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So Who Let The Dogs Out?

Andrew Cuomo seems to have turned over a new leaf. The common wisdom is that the man had a penchant for keeping his enemies in the doghouse, well, forever. That was not his late father’s way. I know that because I was Mario’s weekly interlocutor for a lot of years. Oh, you could tick off Mario but sooner or later, he would let you out of the doghouse. There was the time, for instance, when he said after a testy interchange, “Is that what you think?” I said, “Yes sir,” to which he replied, “Who cares?”

Now that Andrew has overwhelmingly won his third term, he seems to be opening the doors of the doghouse. To put it mildly, he and I have not always gotten along that well. I have been writing and talking about some of his perceived transgressions and he has refused to participate on the 29 public radio stations that I head. There are people out there who believe that I have it out for him. As his father would humorously say to me with a twinkle in his eye, “I deny that.” Once Cuomo Senior told me that his dog Ginger thought of me as a “fire hydrant with a neck tie.” 

In any event, the other day during the Roundtable panel on WAMC, there was a furious knocking on the studio door. The folks in the newsroom beckoned me out to tell me breathlessly that the governor was asking to do an interview with me. So we did it on our syndicated Capitol Connection program and it was well received. The governor waited about a week and asked again so we did a second interview. I asked every hard question I could and he answered each with tough minded aplomb. Had it been a boxing match it might have been called a draw, but maybe I flatter myself.

Let’s see -- I asked him about the billions of dollars that New York was giving to Amazon and Jeff Bezos to come to Long Island City. I pointed out that New York already had a lot of people and a scarcity of housing that would only be made worse by adding 25,000 new bodies. He answered that other localities, including New Jersey, had offered even more money and he suggested that if you did the math, New York comes out way ahead. In fact, he showed a little glimpse of Mario-type humor when he suggested that if New York lost in the war over Amazon, the press would have criticized him for that.

If you are a Freudian you might be interested in his constant humorous putdowns of his brother, Chris. As Freud is often quoted (perhaps inaccurately), “There is no joke.”

His weakest answer involved the closing down of the Moreland Act Commission a number of years back. This was the group he and Eric Schneiderman (remember him?) put together to root out corruption. As that group got closer to ground zero, the governor folded it. He said he could do it because he got what he wanted out of the two legislative leaders who have subsequently both been sentenced to jail.

The point is that he gave the best answers he had and even though not all of them worked, you had to admire him for bringing his best. One can only wonder why it took him so long to get to this point. Obviously, this is a better side of Andrew than most of us have seen in the past. Can personality and character change? We’ll find out. As for me, I suspect that our newfound relationship won’t last forever but, hey, what does? Andrew and I had a common friend in Drew Zambelli, who just passed. My bet is that Drew had been counseling him for a long time to show this better side.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.
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