Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Andrew Cuomo: The Art of Losing

"The agony of defeat. It seems magnified in a political election, that modern day crusade and zero-sum game. There is no silver medal award for finishing second. Elections consume body and soul.

"My race was great political theater. I was running last year in a primary to defeat George Pataki, who defeated my father Mario Cuomo. The New York press had choreographed the campaign into an Italian opera in which the son was to avenge the father's death. There was no romance in the opera: father dies, and son dies.

"Political loss is unique in that it is public and pervasive. There is no need to whisper in the kitchen 'honey, I didn't get the promotion' after an unsuccessful political campaign, everone knows you lost.

"For me, the pervasive nature of loss became real one day after my withdrawal from the New York governor's race when I was at a gas station. I pulled into a self service station and removed the gas cap. I was excercising all the deliberate caution not to dirty my suit or my tie, which have a proclivity to position itself as a bib for the gas nozzle. I was attempting my personal innovation: wedging the gas cap into the nozzle to avoid having to hold the handle. As this is not easily done, I made several attempts in which the cap fell down and rolled to some inaccessible spot, causing me to have to retrieve it, moving delicately to avoid dirtying myself.

"At this point I looked across the island to see the customer on the other side watching my exhibition. The patron across the way looked at me and said, 'Boy Andrew, losing really stinks -- you even have to pump your own gas.

"Everyone knew. There was no hiding."

Crossroads, Introducion by Andrew Cuomo.

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