NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T he media gushes over a supposedly ascendant New York governor Andrew Cuomo. His daily press conferences are purportedly the sort of muscular and animated high drama that Joe Biden should be staging. Robert DeNiro now says he would like to play the Homeric governor in a new pandemic film portrayal. Cuomo seems giddy at the thought.
Democratic politicos are whispering of a Bidexit.
Good ol’ Joe from Scranton would graciously step down and take one for the party. Cuomo then storms the convention. Bernie hands over his delegates in a show of gracious unity. That way, all the “troubles” — Joe’s cognitive impairment, Tara Reade’s sexual-assault charges, the currently dormant Sanders socialist threat — dissipate. Cuomo selects Joe’s promised minority or female — or both — vice-presidential candidate. Or in fact he doesn’t and is free to choose anyone he prefers. Presto, the party hits the campaign trail in August united.
There are problems with such a scenario — namely Biden, and, then, Sanders, not going quietly into the night after a grueling year of campaigning. And then there is Andrew Cuomo’s current underreported but actually spotty performance as governor during the crisis. Hs record has been as anemic as his press conferences have been robust, resulting in the surreal result that he effectively advertises his shortcomings.
Remember that the omnipresent and televised Cuomo was inviting the world into New York even as evidence mounted that the virus was spreading and densely packed cities such as New York were the most vulnerable? Cuomo oddly did little to prevent the state’s trains and subways from becoming the arteries of the epidemic. He neither implemented a social-distancing policy to prevent crowded conditions nor ordered daily cleaning of cars. Much less did he prevent the homeless from turning the subways into a veritable mobile home.
Cuomo himself gave a Robert DeNiro–like rant about being shorted of ventilators — as if he was forced to select who lived and who died, as the virus suffocated thousands. In truth, there was never a shortage of ventilators. New York would soon have an oversupply of them. The debate was never over a shortage of ventilators in New York, but over the validity of some doctors’ claims that using them could, for some patients, be as dangerous as not using them.
Likewise, if Cuomo’s passionate threats, entreaties, and histrionics brought results from the White House, the net effects were still more melodramatic and psycho-dramatic than efficacious: Neither the beds at the Javits Center nor the hospital ship Comfort were utilized by Cuomo. And both quietly disappeared as redundancies. Again, many empty hospital beds went mostly unused under Cuomo’s watch, as real infectious patients were wheeled into nursing homes to infect and thus kill thousands of our most vulnerable senior and invalided citizens. This senseless act of unleashing the virus was the medical equivalent of allowing a famished fox into a locked-up henhouse.
One can cite lots of theories on why New York had the nation’s highest number of COVID-19 deaths, positive cases, and fatality rates per million population. Perhaps the culprit is the densely populated commute corridors into New York City — or its irresponsible Mayor de Blasio. Perhaps a contributor is the cold weather in the North.
Perhaps it is the ubiquity of elevators, subways, and crammed apartment hallways where the virus thrives — and the entire urban/coastal paradigm that it is somehow natural for hundreds of thousands of Americans to be vacuum-packed into relatively tiny places.
In any case, New York currently leads the states in the number of total positive cases, the absolute number of dead, and the per capital fatalities from the virus per million population. Tragically, had New York State managed to keep its fatalities from the virus on par with that in other states of similar population size or even population densities, the evaluation of the United States would be quite different — even though at present the U.S. has already suffered a lower viral death rate per million population (238) than has Sweden (314); France (398); the U.K. (451); Italy (495); Spain (562) — or Cuomo’s New York State (1,367 ), a viral fatality rate per million that’s far higher than that of any nation of any size in the world, at least as known from present data. Given viral morbidity in New York and its environs, and given that the virus spread throughout neighboring states from those fleeing New York, and given its outlier status in the U.S. as a whole, in some sense we are dealing with two epidemics, an American contagion and a greater, more dangerous New York virus.
Chris Cuomo, the CNN news anchor and the younger brother of Governor Andrew, has basked in the reflected glory of his sibling’s transient fame in particular and in general from the uptick in all cable news ratings due to the lockdown of millions of bored American channel surfing in search of any information on when it will all end. We are presented with the apparently normal abnormal scenario of Chris interviewing Andrew — this from a media that is outraged about the nepotism of Ivanka and Jared in the White House, who as of yet have not interviewed Donald Trump on special assignment for CNN.
Cuomo has certainly been in the news recently on several occasions. In August he had a run-in with an obnoxious barroom patron in Shelter Island, N.Y., and seemed unhinged in his rants and threats. Cuomo was videoed threatening to throw the heckling stranger down a staircase, as he leveled profane threats and challenged him to fight — e.g., “I’ll f****** ruin your s***. . . . I’ll f***ing throw you down these stairs like a f***ing punk.”
When Chris Cuomo came down with the coronavirus, he went into quarantine in his basement. He announced, to great CNN fanfare, that he would broadcast his news show from home, as he was locked in and recovering from the virus.
Indeed, when the younger Cuomo finally emerged from his basement after days of serious illness, he announced for the cameras that it was good for the first time to get out again. But, in fact, he had ventured out more than a week earlier — only to be caught in yet another altercation some 30 minutes’ driving time away, with another stranger. The passerby had complained that the querulous TV celebrity was not wearing a mask and was ignoring social distancing, at a time when in theory he was still contagious with an active virus.
The point is not just that Cuomo’s dates and various stories about his quarantine cannot be reconciled. And who cares that CNN once again carried a fake-news stories, this time about one of its anchors emerging stoically at last from his self-imposed coronavirus quarantine?
The rub is that Cuomo has been snarky about supposed jerks who violate supposed social hygiene. He recently blasted Vice President Mike Pence, for example, for not wearing a mask at a recent Mayo Clinic visit. Cuomo even suggested that Pence was channeling the mindset of the know-nothing Trump base: “Everyone knows he [Pence] did the wrong thing. But the criticism misses the fact that a significant part of his base thinks masks are stupid anyway.”
One might argue that Pence, who, like all White House personnel, is tested often for the virus, was not infected when he did not wear a mask and was given exemption by the Mayo Clinic during his visit. In contrast, Cuomo was by his own admission battling an active and contagious case of COVID-19 when the passerby caught him violating his much-celebrated and televised quarantine well before the supposed 14-day limit.
The wonder is not that the Cuomo brothers are in the news. Both are the sons of the famous New York governor, one once frequently mentioned as a reluctant presidential candidate, the late Mario Cuomo. The brothers reside in the celebrity capital of the world in New York. They are accustomed to making news, not just governing or reporting it.
Instead, the mystery is why either frenetic Cuomo is considered especially steady, veracious, or competent, when the truth so obviously belies the legend.