The following appears in the April 24-30, 2015 issue of the Long Island Business News:
If you’re interested in learning what makes Gov. Andrew Cuomo tick, I recommend you read Michael Shnayerson’s “The Contender: Andrew Cuomo, A Biography.”
This book is not hagiography; it portrays the man, warts and all. The only time Shnayerson goes overboard is when he argues that Cuomo is the “most tantalizing Democrat of his generation…, a prince in waiting,” and that “the only question is when” he runs for president.
What makes the book a worthy read is that it traces the development of Cuomo’s rude and ruthless behavior in dealing with people – even loyalists – from his youth in Queens County to the governor’s mansion. Here’s a sampling of what people who have known Cuomo throughout his life have thought of him:
As a young adult: “Andrew was a big, athletic kid, somewhat cocky, brandishing an outer-borough toughness and challenging those around him.…”
He was “…abrasive at 19.” Referred to as the “Prince of Darkness,” Cuomo “had no real friends, no colleagues, only people he controls. Everyone else he considers his enemies. To him there is only one agenda, and it’s his.”
As Gov. Mario Cuomo’s right-hand man: “…his father’s all-knowing, all-purpose henchman…his father’s heavy…he was a nasty piece of work who took delight in firing and cutting down to size people decades older…you do not want him mad at you. He takes no prisoners.”
At the Department of Housing and Urban Development: “…arrogant and obnoxious…. He yelled at me in a way that my own parents haven’t yelled at me…. He was sort of at your feet or at your throat…he could come on like a thug, in your face, talking down.”
During his failed 2002 run for New York governor: “…his way of dealing with staff or things…he doesn’t like is to play mind games with people and make them feel small, and let others do the dirty work of telling someone something they don’t want to hear…blaring his obnoxiousness for all to suffer…his arrogant, abrasive, controlling and…even mean-spirited qualities played a big role in his defeat by Mr. [Carl] McCall.” “…his grating personality has sullied what could have been a promising campaign….”
As attorney general: “Andrew said something negative about everyone…. No one was competent. Everyday it was a different person.” “Andrew could play one against the other, just as his father had done.”
As governor: “All power and all control – that was Andrew’s management style.” “Tough, nasty vindictive…He will do whatever he can do to punish you, only you won’t know it because he won’t do it to your face…he was also vengeful, bullying, mean-spirited, conniving, not always true to his word, and very secretive…a compulsive manipulator.”
Not a pretty picture.
Yet, while Shnayerson concedes that Cuomo is a man who has “seized power at every opportunity, alienated allies and rivals alike and micromanaged to a point of obsession, bringing to mind another less celebrated president – Richard Nixon,” he still insists the governor can be a contender for the office of president.
He even believes that if Hillary Clinton is elected and reelected president, Cuomo can still become the nominee in 2024 when he will be 67.
However, Shnayerson has failed to grasp that when a politician screws friends and foes alike, it eventually catches up. And it has with Cuomo. The base of his party and members of the Legislature don’t trust him, and he has a hard time finding talented people to fill senior positions in his administration.
It also foretells why Cuomo would fail as a presidential candidate. To make a serious run one must attract, trust and empower hundreds of people to organize campaigns in dozens of primary and caucus states. A mean-spirited control freak can not succeed at putting together such an organization.
Cuomo is a “contender” all right, but for the “Misanthrope Award,” not the nation’s highest office.