Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fall from grace might be remembered best for its lack of it.
In a classless final act before announcing his resignation on Tuesday, the governor made one last-ditch attempt to convince people that it wasn’t his conduct that was to blame for his downfall, but that he merely tripped over society’s higher new bar for such conduct.
In the end, the governor saw the writing on the wall and did the right thing for the people of New York.
But he did it the wrong way.
The warm-up act for Tuesday’s main event was a sleazy, 45-minute soliloquy by his lawyer, Rita Glavin, who spoke immediately before the governor was scheduled to appear.
In delivering the first blow of the one-two punch, Glavine used her time on the taxpayers’ dime to once again challenge the integrity and thoroughness of Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation into Cuomo’s actions, alleging without evidence that the goal was to bring down Cuomo, not to objectively collect and evaluate evidence.
Gavine also challenged the veracity of the witnesses who came forward and defended the governor’s actions as innocent and taken out of context.
At one point, she incredibly stating about one victim: “The governor did not mean to grope her.”
About another, she said, “If he touched her rear end, he certainly didn’t mean to do it.”
If you think this whole approach of discrediting the witnesses and the report to set up Cuomo’s remarks wasn’t planned down to the letter and endorsed by Cuomo, you don’t know our soon-to-be ex-governor.
Then the governor himself spoke, at first sounding as if he intended to keep fighting, repeating the same excuses and denials for what 11 women claimed he did to them.
After about 10 minutes of what we’d all heard before, the other shoe unexpectedly dropped.
It was then that he said all he had needed to say — what he should have limited himself to saying, and what countless others including this newspaper have been saying for months:
He had become a distraction to the governance of the state and the impending months of impeachment proceedings and investigations would overwhelm and overshadow state operations.
Therefore, he said correctly, he was doing what was best for the state by stepping out of the way.
If he truly loved New York and its people, as he stated in his speech, that would have been the extent of his remarks.
But in typical Cuomo fashion, he couldn’t go out without getting in his shots and bragging about his accomplishments.
There might now be a temptation by some to end the governor’s reign by letting him just fade away, his resignation and humiliation being punishment enough for his actions.
But the sexual harassment allegations contained in the attorney general’s report were serious and credible enough to disqualify him from high office. And he still faces other investigations.
None of those should stop just because the governor no longer plans to remain in office.
Law enforcement officials in a number of counties have said they’re considering criminal charges related to the harassment.
If crimes were committed, they should be prosecuted. No one, not even a future ex-governor, should be exempt.
And the Legislature is still looking into the harassment charges, the covid nursing home scandal and the alleged misuse of government staff to help Cuomo fulfill his $5.1 million covid book deal.
Lawmakers have been spared the need to conduct a lengthy impeachment trial, since the ultimate goal of that proceeding would be to decide whether to remove the governor from office.
But its investigations into the conduct of Cuomo, and his staff, should continue to their conclusion.
New Yorkers deserve to have answers. They don’t deserve to have such serious matters swept under the rug in the spirit of moving forward.
In two weeks, we’ll have a new governor — former Buffalo-area congresswoman and current Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Her job, which she will do for the remaining 16 months of Cuomo’s term, will be to help restore order to state government and integrity to the governor’s office.
She also will have to manage the Delta phase of the coronavirus crisis, the rise in violent crime, the landlord-tenant crisis and a burgeoning, bloated state budget and bureaucracy that continue to drive citizens out of state.
We wish her luck.
No one should be happy about what’s transpired in the last few months. Even if you’re not a fan of Cuomo, you must remember that there are many victims here.
And no one should be gloating over Cuomo’s rise and rapid fall. Hubris is not limited to one individual or political party, and neither is karma.
This will go down as a dark day in state history.
We can and should move forward. But we also shouldn’t forget.