Old and busted: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will take on Chuck Schumer! New hotness: Governor AOC? Despite not having a dog in this particular fight, Ocasio-Cortez released a statement this afternoon demanding that the Democrat-controlled New York state legislature conduct a “full investigation” into Cuomo’s nursing-home scandal.
Seems like Cuomo might be losing his edge, but don’t count him out yet:
— Katie Glueck (@katieglueck) February 19, 2021
The Love Gov has one thing going for him, and it ain’t philos. Vanity Fair notes that Cuomo has extricated himself from scandal in the past by essentially bullying everyone into submission, leaving him more popular with voters than colleagues in Albany. “People are f***ing scared to death of this man,” one state-senate Dem said on the record, and not for no good reason — as Cuomo has already proven:
Early in Cuomo’s run as governor, a close aide said the administration operated at either of two speeds: “Get along and kill.” Cuomo is capable of nuance, but a decade later, that’s basically still true. “People are fucking scared to death of this man,” says Alessandra Biaggi, a 34-year-old state senator who won her Bronx-Westchester seat in an upset in 2018. “A lot of legislators normalize the governor’s abusive behavior. But this was such an egregious admission about what happened with nursing homes that if you stay silent, you’re basically condoning it. Fifteen thousand people lost their lives, and their families deserve to know what happened here.” …
[A potential Trump administration investigation] was an entirely realistic political concern—but it also looked like a cover-up. Even if the data delay was entirely benign, the tight control was characteristic of Cuomo. Nothing significant happens in state government—tax reform, school shutdowns, turning over data to the state legislature—until he determines that the timing is right (or, in the case of releasing the nursing home death count, a court orders him to do so). Biaggi and Ron Kim, an assemblyman from Queens, responded by introducing a bill to strip Cuomo of the emergency powers he was granted last March to deal with the pandemic. Kim followed up by accusing Cuomo of obstructing justice, in a letter cosigned by other lawmakers; he says the governor then called and threatened to “destroy” him (Cuomo’s spokesman denies such a threat was made). Cuomo returned fire, accusing Kim of lying about the phone conversation and of running a “racket” involving donations from the owners of nail salons. “It’s just a smear and a distraction,” a Kim spokesman says. “Those claims have already been refuted.”
The intended audience for the governor’s brushback pitch wasn’t simply Kim, but the entire legislature. “His thinking is, Don’t fuck with me. Remember who I am. Don’t mess with me, and don’t mess with my staff,” a Cuomo insider says. “So far the polls suggest that the public has made a determination on nursing homes—and his numbers are fine. I think what he’s banking on is that this stays a political noise fight, that people are done with the nursing home debate and just want their school open and their bar open and their taxes down. I don’t know.”
The intervention by Ocasio-Cortez might signal an entirely new dynamic. Vanity Fair notes that the Democratic majority in the legislature has gotten younger and more progressive, and with it more assertive. Ocasio-Cortez seems to hint at this with her remark about the “return to co-equal governance,” especially in the context of what we know now about Cuomo’s personality issues. That looks very much like a shot across Cuomo’s bow, coming from someone who’s not been in position to truly experience the brunt of the Love Gov’s bullying. It looks like the younger progressives are not impressed with who Cuomo’s dad was back in the day, and are even less impressed with the current flavor of Cuomo. That could mean very bad news for the governor if the younger activists really start pushing against Cuomo in the legislature, where they will find plenty of allies across the aisle.
Cuomo tried to go back on offense today in his presser, but instead he just remained stuck on offensive. Questioning his lies means “unscrupulous attacks” on “public health professionals,” according to Cuomo, which is absolute demagoguery at its basest and most craven:
Cuomo adds that people asking questions about NY nursing homes are being "cruel to the public health professionals who dedicated their lives to public health service" and "don't deserve political attacks and unfounded, unscrupulous attacks" seeing as how NY "follows the science." pic.twitter.com/TAfBgO2Nna
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) February 19, 2021
Let’s stipulate to the idea that this is an actual defense. If it’s true, why not have the state legislature open that full investigation Ocasio-Cortez wants? Why did they not simply cooperate with the DoJ in the first place? Perhaps some enterprising reporter will ask Cuomo that question, but he or she might want to have their Kevlar underwear on when they do.
Update: Rewrote headline.