Gov. Cuomo probably couldn’t get away with yanking Attorney General Letitia James’ fingernails in public — even New York’s crazy politics has limits — but no doubt he’d like to try. The governor is a frightfully vengeful fellow.
Political big shot or anonymous government toiler, it doesn’t matter— cross Cuomo, or stand in his way, and rig for heavy weather.
Thursday, James tore the scab off a festering Cuomo administration sore, exposing with hard data the lethal toll taken by the coronavirus in New York’s nursing homes last year. She thereby demolished the governor’s efforts to cover up an astonishing example of maladministration.
History suggests that Cuomo will get even for this betrayal — or burst a vein trying.
And, quite apart from the considerable merits of James’ report, a betrayal it is. The AG would still be New York City public advocate if it hadn’t been for Cuomo’s definitive assistance in the 2018 elections that lifted her to her present perch.
So, how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child, and all that jazz?
Once installed, James proved every bit as petty and partisan as her patron — polishing her progressive cred by ceaselessly hectoring former President Donald Trump, by suing the National Rifle Association and so on.
Thus it is with some irony, but no surprise, that her damning nursing-home report follows in form and function the devastating attack brought by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo against then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007. It would take a hired-woman scandal finally to drive Spitzer from office, but his slide began with Cuomo’s malign notice.
Spitzer, a former attorney general who himself was no stranger to vituperative reprisal, had gone to war with the state Senate immediately upon becoming governor — improperly, if not illegally, siccing the State Police on then-Majority Leader Joseph Bruno for alleged misuse of state aircraft.
Or so Cuomo charged in a 53-page report — a bolt-from-the-blue examination that politically pole-axed an unsuspecting Spitzer.
Sort of like what Tish James did to her patron on Thursday. She obviously was paying attention to the larger landscape during her rise from the New York City Council to New York state’s chief legal officer.
Spitzer’s real sin, of course, was holding an office Cuomo considered rightfully to be his own. Whether James harbors similar ambitions remains to be seen — but who’s to say she doesn’t? And surely the governor can’t complain if that’s so — turnabout being fair play? (Or maybe the monster killing Dr. Frankenstein?)
Revenge, of course, is another matter. No slight is too petty to escape Cuomo’s notice.
Just last month there was the matter of Lindsey Boylan, a former administration functionary who accused the governor of sexual harassment and, shortly thereafter, discovered that her state personnel file had been “obtained” by the Associated Press.
Leaving aside the merits of Boylan’s charges — she’s running for Manhattan borough president and presumably needs name recognition — news organizations don’t “obtain” such records. They have them delivered.
Boylan’s experience parallels that of Mike Fayette, a former civil engineer forced from his state job in 2012 for speaking without permission to a tiny Adirondack-area newspaper. State Director of Operations Howard Glaser actually went on the radio to read from Fayette’s personnel file!
Again, big or small — nobody is beyond Cuomo’s gimlet gaze.
Especially Bill de Blasio.
Bitter gubernatorial-mayoral rivalries are traditional — Nelson Rockefeller vs. John Lindsay was epic — but the torment Cuomo has visited on de Blasio borders on the pathological. Make that sadistic.
True enough, the bumbling, foolish and monumentally lazy mayor brought much Cuomo hell-fire upon himself; even so, beginning on Day 1, if the mayor said “up,” the governor barked “down!”
Since the pandemic, if de Blasio said “open,” Cuomo said “closed,” and vice versa. New York’s scandalously chaotic rollout of the coronavirus vaccine is a product of this childish squabbling, but there is hardly a single aspect of the city-state relationship — housing, education, mass transit and so on — that hasn’t suffered as well.
It’s hard to imagine James attempting to deny Cuomo a fourth term next year or, more to the point, expecting to avoid retribution for Thursday’s report. She knows the record as well as anyone.
But whatever her plans, she just handed the governor a full ration of his own politics, and good for her. If anybody ever had it coming, it’s Andrew Cuomo.