pronounced that some thought it an affectation. He had a kind of blue-collar spirit—he was good with his hands and had toyed with opening a gas station. Until his father’s defeat, Andrew hadn’t seriously contemplated a career in politics. But that day he turned to his mother. 'We’ll make Dad a winner,' he told her sharply. He was 19 at the time.

"Mario rode Hugh Carey’s coattails to victory as lieutenant governor the next year, a consolation prize. And then, in 1982, with the fierce, sometimes vindictive style that has characterized his elective efforts ever since, Andrew masterminded his father’s come-from-behind victory for governor against Koch, among others, after Mario had trailed in the polls by as much as 38 points. 'Sure enough,' Mario told me, 'Andrew made me a winner.' The victory changed both of their lives. It launched Mario into political stardom—he served three terms as governor—while it gave Andrew, who’s almost certain to win his father’s old job this November, an arrogance that would take two decades and humiliating defeats of his own to confront. 'At 24, Andrew was given a belief he could control events,' says a friend. 'It made him an asshole.'"

His father, also, was a bit of a prick (Is prickishness inheritable?). Bill Clinton all but offered Cuomo, pere a Supreme Court seat which, in retrospect, would have been a capstone to his career. Instead, Mario dithered as the so-called "Hamlet on the Hudson," overstaying (New Yorkers tend to tire over executives who ask for more then two terms) his welcome and was ultimately defeated by the unheralded and unsung George Pataki, an Al D'amato acolyte and political cypher (Averted Gaze).

Afterwards, Cuomo the Younger coveted that seat, leapfrogging in line, all but costing the first credible African-American candidate for governor his chance. There was a choleric aggressiveness about Andrew Cuomo that bristled.

The pendulum swings. He is now quite qualified and a better man and politician for his labors in the Augean Stables. His anger has been checked and I'll be the first -- as a blogger who has been hard on the man -- to give him a second chance.

"'When you comin' home?'/'Son, I don't know when/ We'll get together then/ You know we'll have a good time then.'"

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