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.