Believe it or not, in my own lifetime a politician who left office disgraced by scandal and poor performance would at least feign having been chastened by the experience. Occasionally an official in that position really would be chastened and would turn over a new leaf; John Profumo in the UK is one famous example, Charles Colson in the U.S. is another. Whatever their personal sense of remorse, though, it used to be that if someone was driven out of public life by self-humiliation you could expect them to stay out as a tacit admission that they’d broken the public’s trust and were no longer fit for office.
Or at least an admission that they wouldn’t win if they ran again and therefore would spare themselves a further humiliation by declining to do so.
Somewhere along the way, that habit ended. Not entirely: I don’t recall any serious effort by Eliot Spitzer to get back into politics, for instance. But as often as not nowadays, disgraced officials bitten by the political bug just can’t accept a life of obscurity in the private sector, however comfortable it might be. Anthony Weiner ran for mayor of New York after resigning from Congress. Al Franken has chattered about running for Senate again someday. Donald Trump is not only running for president again, he’s the presumptive nominee for the 2024 GOP nomination.
Most politicians are shameless but they used to make an effort to pretend otherwise, at least.
The newest member of the no-shame club is the bullying degenerate Andrew Cuomo, who reigned for a decade and has been out of office barely six months yet is already eager to get back in the game. If you were a credibly accused sexual harasser whose inept COVID policies had led to thousands of elderly people dying needlessly, where would you go to announce your comeback?
You’d go to a church, of course.
Cuomo, at a church in Brooklyn today, says that he has apologizes for his old-fashioned ways that made people uncomfortable but "God isn't finished with me yet.""Contrary to what my political opponents would have you believe, nothing I did violated the law or the regulation." pic.twitter.com/FaQ7UBJBAz
— Anna Gronewold (@annagronewold) March 6, 2022
For Chuck Colson, the idea that God wasn’t finished with him yet after his political disgrace meant a religious calling to spread the gospel and do good works. To Cuomo, the only thing God could conceivably want for him is a return to power and the same grubby intimidation tactics that made him feared and despised in New York politics for 10 years.
It wasn’t false piety alone that brought him to church. Cuomo has always done well with black voters and would rely heavily on their support if he mounted a primary challenge this year to his successor as governor, Kathy Hochul. He was there to engage in a bit of light testing-the-waters electioneering before the faithful. And as a concession to the setting, as if to maximize how sleazy his reemergence would be, he framed his pathologically ambitious desire to return to office not in terms of remorse and repentance but as an altruistic fight for justice:
“I am blessed, I have many options in life and I am open to all, but on the question if I am at peace, No I am not. But I don’t want to be at peace, and by the way I don’t think you should be at peace either.“ pic.twitter.com/ABlxA167Fr
— Andrew Cuomo (@andrewcuomo) March 6, 2022
If you want to cancel something — cancel the federal gridlock, cancel the incompetence, cancel the infighting. Cancel crime, cancel homelessness. Cancel education inequality. Cancel poverty. Cancel racism.
Be outraged, but be outraged at what really matters pic.twitter.com/eyQ0YuV4dN
— Andrew Cuomo (@andrewcuomo) March 6, 2022
According to Politico, the congregation had almost no notice of Cuomo’s appearance: “The media announcement that Cuomo would make his first in-person remarks since his resignation arrived about 30 minutes prior to the start of service.” Why he didn’t pack the church with supporters to cheer him on while he spoke is mystifying, especially since he was planning to post the footage of his speech online as part of his unofficial comeback launch. Maybe he assumed an audience of black voters would be so happy to see him, particularly his displays of defiance, that they’d cheer organically.
He thought wrong.
It’s bizarre to me that he continues to frame his resignation as governor as a form of “cancel culture,” a grievance heard far more commonly on the political right than the left. If Trump blamed his political problems on “cancel culture” at a MAGA rally, it’d be a major applause line. For Cuomo to do it in church before a mostly Democratic gathering is strange and must have been baffling to attendees. But it’s in character in one respect: Like Trump, he seems consumed with his own alleged victimhood. If Andrew Cuomo suffers a personal or political setback, it can only be due to unfairness perpetrated by his enemies.
Tish James, the attorney general of New York who led the investigation into Cuomo’s behavior around aides, didn’t mince words in responding to this spectacle last night:
— Brigid Bergin (@brigidbergin) March 6, 2022
I hope he challenges Hochul, whose support in the upcoming gubernatorial primary looks solid. Cuomo will never accept that New Yorkers don’t want him in charge until he receives hard proof. He should run and get the closure he needs.