Andrew Cuomo and the limitations of Albany politics

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise discovered this photograph of Governor Andrew Cuomo meeting former DOT worker Mike Fayette, who was fired by his administration for speaking with the press. (Source: Adirondack Daily Enterprise)

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.

26 Responses to “Andrew Cuomo and the limitations of Albany politics”

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  1. A leopard can’t change his spots. He’s always been a bully. And bullies can often hide that trait for a time but it also comes out in two circumstances. One is when the bully is truly challenged. The other, which is this case, is when the bully feels so invulnerable that he loses discipline and lets the mask drop. This will not play well in the party that likes to think of itself as of the people who work for a living.

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  2. The Original Larry says:

    Cuomo is a self-important, mean spirited, petty tyrant who never should have let his reach exceed his grasp. He so obviously cannot handle it.

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  3. newt says:

    ABC News yesterday. http://abcnews.go.com/Business/ny-state-worker-forced-retire-praising-employer-media/story?id=18566894

    I’m not a follower of either, but is not often true that wither goest Drudge, Fox must follow?

    Interesting when NYT and Drudge are on the same side. Chris may have really started something (well, reported what Cuomo’s hubris started).

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  4. Peter Hahn says:

    The guy who shouldn’t have talked to the press is Howard Glaser. It’s still a pretty small story but it could go national. Now its nasty, a whif of sex and a presidential aspirant. Before, it was just unfair.

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  5. Pete Klein says:

    To the extent Cuomo thinks he has a chance of becoming President, he is deluding himself.

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  6. mervel says:

    Well a main trait of being an ego-maniac or a sociopath is self delusion.

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  7. mervel says:

    But Brian has a great point, I mean this guy is a day to day, way way down the chain state blue collar worker and you have the state machine going after him in the most personal of ways? What does that say about what would happen to any of us, if we got in the way?

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  8. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Like father, like son. Power, that’s all they’re after. As I’ve said before, wanting to be President should be an automatic disqualifier!

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  9. Kent Gregson says:

    Oh Andrew, get over yourself and clean up this distraction before you loose your top advisior.

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  10. The Original Larry says:

    At least the father was an effective public speaker. The “it-doesn’t-take-10-bullets-to-kill-a-deer” rant was a bizarre admixture of hysteria and arrogance usually seen in the Third World.

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  11. newt says:

    I wonder how far it will go?

    As several have commented, this David vs. Goliath angle is very sexy to both left and right sides of the media. As I have said before, the media does not have a “liberal” bias, in has a “big, messy, story” bias (look how the BBC can’t stop overcovering this basically sad and cheesy Pistorius mess).

    The idea of Cuomo caught up like some kind of tragic Greek play in his own flaws also draws them, as it should.

    Finally, does Cuomo have a natural constituency, like Hillary and Obama, to rally around him, or just his inner circle and the Albany political class?

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  12. jeff says:

    Is my irritation over this issue enhanced by annoyance with Cuomo’s general arrogance or mostly by the oppression of an employee trying to do something he though was right?

    The employer (NYSDOT) says it won’t speak about personnel issues but somehow Glaser was given access to those personnel records He wasn’t the manager of the Department of Transportation. What right did he have to aquire that information and supply it to the public? As an aid someone had to give him permission to have the information and speak about it publically. If he sought the information on his own, in defense of the governor, what rules has he broken? The rule not to offend the public trust.

    Glaser needs a comeuppence and as his boss, so does Cuomo. Both could use some humble pie. If Glaser did this on his own to shield Cuomo that tells the kind of people Cuomo surrounds himself with: self-important with visions of power.

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  13. mervel says:

    That is fascinating. You have a very rule bound, contract defined structure with multiple sets of rules and policies against disclosing personal information and Personnel files of employee’s, yet here we have a top official a part of that structure doing just that in a very public way. Where is the union for this guy? To me this is one of the prime reasons you have an employee union in government to protect workers from abuses by the power structure. But then again who knows what those relationships are?

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  14. Mayflower says:

    Yes. Mervel has it right. Well-said.

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  15. marcusaurelius says:

    I am intrigued by the fact on one hand Cuomo wants to be President, but on the other he so completely lacks the temperament to run a national campaign. Think of all the criticism both presidential candidates endured this last year. For someone who needs complete control, think of all the serendipitous things happen, on a daily basis, in a presidential campaign. For someone who doesn’t can’t seem to grasp the diversity of his own state (especially upstate/downstate, rural/non-rural) how will he grapple with the differences within the 50 states? His head will explode in a month.

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  16. The Original Larry says:

    Like many another aspirant to high office Cuomo has a poor grasp of the necessities (personal, professional, philosophical) of the office. That’s why the presidential campaign process is so long and arduous: so that unsuitable (for whatever reason) candidates can be weeded out. Howard Dean comes to mind.

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  17. mervel says:

    Not a totally poor grasp. One of the characteristics that many of our politicians hold is destroying your enemies. Now I don’t think this guy is an enemy of the Gov and I don’t think the Gov sees him as an enemy (how could he be given his position at the DOT?), I personally believe this is warning shot to government employees who might even think about talking to the press, particularly at higher levels. If we did this to a regular working person think what we will do to you. This guy was used as an example.

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  18. newt says:

    If it was a warning shot to others, the gun that fired apparently blew up instead, and the ship of Cuomo’s political future seems to be taking on some water.

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  19. mervel says:

    Yes politically and externally it was probably a mistake. However it may have worked in keeping others very quite. Most people need their jobs, I do, if I worked for any part of the state in any capacity, I would run from Brian Mann.

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  20. Rancid Crabtree says:

    I think Jeff and Mervel hit the important point- why was this guys personal history made public? I hope he sues and wins! I hope someone is arrested and does jail time for this. Our public officials have gone without fear for far, far too long.

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  21. Peter Hahn says:

    What Glaser said was that the info was publicly available through freedom of information, so he wasnt doing anything ilegal. Sleazy maybe, vicious maybe, but not a jailable offense.

    Mervel’s point about this being what public employee unions are for is a good one. It must be that the state followed the contractually agreed upon rules.

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  22. Peter Hahn says:

    Whats weird is that as a warning shot, it only works if everyone hears about it. And when that happened, they claimed that he wasnt fired for talking to the press, but really for the other stuff. In which case, why fire him in the first place if he was already punished for the other stuff.

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  23. mervel says:

    Yeah they screwed it up pretty bad. However I think it worked, I think anyone working for the state got the message pretty clearly.

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  24. Kathy says:

    “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
    ― Abraham Lincoln

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  25. Paul says:

    “That’s why the presidential campaign process is so long and arduous: so that unsuitable (for whatever reason) candidates can be weeded out. Howard Dean comes to mind.”

    That is the real problem with the process. It can “weed out” reasonable people. As far as democrats go, Howard Dean is a totally reasonable guy and I personally would rather have a Vermont doctor (and native NY’er by the way) as a politician in Washington than some of these lawyers we have running things.

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  26. Paul is spot on. The process can weed out nuts but it can also weed out reasonable people. Take the example of Howard Dean. All he did was act a little enthusiastic trying to fire up a group of his campaign workers. That was a “crime” worthy of a political crucifixion?

    That’s exactly what’s wrong with our political process. Real human beings are discouraged from participating in politics by stuff like this. That’s why we have so many sell outs and phonies. This is OUR OWN DANG FAULT.

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