Once again, Gov. Cuomo did the right thing

There are times when politicians’ motivations really don’t matter. If they do what’s right, that’s about all we can hope for. When Andrew Cuomo passed the almost impossible-to-pass SAFE Act, he did what was right. All over the country, as politicians cowered in front of the NRA and the gun lobby but following one heinous shooting after another, Cuomo did what was needed. I said at the time, and I meant it, that his actions were a profile in courage. The same praise goes to the governor for his leadership on gay human rights. When Cuomo is long out of office, his courage to do what was right will give him an enduring legacy.

On the other hand, his record on some other political things is hardly a profile in courage. Trying to kick Zephyr Teachout, an obscure law professor who has the guts to run against him in a primary, off the Democratic ballot for dubious reasons didn’t help him one bit. We have elections in this country to give us choices. When politicians use their offices and their campaign money to eliminate rivals, we have something that is distinctly un-American. During the Occupy Albany events of a few years back, Cuomo came off as a bully. When he tried pressing David Soares, the compassionate DA of Albany, into prosecuting the mostly young people, it looked mean spirited and arrogant. Soares, to his credit, prevailed. The kids weren’t prosecuted and there is evidence that Cuomo has not forgiven him for standing up to him. His actions with Teachout didn’t help the bully image one bit.

Now Cuomo and several other top state leaders are traveling to Israel to support that country in a time of great need. To set the record straight, I’m Jewish and was raised in a post-Holocaust home that revered Israel. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been critical at times. Hey, I’ve said no more than progressive Israelis when the Israeli government built more and more settlements in places where they didn’t belong. I have never admired the stranglehold that a small portion of the country’s most religious figures had on state politics but there is evidence that the Israeli citizenry has been straightening all of that out. With that said, it seems indisputable to me that the Hamas leaders who are firing rockets indiscriminately at Israelis are both cowardly and criminal. When they use their own civilians to protect the rocket launchers, they are showing themselves for what they are — despicable. If anyone thinks that we in this country wouldn’t go to any length to protect ourselves from similar attacks, those foolish people would be sadly mistaken. So, Cuomo and the top state leaders went to Israel. It isn’t a matter of political party. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg went when U.S. airlines weren’t even flying there. He did what was right.

Of course, some will claim the trip was politically motivated because New York has the second largest concentration of Jewish citizens after Israel. They will say that it was a brilliant, Machiavelli-like political stroke. The truth is that once again, he did what was right. Democracy means that a governor follows the wishes of his electors, and let there be no mistake about it — New Yorkers have little use for Hamas. Cuomo didn’t go alone. Included in his group were all the state leaders including Republican leader Dean Skelos.

Thousands of Palestinian civilians have been killed as a result of what a few of the cowardly Hamas leaders did. This is a terrible situation. We all feel the suffering of the parents. But the time has come for Palestinians to say no to the people who have so endangered them. As for Andrew Cuomo, he did the right thing — the thing that most of us wanted him to do.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 8/18/14
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