Resign, Andrew Cuomo
"I want to get things done and be judged by results and by making a positive difference, and I can be obsessive in that pursuit," boasts New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in his book American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic — the book he (supposedly) wrote himself about how he did such a great job managing the virus. Since that book was published in October, a devastating second wave of infections has struck New York, claiming roughly 13,000 more lives and counting in the state.
Now Cuomo is reeling under a barrage of pandemic scandals. It turns out his administration concealed data about coronavirus cases in nursing homes, reportedly for fear of federal prosecution. And stories of his vitriolic abuse and threats directed at other Democratic New York politicians are coming out. Yet even all that is only the start of Cuomo's deadly, corrupt incompetence. So in keeping with judging him by his "results," Cuomo should resign immediately and free New York state from his dismal misrule.
The nursing home scandal has been bubbling for nearly a year now. It starts with Cuomo's inexplicable decision back in March 2020 to order nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 cases even if they were still testing positive (instead of setting up some isolated quarantine facility, for instance). A recent Associated Press investigation found that at least 9,056 recovering patients were sent back to nursing homes and long-term care facilities — a number that is 40 percent larger than his administration had previously admitted. This unquestionably worsened the pandemic as it ripped through New York's elderly population.
But that isn't the only number Cuomo fudged on nursing homes. New York Attorney General Letitia James investigated the situation, and found that his people may have undercounted the number of deaths associated with nursing homes by 50 percent. Cuomo then admitted that instead of the 8,500 dead they had been reporting, the true number was over 15,000 — or about a third of the state's total deaths.
The scandal really blew up when the New York Post reported comments from Cuomo's top aide Melissa DeRosa (in his book he writes, "she is the quarterback on my team and is responsible for managing all the pieces"), seemingly admitting they had deliberately faked the numbers as part of a cover-up. His officials "froze," she said, for fear the truth was "going to be used against us" by federal prosecutors.
Angry New York politicians from both parties demanded an investigation. Cuomo is infamously thin-skinned and vindictive, as New York Assemblyman Ron Kim experienced after he signed a letter criticizing Cuomo over the alleged cover-up. The governor called Kim and berated him for 10 minutes, demanding he retract the criticism and threatening to smear him if he didn't. Sure enough, in a later press conference Cuomo accused Kim of being in bed with the nail salon industry. According to another Assembly member, this was just the tip of the iceberg:
I kid you not....my text messages, my DMs, and my inbox are flooded with cuomo stories. So many people have been bullied, mistreated, or intimidated by him.
— Yuh-Line Niou (@yuhline) February 19, 2021
Cover-ups and squabbling aside, the broader truth is that Cuomo has bungled the pandemic basically from the jump. As I have written previously, instead of shutting down the state quickly in the critical early stages of the pandemic, he dithered, procrastinated, and quarreled with New York's top scientists and health care professionals while the virus was spreading like wildfire. As a direct result, the New York City metro area got hammered with the worst regional outbreak in the country. In the following months, Cuomo's compulsive bullying and control freak habits (in his book, he writes "I am a controlling personality") gradually drove an exodus of public health professionals from the state government — including the state health department's director of its bureau of communicable disease control, its medical director for epidemiology, and the state epidemiologist.
Cuomo's domineering micromanagement also tangled up the early stages of the state's vaccine rollout. He threw out the plan the state health department had worked up over months, substituting his own. He put in place strict requirements that only people who qualified could possibly get shots, but then added threats of punishment for organizations that didn't distribute their shots fast enough. The result was chronic delays. (Since then New York's vaccine performance has improved somewhat, but it is still being beaten handily by poor, rural states like West Virginia and New Mexico.)
Cuomo's tenure as governor has been chock-full of stuff like this. Years ago he conspired with a group of corrupt Senate Democrats to abandon the party so Republicans could control the chamber, and he could serve as power broker. (It took until 2018 for leftist primary challengers to turf out the fake Democrats.) His oversight of the New York City subway, which is controlled by a state agency, has alternated between malign neglect and active harm. Indeed, during the pandemic, Cuomo shut down 24-hour subway service — but because the subway was designed to run all the time, night trains have been running empty for no reason, for months. The justification is supposedly extra sanitation to mitigate disease spread, but this could easily be accomplished without closing the subway entirely, and in any case we learned months ago that sanitation is far less effective at halting transmission than masks and ventilation. That kind of performative intervention that seems tough but is really pointless is his signature style.
Lastly, when it comes to corruption, Cuomo is practically Trumpian. He's a guy who quietly slipped legal immunity for hospital and nursing home executives over the pandemic into a budget bill, after they gave him huge campaign contributions. Other companies that have gotten massive state contracts also turn out to have forked over huge campaign contributions to Cuomo. He's a guy who disbanded his own corruption investigation panel when they were closing in on him and his top aides.
In a sense Cuomo's book has the correct title: American Crisis. It's just the crisis he's talking about is himself.