I recently wrote about the secretive nature of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and how he had tried to shut down the development of a book about his rather “complicated” career in politics which was being developed by Michael Shnayerson. Well, that effort failed and the new book, The Contender, will be out at the end of this month. Until then, though, the author has released a preview at Politico with some interesting excerpts.
Among the tastiest of the tidbits in here are some background on just how ambitiously Cuomo has pursued what he clearly felt was his destiny – to be the President of the United States. Unfortunately his path was complicated by a lot more than just the scandals which would eventually engulf his administration. He was a disciple of Bill Clinton and found himself in the unenviable position of sitting on his hands while everyone was trying to figure out whether or not Hillary was going to finally run for the White House again. And if she was, he wouldn’t ever dare to challenge her.
It was late 2012, and Hillary Clinton, her tour of duty as secretary of state just concluded, seemed the inevitable front-runner for 2016, the one Democratic candidate Andrew wouldn’t take on…
Inevitably, questions about her health would reemerge, but for now, Hillary at 65 remained the most experienced prospect in either party. Polls projected her trouncing all comers, from Vice President Joe Biden to the headline-grabbing governors of New Jersey and New York. And that, for Andrew, made for a maddening dilemma. Until Hillary declared herself in or out of the race, big-money Democratic donors would sit on their hands. “It’s really a crazy situation,” one Cuomo supporter admitted. “He’s totally trapped by her.”
It wasn’t just Hillary proving to be a thorn in his side. Cuomo was apparently quite jealous of Elizabeth Warren, who had soared to liberal popularity without – as Cuomo viewed it – putting in the hard work in the trenches which should be required for a top spot in the party.
About all of this, Andrew, as powerful and wily as he was, could do nothing. He had spent his life working up to this moment, plotting each next step. Of his generation of American politicians, he had the single best résumé for a White House run: the time put in at each next station, the solid achievements scored. Yet there was Hillary, blocking his path, the one politician he couldn’t fight.
Now, even as Andrew waited on Hillary, there was a new threat coming up in his rearview mirror. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren had paid none of the dues that Andrew had. She hadn’t started by stuffing envelopes and doing advance work. She hadn’t spent her twenties helping the homeless. She hadn’t gone to the White House to shake a moribund housing agency back to life. She hadn’t suffered the pain of running for office and losing in the sorriest way. Yet there she was, edging up on him: the new hope for his party’s liberal wing.
And finally, even with all of the ethics scandals swirling around him, the author reveals that Cuomo still thinks there is a future in the cards which could see him in the White House. Assuming he rides out these headlines and Hillary either doesn’t run or loses, he may still have a shot. And what does he base this on? His recent ban on fracking in New York.
Antifracking activists were as stunned as the oil and natural gas industries. The governor had hidden for nearly two years behind an ongoing health study, and pushed the hard choice past election day, but in the end he’d come out flatly against fracking. Unproven as the health risks might still be, the list was just too long: birth defects, respiratory illnesses, air and water pollution from benzene, formaldehyde, and more. With that one stroke, much of the state’s Democratic Party came back to his fold. They might not like Andrew Cuomo any more than they had the day before, but this, as Vice President Joe Biden had whispered to Obama when health care passed, was fucking big. Nationally, the fracking ban would weigh on other governors grappling with the issue. It also made Andrew, once more, a serious contender for 2016. Or 2020.
This lengthy preview has certainly put me in the mood to read the entire book. Cuomo remains a powerful figure in New York and, to a lesser extent, in national Democrat politics. And even if it’s all a grand delusion, he still seems to believe that his destiny will lead him to greatness beyond the borders of the Empire State. But more interesting is the insider view of the man’s inner workings. He sounds almost paranoid, but still convinced that all in his path will eventually bend to his will. At the same time, he comes across as clearly being a sycophant to the Clinton dynasty, unable to crawl out from under the shadow of his mentor, the former president, and his wife, the possible future one. Small wonder he seems to go to such great lengths to guard his image, control access to any information about him and play the people around him like checkers on the board.
One last quote from the book’s author sums it up nicely. Who is more Clintonian? Andrew or Hillary? We may have the chance to find out soon.