At former Gov. Mario Cuomo’s funeral, Andrew Cuomo gave the speech of his life as he eulogized his late father. The speech received very high marks from everyone I spoke with. There was a real sense of good will emanating from this eulogy, softening Andrew’s edges and humanizing his personality. Andrew should seize this moment.
The younger Cuomo has not always been known as a man who plays well with others. This is an ideal time for a behavior adjustment. It isn’t as if he doesn’t know about this. Upon the publication of his book, Andrew, announced that he was no longer the old “get even, get angry” Andrew who never closed the book on old feuds. If one listened carefully to the eulogy that Andrew gave for his father, there were similar words. On the other hand, no matter what anyone thinks or says, the two men are very different. It is hard to find anyone, other than a few inside Albany power brokers, who have a bad word to say about the old man. By the same token, it is equally hard to find anyone who has worked with him or for him who has a good word to say about Andrew.
Nothing was more important to Mario Cuomo than his children, especially the combative Andrew who, to be fair, did much of the senior Cuomo’s dirty work. Men like the late Mayor Ed Koch could never forgive Andrew Cuomo, who he believed was responsible for the “Vote For Cuomo, Not the Homo” signs that appeared during the Koch vs. Cuomo election feud. There was no faster way of getting on the old man’s bad list than by saying something critical about any of his children. That’s something any father can respect, since most of us feel the same way. Of course, some of our kids behave better than others and Andrew’s eulogy made it clear that father and son were not always on the same page. I get that. It’s one thing for a father and a son to fight with each other — it’s another thing entirely for an outsider to attack either of them. I was quite close to Mario, but when I criticized his son, watch out. Mario exercised the nuclear option.
Andrew’s eulogy for his father was moving but it also had some self- serving political elements to it. That was a little troubling in this setting. For example, Andrew called for peace between those people who believe the police have been overly aggressive and the police, themselves. This occurred just as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was facing what might only be called a police revolt as officers turned their backs on the executive authority. By suggesting that the two sides had to get together, Cuomo was once again pulling the rug out from under the mayor.
Sigmund Freud suggested that our characters are set by the time we are about four years old. So even if Andrew wanted to change his political persona, one questions whether or not he could. Many people admire the man because “he gets things done.” While others think that he’s made many mistakes, he still easily won reelection as governor, even though he lost many votes that he might have gotten had people liked him more. And so, what we might call “likeability” is crucial to Andrew’s political success. If he tries, he could build on that Mario eulogy to gain some likeability traction. Whether he does that or not is up to him. You may remember that Jiminy Cricket stayed on Pinocchio’s shoulder and whistled, “Always let your conscience be your guide.” If Cuomo is smart, he will turn this opportunity into a new beginning. If he isn’t, he could find himself in trouble in the old Andrew way.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 1/12/15