The story about state Transportation worker Mike Fayette’s dismissal by the Cuomo administration for talking to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise hit the London Telegraph today.
At issue now is the fact that Andrew Cuomo’s most visible senior aid, Howard Glaser, used an AM talk radio platform to attack Fayette, tearing him down by lingering lovingly over the details of Fayette’s past personnel problems.
It was a performance in the grand old tradition of Albany politics.
Take no prisoners. Get personal, get ugly, put the other guy out of the fight in round one.
Doesn’t matter that Cuomo and Glaser are big fish, while Fayette is small potatoes. Give him both barrels.
The problem, of course, is that Andrew Cuomo isn’t playing to an Albany audience, and he hasn’t been for a long time.
Coyness aside, Cuomo is one of a half-dozen Democrats lined up for a shot at the White House in 2016. Factor in his campaign skills and his record and he probably rises to a list of the top-three contenders.
But the kind of scorched earth stuff that happens on the banks of the Hudson River? Using Fred Dicker’s talk radio show to hammer down a guy in the North Country who literally fixes potholes?
That stuff doesn’t play well on the big stage.
It doesn’t help that the Adirondack Daily Enterprise has turned up a photograph of Fayette in blue jeans and a hard hat shaking the governor’s hand.
It also doesn’t help that all this mess plays into two narratives that Andrew Cuomo really doesn’t want hanging around as he builds his brand nationally.
The first is that he’s obsessive about controlling the media narrative, so much so that his team is willing to axe a rank-and-file highway repair guy for giving a reporter a positive interview about his team’s heroic flood response. Yuck.
Taking to the airwaves, Glaser spent a lot of time trying to debunk this idea. He did it in exactly the kind of way that keeps the idea very much alive.
The second narrative is that there are still shades of the old Cuomo hanging around. The old Cuomo who picked self-damaging fights, the guy who nearly split the party in the 2002 gubernatorial race.
That old persona has, to a remarkable degree, been put to rest in the public’s mind.
Cuomo has established himself as the kind of guy who rolls up his sleeves, keeps his eye on the main prize, and knows how to laugh at himself.
But the Mike Fayette story puts that whole self-reinvention back in play.
I’ve already said that I think Cuomo owes Fayette an apology, not to mention his job back.
While he’s at it, Cuomo should also make it clear to his taxpayer-funded public information staff that their job is to inform the public, not control the political narrative.
I think those are the right things to do. But I also suspect that walking this whole mess back, sooner rather than later, is good national politics.
So far, this has been limited to Drudge, the New York Times and the London Telegraph. If next week is a slow news week, it could very easily be on Fox News, MSNBC and Huffingtonpost.