When voters in New York re-elected Andrew Cuomo as their governor two years ago, it was because they believed in his policies and believed in his ability to get those policies enacted.
They didn’t re-elect him to be isolated, distrusted and ineffective.
But as the shadow of the sexual harassment scandal grows, as more details come out about the administration’s attempts to hide and manipulate data about covid’s impact on nursing home casualties, and as more information leaks out about the governor’s use of threats and intimidation to deflect criticism and discourage opposition, it’s becoming clearer by the day that the man voters elected as governor in 2018 is not the man in office right now.
When a governor loses his ability to govern, he loses his ability to meet the needs of the citizens.
And when he’s lost that, he’s lost the ability to serve.
For those reasons, it’s time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to do the right thing for the citizens of New York and resign. And if he won’t do that, then legislators should take steps to remove him from office through the impeachment process.
Despite all the negative publicity that’s come out about the governor in just the past 10 days, it appeared he might be able to at least temporarily fend off random calls for him to step down, at least until the sexual harassment allegations against him had been investigated. The attorney general’s investigation hadn’t yet begun last week.
And all that was known about the nursing home statistics until recently was that Cuomo’s office worked hard to delay their release.
But circumstances have changed dramatically in the last few days.
More women have come forward to allege inappropriate conduct by the governor, basically reinforcing what the others had said.
And the delay in releasing the nursing home data turned out to be more than a simple game of hide-and-seek from the public.
The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both reported Thursday that top Cuomo aides had manipulated the figures to deceive the public about the extent of the death toll and to help the governor secure a lucrative book deal on his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
His involvement in either of those scandals alone would be enough reason to remove him.
But on Sunday, the most powerful politicians in the state Legislature took the extraordinary step of announcing their lack of confidence in the governor’s continued ability to serve as chief executive.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, like Cuomo a Democrat, called for the governor to step down.
“We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, also a Democrat, stopped just short of calling for the governor’s resignation, but sent a similarly clear message: “I too share the sentiment of Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins regarding the Governor’s ability to continue to lead this state.”
Up until that time, only a handful of legislators had come forward with calls for the governor to resign or be impeached.
But the implied blessing of the two Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly gave their followers the political cover to join in the calls for Cuomo to leave office.
By Monday, the number of lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, calling for Cuomo’s resignation or impeachment had grown to nearly 40.
As that was happening, the governor was giving his critics even more reason to demand his removal.
On Sunday afternoon, the governor, behaving like a wounded bear, used a press briefing to send a very clear message to all those in the Legislature who might challenge him, threatening to use the state’s allegedly independent ethics commission and legal system to air their dirty political laundry.
Singling out downstate Democratic state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who has supported Cuomo’s resignation and impeachment, Cuomo said, “If that’s what Sen. Biaggi wants to do, let’s release all the allegations that JCOPE [the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics] and the attorney general and the DAs have about senate members, and then let’s put them out in the public arena, and then let’s decide publicly. … That’s absurd.”
If the governor thinks that kind of intimidation is going to build the kind of goodwill and cooperation with the Legislature he needs to govern effectively, he clearly underestimated his audience.
Would you continue to work with someone who responds to legitimate criticism with such threats?
The legislative leaders clearly see blood in the political waters.
And they’re taking full advantage of Cuomo’s troubles and of the public’s growing distaste for the kind of tactics Cuomo is known for to take out a powerful rival to their political and policy agendas.
If lawmakers, especially those from his own majority party, are no longer willing or able to work with the governor, particularly during such a crucial time with the state budget and covid crisis still unresolved, then it’s time for the governor to go.
And if he won’t leave willingly, as he has stated he won’t, then lawmakers have to go on the record and take the steps necessary to remove him.
Starting right now.