Reviews | Andrew Cuomo and how a political dynasty dies

Mario Cuomo could be verbally combative but also witty and self-deprecating, joking that he had a “face made for the radio”. For every story on an angry phone call, there are many more trivia about little acts of kindness or grace. He didn’t like a lot of the articles I wrote for Newsday, but when I won an award for a series claiming that he had, in his early years in office, failed to live up to expectations high political insiders and his own dazzling rhetoric had going for him, he sent me a handwritten note with his congratulations. Another time he mumbled a less than favorable story I wrote for Mother Jones, which he called “Mother Turtle, Mother Anyway” and then lent me a book by lawyer Laurence Tribe because he thought I should consider studying law.

When my editors were convinced he would run for president in 1988 despite his disavowals, I spent six months reporting what was supposed to be the final profile, reuniting with dozens of classmates, professors. , legal mentors, neighbors, relatives, political allies and adversaries. There emerged a consensus that Mario Cuomo’s early defeats and ignominy, especially his loss in the New York mayoral race in 1977, deeply shaped his subsequent decisions. Friends have described a competitor so determined to win that he still challenges a decision that resulted in a tie for first place in his law class – but also an insular and insecure politician inclined to withdraw from contests he feared losing or situations where he felt he should give up control.

Mario Cuomo offered various reasons for rejecting the demands he made for the presidency, saying he was not convinced there was a need, that his candidacy lacked justification, or that there was too much work to be done. accomplish in Albany. It’s hard to imagine her son suffering from the same doubt or stepping away from the plane that was waiting on the tarmac to take Mario Cuomo to New Hampshire in 1991. Andrew Cuomo – who celebrated his TV stardom by signing a book deal about his heroic role in an ongoing pandemic – seemed to believe in its own hype.

Watching Andrew Cuomo’s final days reminded me of one of his father’s favorite parables, about the wasp and the frog (more commonly referred to as a scorpion, but Mario Cuomo always used a wasp). The wasp asks a frog to cross a river. The frog is suspicious, but the wasp points out that if he stung her, they would both drown. The frog accepts logic. In the middle of the water, the wasp strikes. As they drown, the wasp explains, “I couldn’t help myself. It’s in my nature.

The legendary wasp has displayed a greater self-awareness than Andrew Cuomo, who even now seems to fail to understand the depth of his self-destructive behavior. He leaves Albany as he arrived in 1983, convinced of his ability to fight his way to yet another shattering victory. He wanted a fourth term to surpass his father’s tenure as governor. In the end, he will not even manage to equal his father’s record, in longevity or in gravity.

Mario Cuomo’s very public chatter about his presidential outlook has earned him the epithet of “Hamlet on the Hudson.” But at least in this regard, Andrew Cuomo indeed surpassed his father as a true Shakespearean figure, whose pride and love of power for the sake of power had tragic consequences for many.