Looking presidential, Gov. Cuomo?

So let me start with a modern reality that many In Box readers will hate:  disasters are political events.

From President George Bush’s handling of Katrina to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s approach to last year’s Christmas snowstorm in Manhattan, elected officials are graded on their responses.

Do they look authoritative?  Do they get results?  Do they have a common touch, maintaining control of fast-moving events while also showing one-on-one compassion for people who are suffering?

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was catapulted into the highest tier of American politics by managing to do all those things effectively following the 9/11 attacks.

Which brings us to Irene and Andrew Cuomo.  During his visit yesterday to Keene, it wasn’t difficult to see how people are gauging his leadership so far.  He drew hugs and praise everywhere he went.

Asked by NCPR about the Democratic governor’s performance, Republican state Senator Betty Little gave him an “A+.”  She later upgraded her report card to “A++”.

So far, at least, it’s hard to fault Gov. Cuom’s get-it-done performance.  Even before Irene hit, he marshaled a smaller, leaner state government and put it to work.

The optics yesterday were just about right, too.  The governor wore a pair of work boots that didn’t look too new, or too shiny.  He wore a pair of lived-in blue jeans that actually fit kind of clumsily.  You know, the way regular guys dress.

He also has the common sense to avoid Michael Dukakis-style theatrics.  No climbing clumsily onto a backhoe or donning a fireman’s hat.

It’s fair to point out that there was a time, not so long ago, when Andrew Cuomo didn’t show this kind of confidence.  In 2002, during his first gubernatorial campaign, he stumbled badly, appearing over-eager and impulsive.

His 2005 divorce from Kerry Kennedy suggested a breach between two of America’s political dynasties and drew oceans of nasty ink in New York City’s tabloid press.  “Nightmare in Camelot,” read one headline.

That all feels a long time ago.

Of course, it’s not a sure thing that Cuomo’s adroit handling of the state’s fiscal crisis and his confident leadership after Irene will open a path to the White House.  That road is never straight or sure, as the governor’s father could tell him.

But in 2016, the Democratic nomination will be wide open and Cuomo will be 59 years old.  It’s hard to imagine that his name won’t be on a very short list of top contenders.

So what do you think?  Are you satisfied with the governor’s handling of Irene?  Do you think he has higher political aspirations?  As always, your comments welcome.

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15 Responses to “Looking presidential, Gov. Cuomo?”

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  1. One thing I will say is that for a guy who can be a bit prickly and lacking in charisma, he manages the media pretty well.

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  2. Brian Mann says:

    MOFYC –

    Yesterday’s response wasn’t coming from the media. It was coming from local residents, business owners, and local elected officials (many of them Republican).

    These are people who have seen the governor twice close-up in a week and their response was pretty positive.

    If the governor had shown up and been razzed, taken to task, or criticized, I think the media would have been all over that. (I know I would have been…)

    –Brian, NCPR

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  3. Jim Bullard says:

    He hasn’t been governor that long yet and 2016 is a ways off. I reserve judgement pending further evidence.

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  4. Keith Silliman says:

    You know what? He has been focused on governing, and dealing with issues of major concern to the State. His preparation for and resonse to Irene has been exceptional. Finally a leader who actually leads and gets things done.

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  5. Two Cents says:

    Isn’t this exactly what we expect and exactly how our elected officials are supposed to act and behave?
    Are we so shocked that we forget this and gush all over someone who is finally just doing their job?
    Not to be jaded or trite, i say “thanks” but isn’t this how it should be?
    Let’s not crown someone king for doing the right thing, and doing it right, because this is how our government is meant to perform in such a situation.
    Are we bought so easily?

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  6. Brian Mann says:

    Two Cents –

    I would argue that you are overlooking something. Your comment reflects the widely accepted American view that good government is relatively easy. If politicians were good or decent, the work would get done.

    So the fact that things don’t happen must mean that politicians are crummy or venal or incompetent.

    But the reality, IMO, is that that governing is excruciatingly hard even when you’re not in a crisis.

    Imagine the complexity of coordinating a response on this scale, with this many variables, personalities, jurisdictions, needs, etc…

    So — judge Cuomo however you like on his performance, but don’t underestimate the size of the job.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  7. It's Still All Bush's Fault says:

    In this day of “handing out trophies” to everyone that shows up, I do believe that the Governor be commended for doing the right thing, even if it is nothing more than our expectation. I believe that he has shown leadership since taking office and is aggressively trying to improve the future for NYS.

    It is too bad that 2012 is too soon for him to run for POTUS.

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  8. oa says:

    “Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was catapulted into the highest tier of American politics by managing to do all those things effectively following the 9/11 attacks.”
    Maybe so, for a month or two in reality, and for years after that in the Beltway CW. But the fact is, he hasn’t won an election since 1997. So I guess it depends on your definition of “highest tier.”

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  9. Paul says:

    Wait till the effects of the property tax cap hits locally. Then we can reassess. Assuming that he can shift blame to the localities he may weather that storm.

    He has been acting much like a hard line republican. Suspending all APA and DEC regulations for rebuilding in the Adirondacks is certainly something that would be cheered locally. He is basically giving some folks the ammunition they have been dying for. He has said flat out that these regulations “slow” progress in the area. Without guidance does this mean that folks will poorly rebuild in sensitive areas to simply be washed away in the next storm or next spring? Only time will tell.

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  10. Paul says:

    The governor has done a good job on the PR front that is for certain.

    “Imagine the complexity of coordinating a response on this scale, with this many variables, personalities, jurisdictions, needs, etc…”

    Brian, how much of the clean up work is actually being handled by the state? Are they the ones actually coordinating the work?

    What Giuliani had going for him was that he was the “local” leader.

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  11. Pete Klein says:

    The 2% cap will probably come to haunt him unless he hurries up and does something with unfunded mandates.

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  12. Paul says:

    “”I told them either wheels will roll or heads will roll,” the governors said. ”

    Well if he says that it can be re-opened in 10 days than I am sure it can be done. It might fall back into the river in 15 but it will be open in 10!

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  13. Ben Hamelin says:

    Brian – I’m not sure on the “many inbox readers will hate” opinion – I think most would recognize this as a necessity – in fact, it is ALWAYS a political event in the sense that it is our public servants and government that are called upon to organize and facilitate the response – there are no private organizations hired to handle these things.

    With that being said, I think these moments are when we most pine for our “leaders” to assert themselves and come to our aid. And yes, we should expect ALL of our “elected” leaders to be able to handle themselves in the manner Cuomo is – that is, without the theatrics, just by being human.

    I think he’s doing a great job, not only by personally visiting Keene and other areas, but by calling for service this past weekend, and for getting the federal government up to speed and responsive.

    Regarding presidential aspirations, I disagree with “It’s still Bush’s fault” – 2012 would be too early, he will be better served with multiple NYS terms prior to getting into the national race – and yes, @Paul and @Pete Klein, this is still a young governorship, there is lots to be played out over the coming year, including the tax cap.

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  14. tootightmike says:

    Governor Cuomo seems to be a clever man…but we have a clever man in the White House right now, and he’s not living up to expectations. Let our governor prove himself…let him serve as our states top executive for a couple of terms, and then we’ll see what we think.
    Right now Obama is president, and I’m still hoping for his agenda to take hold and move us forward.

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  15. Two Cents says:

    Brian,
    I never underestimate the size of a job, I’ve been a contractor for over thirty years. The time for back slapping and gushing is when the job’s done.
    I don’t think Government is easy (good or bad) but if you run for the job and get it, then you better be good at it or step aside.
    So, i’m glad he’s competent, is skilled, and takes it all serious as a heart attack, but that is exactly what i expect of him, that is what he alleges his abilities are by merely running for office.
    So he does what he says he can do, for that you get paid, thanks, and even admiration, but not the keys to the city or the crown and the throne.

    Tough love.

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