What does the governor REALLY think about debates?
So we hear Andrew Cuomo has decided to debate Republican Rob Astorino. Let’s see if we can get inside Andrew’s mind to review the situation. Fortunately, I have the brand new “Inside Your Mind” app that will reveal Andrew’s thinking, real time. I’ll ask the questions and his unconscious mind will answer.
Me: Governor, what are the reasons someone might or might not debate?
Gov: Well, Alan, as you undoubtedly know, it is not smart to debate an opponent who is largely unknown and who is trailing way behind you in the polls. As a political strategy, it just doesn’t make much sense. Why should I give this schnook anything when we know that he wants to beat me senseless in the election?
Me: Could he embarrass you some way in a debate?
Gov: Actually, he could. If the shoe were on the other foot, I would ask me why I ended the Moreland Act Commission that was looking into public corruption. As you know, Alan, I held a press conference saying that the Commission could investigate everything, including me. Astorino will certainly ask me about that one. He’ll also call me a hypocrite for raising more than 35 million dollars and then calling for public campaign financing. Who needs that?
Me: But Governor, you have some pretty good comebacks. You can point out that his constituents are among the highest taxed in the nation despite the fact that he says that you’re the big spender. You can ask him about his very conservative social positions, including some that many consider anti-woman. None of that will play well in blue state New York.
Gov: You’re right about that but don’t you understand that I could have my cake and eat it, too? I could just use some of my 35 million dollars to buy lots of ads. I could tell the people all of that without risking any embarrassing questions. He’ll probably ask me where all my money came from. After all, those donors were one of the reasons I ended that Moreland Act Commission in the first place. We don’t need to start all that up again. Look at Zephyr Teachout – I beat her three to one.
Me: But you used five million dollars to beat her and she had almost nothing.
Gov: Yeah, I did consider what Astorino could do to me if I debate him. He’d quote everything that Teachout and her lieutenant governor candidate, Tim Wu, said about me. He’ll probably say that they’re Democrats but they had terrible things to say about me and my rich friends. Do I really want to allow that to happen?
Me: Governor, most people think you are very bright but maybe too political. They worry that you spend more time thinking about how to get votes than making progressive changes like those two other governors, Teddy and Franklyn Roosevelt.
Gov: What are you talking about? Even you praised me for my SAFE Act as a profile in courage. Now that was pretty gutsy, don’t you think? We both know that most New Yorkers want a sensible gun control policy. Hmmm, maybe on second thought it wasn’t so gutsy after all. You remember that old phrase, “You can’t preach to an empty church?” Well you can’t do much as a governor if you’re not elected!
Me: A lot of people think you might run for President some day. If you do, the people will expect you to debate. Surely it is the right thing to allow the people to compare your ideas with those of your opponent. You often talk about honesty and ethical behavior. Is it really fair to skip out on debates?
Gov: No and I am going to debate him because it’s the right thing to do. I say, let the people decide.
Me: Good for you!
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 9/15/14