Speech transforms Cuomo from Blue Dog Democrat to man of the people

We recently heard Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State message. This was not your typical speech, it was a full-fledged, three-ring affair, with everything but the elephants. Cuomo has moved the event from the Legislature itself to the Empire State Plaza Convention Center where there is a lot more seating. After all, there really is no reason why the people shouldn’t be admitted and admitted they were. There were police units in the audience and first responders and the National Guard. The prelude featured one person after another, rising to the rostrum to praise the young governor. It all reminded me a bit of the classic children’s tale, Ferdinand the Bull. You know, first the picadors and then the matadors entering the stadium and so on.

It was classic Albany politics. Andrew stood up and thanked everyone in sight, even the people with whom we know he has contentious relations. For example, he extolled the fine State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, as well as his sometime competitor for attention, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The legislative minority and majority leaders were extolled. Andrew’s thank you list went on and on. He spared no attention to detail. After the speech, as if on cue, one group after another checked in to support what the governor was offering in his message, and he was offering a lot. Right before our eyes, he transformed from a semi-Blue Dog Democrat into a man of the people who will play well to a national audience.

Wow! What a list of things he gave us. Pre-K for every child, starting with the most disadvantaged kids; a hike in the minimum wage; a huge education agenda including a very catchy bar-exam type requirement that every teacher candidate had to pass before being hired. Not a bad idea, since some schools of education have been churning out teachers who have no business in a classroom. Then there was global warming. Cuomo told the truth about how serious it is. Al Gore told us first but Cuomo laid it all out with a very convincing illustration that showed us the risks.

Finally, there was the pièce de résistance, guns. Cuomo burnished his own credentials by referring to his Remington shotgun. No weepy liberal was he. He has a shotgun and he knows how to use it. I kept thinking of poor Bambi but it was really a master stroke. You couldn’t call him some kind of anti-hunting sissy. It was clear that Cuomo wanted fast action to stop the gun scourge and we know he has been meeting with legislative leaders to get it done. The polls are surely showing him that people have had enough and Cuomo used that exact term, “Enough,” to make his case for stricter gun control. Being the brilliant political strategist that he is, Cuomo seemed to want to get in with his heavy moves on the issue before anyone else. There were muted cries of protest from some of the Republicans in the Senate but since the Senate owes its position in the sort of majority to Cuomo, it’s hard to believe that he can’t have anything he wants from that crew. He didn’t mention fracking, but he did speak of energy independence. I took that as a cautious step toward drilling for natural gas but we’ll have to see.

I liked the actual speech (minus the self-serving theatrics) a lot. His friends at the conservative New York Post seem to think he betrayed them. After watching the whole thing, I was exhausted.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 1/14/13

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