COMMENTARY: In Taking on Trump, Cuomo So Far Has the Weaker Hand
By RICHARD BRODSKY

Richard Brodsky Budget, Campaign Trail, Community, Governance, History, Law, New York State, People, Political Analysis, Politics, Westchester County, NY 1 Comment

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Richard Brodsky. Photo by and courtesy of: H&H Photographers.

ALBANY, NY — March 2, 2020 — The ongoing headbutt-fest between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump shows every indication of being hugely and grotesquely entertaining. The problem is that so much is at stake, we can’t afford to laugh.

Part of the spectator interest is the temperamental similarity between the two men. Don’t get me wrong: Cuomo on his worst day is infinitely more humane and sensible than Trump on his best day. But there’s a convergence when it comes to the disturbing do-as-I-tell-you styles that both men use to wield executive power that fans the flames of the current hostility.

Both expect to have their way. Both push the boundaries of executive power beyond previous usage. Neither man brooks opposition stoically. Both demand personal loyalty even when it conflicts with other values.

Now it involves really serious stuff. The train tunnel under the Hudson. The Green Light law permitting undocumented people to get New York driver’s licenses. Participation by New Yorker air travelers in expedited passenger security checks. The state’s congestion pricing program in New York City. Billions in health care funding.

Trump has his thumb on all of the above. Most recently he seized on Cuomo’s refusal to do a state or federal environmental review of congestion pricing to kibosh the unpopular new fee Cuomo jammed into last year’s budget. The Cuomo comebacks have been predictable: Trump’s “legacy will be that no President has ever told NY to ‘drop dead’ more times than Trump.” Trump is “vindictive and petty and small” and trying to “distract from Omarosa and Manafort and Russia.” That’s all you got?

Cuomo has a winning hand if we view this as an ethical or policy fight. Trump should not be making life more difficult for New Yorkers who need and deserve federal participation in health care, infrastructure and more, if only because we pay so much to Washington.

Cuomo has a losing hand politically. If Trump persists, as is likely, there will be a lot of very angry New Yorkers, be they air travelers, or health care workers, or immigration activists, or environmental activists. That anger will flow to Cuomo.

The attacks have begun. “It works politically for the governor to say it’s Trump’s fault,” said Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas. The governor’s “rhetoric has been unusually meek; he can be pushing much harder on this.”

While Trump will be called out, governors get credit and blame they don’t deserve. Cuomo himself touts results, not efforts. Politics is about results. Whining about Trump won’t feed the admiral’s cat.

There’s little in Cuomo’s political arsenal that fits this crisis. Sharp elbows and settling scores are of scant value against Trump. Cuomo’s only ally is Congress. He will turn to Sen. Chuck Schumer for assistance with little hope of practical impact. Otherwise he’s alone.

Trump is shrewd enough not to overplay. If one has to choose, it seems likely that appeals from New York hospitals, and the new tunnel to New Jersey, may see some leniency. It doesn’t hurt that Trump’s real estate buddies have skin in the game in both areas and are likely to weigh in.

Congestion pricing and expedited air traveler programs are in real trouble. They are easy marks for Trump, and give Cuomo the kind of agita that Trump relishes. At this point, Cuomo seems isolated and defeated. But don’t underestimate him. The ball’s in his court and the story is just beginning.

Richard Brodsky is a former state Assembly member.

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Original publication by Times-Union on March 1, 2020.

https://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Richard-Brodsky-In-taking-on-Trump-Cuomo-so-far-15097246.php 

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Richard Brodsky is a former state Assembly member.

 

Richard BrodskyCOMMENTARY: In Taking on Trump, Cuomo So Far Has the Weaker Hand
By RICHARD BRODSKY

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