I know a lot about the Cuomos
I know a lot about the Cuomos. I was on the air with Mario Cuomo for so long that I literally forgot whether our weekly show lasted for twelve years or eighteen years. It busted up when Mario got mad at when I called out his son, Andrew, for taking on Carl McCall who, at the time, seemed to have a lock on the Democratic nomination to run for governor of New York. Andrew meant a lot to his father and mother and I took it from both barrels when Mario questioned why I had to do it. He made it very clear to me that I had hurt him in the eyes of his family. When I told him that the resulting brouhaha and our subsequent split had caused chaos in my family, he threw that back at me and said, “Your family?!”
There’s no question that Mario loved his son and said so again and again. On the other hand, the father knew the son’s faults, just as good fathers often do. Kids can sometimes cause chaos in families. I don’t care if they are Italian or Jewish or Polish families, we fathers love our children. Just look at the relationship between Joe and Hunter Biden. That father-son thing is probably one of the most dangerous land mines for a politician.
I have always harbored some internal guilt over disappointing my friend Mario over the issue of Andrew, his number one son. So it has been with some trepidation that I continually write about his kid and that kid’s character.
I’m pretty sure that Andrew doesn’t like me. I have already written that Andrew, not that long ago, decided that he would try talking to me on a weekly schedule. It was fun until it wasn’t. True to type, Andrew screwed up twice in our conversations, once by using the ”n” word as part of a quote describing how early Italian Americans were treated and once again when he said that he was inviting his mother and daughters to join him for Thanksgiving at the Governor’s Mansion when he was specifically warning everyone else not to travel because of COVID-19. While both incidents could have been avoided and while he clearly blamed me for his words (he never showed up again), it was typical Andrew. It was exactly the kind of thing that had been driving me crazy about the guy forever. I have nicknamed him “tough guy Andrew” and it’s the reason people call him a bully and explains why so many former friends are no longer with him.
Don’t get me wrong — being a tough guy can pay many dividends in life. He may well end up governor again. While poll after poll shows that people don’t want him to run for another term, but when I ask who should be governor, there is no one else that they can think of. Up to now, Andrew has seemed to be untouchable. The people around him, the old guard, are not exactly up to the standard of FDR’s kitchen cabinet. People like Larry Schwartz and Joe Percoco are not quite Harvard material.
My problem is that the old guilt that I feel from hurting Mario’s feelings is balanced in my mind against the certainty that Andrew continues to screw up and behave in ways that I have been critical of for years. One thing is for sure — there are a lot of competitors who will do anything to get him. There are also a lot of people out there who continue to admire him. Whether you like him or not, you had better believe that he is not a quitter and that those who continue to hate him do so at their own peril. As for me, I just can’t get Mario out of my mind.
Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].