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Gov. Cuomo On WAMC's Roundtable 11/5/20

File photo: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Pat Bradley
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

WAMC's Alan Chartock speaks with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Nov. 5, 2020.

Good morning. Welcome back to The Roundtable. We now go to Dr. Alan Chartock along with the governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo. Good morning, Governor.

Hello, hello.

Hello to you, sir. It’s Alan here. Let me ask you a question, Governor. A lot of our stomachs are falling out right now. I don't know how your stomach is doing. But it does seem awfully close. Somebody wrote us a letter this morning, pointing out that Barrett and Kavanaugh were both on the Trump team in deciding elections in the past. Before he appointed them to the Supreme Court. So I got a lot of questions to ask you. Let's start with what do you make of where we are at this moment in this day?

I think this is where we were going to be, Alan. This is our best case. Biden was going to win by a landslide. Nobody credible ever said that. This is a divided nation, we always know it was going to be a close election. We knew it was going to be a complicated election, early mail in ballots, early voting, same day voting. State said it was going to take days to count the vote. You look at the way the vote’s going, it looks like Joe Biden is going to win. Trump is suing. No kidding. The man said for weeks, just listen to him. He tells you where he's going. If I lose, it's because there was fraud. Yeah, he's gonna try to sue and try to get to the Supreme Court. You and I talked about that.

We did.

I said on your show, he's going to sue and try to get the Supreme Court, but the votes are the votes and he's going to lose on the votes. And no Supreme Court is going to overturn a democratic election where they counted the votes. They're not going to flush their total integrity for that. I don't believe that, and there would be anarchy, and there should be, but I don't think it comes to that.

And like you said, they're gonna be, there could be anarchy. What do you mean by that? You mean, people would go out in the streets? Would there be pots and pans? Would people hold up traffic? What do you think? What does anarchy mean?

You know, I think the Supreme Court, even if he tried it, I don't think he gets to the Supreme Court, because I don't think he's going to have any bona fide argument. I mean, look what he's saying, stop counting. I'm ahead now. Stop counting now that I'm ahead. I mean it’s so laughable. They literally are flagging his tweets they’re so incredible. So he's not going to have a bona fide argument. You know, people are funny, you know, people are worried about themselves. You think these Supreme Court justices are going to make a mockery of their entire profession? I don't think so.

So have you spoken to Biden lately?

I've been speaking to his people, I haven't spoken to him the past couple of days.

And what are his people saying?

Hey, you know, this is they always said, that’s why, you know, I'm not shocked. The whole conversation has always been, it's going to be close, the whole conversation has always been it's going to be long and complicated. And the states said, it's going to take days before they can count the votes. So I'm not surprised by any of it. And frankly, I'm encouraged by the way the numbers look.

Now, I don’t want you to hang up the phone. But I ask you a question. If Biden loses, then all bets are off. Would you be positioned to run for president?



Click. That’s the hang up. Click.

I get it. That's a good one.

Yeah, no, he's not losing. He's going to win. And that is such great news. He's going to win. Feel good. It's not going to be today, tomorrow. They're going to have stupid lawsuits. He's going to win. Thank God, thank God. We can start to unify this country and get it back to where it was.

Oh, what do you make of the polling?

And in what regard?

In regard to how inaccurate it turns out, the polls were. I must say, you know, I was looking at them and taking some solace from it, but it turns out they were wildly inaccurate. And so I'm asking you, what should we do about that? Should we take another look at polling? Should there be rules? What do you think?

Well, look, it's not the first time the polls have been inaccurate, right. But Biden does win the popular vote, right? And people forget that. And we really should have a popular vote. I mean, why does my vote count less than someone in Georgia? You know, democracy, but we really should get back to a popular vote. And I think this election makes it clear again. But in these battleground states, it was always close. We always knew that. I didn't, I didn't believe the polls. This is such an emotional election, who's going to tell you the truth, who turns out? But I think anyone who thought it wasn't going to be close, Alan, I just I don't think that was reality.

So talk to me about Mitch McConnell, you've had a big problem with McConnell, obviously, because you need the money for the state. And you've made the point again, and again. Now McConnell's up by a couple of votes in the Senate. You got Nancy Pelosi. And if you're right, Joe Biden would be the president. Where does that leave New York right now?

I think McConnell, I think these Republicans had this scare of their lives. And I think Trump was the polarizing effect. That's who he was. I don't believe he started the division. But he marketed the division because he's a marketing man. And he marketed religious division, and racial division, and on the social issues, guns, women's right to choose, he was divide and conquer. And he saw the division and he saw the cracks in society, and he ran around placing wedges in those cracks and then hitting them with a hammer. That's who he is. And he polarized the Senate. And the Senate, the legislators, their intention is to find a compromise and make a deal. I'm the chairman of the National Governors Association. I talk to the Republican governors all day long. They need a stimulus package. They spent money on COVID, their revenues are down. Trump created the partisan gridlock. Biden, is, by definition, collegial and unifying. And that's going to be all the difference. Look at this election, the country's 50/50. We are a nation that now defines ourselves by opposition. Oh, you are red and I’m blue, you wear a mask, then I'm not wearing a mask. You say COVID’s real, then I'm saying COVID’s not real. We define ourselves by opposition by our differences. The nation's franchise is over because the franchise originated on differences. We have to get back to definition by commonality and what unites us, and that's Biden.

Is Senator McConnell more likely to make a deal after the election?

Certainly, certainly.

And he'll do that. But he has some very conservative members of the Senate, his senate caucus. How does he bring them over?

He has conservative members. I'm telling you, even the Republican states need help. And the conservative members, this is why it was so hypocritical of McConnell. You know, who subsidizes McConnell's state, New York does? You know he can't hurt New York. We’re his piggy bank. Why I lament about SALT because they took more out of the New York piggy bank, and we subsidize his state. This never made sense for any of them. His, McConnell's governor, I did a press conference with saying an historic deficit and he needs funding. This was Trump polarization paralysis. That's what it was. And Biden will be the opposite.

Okay, let's go to the state. Republicans in the state legislature are celebrating their pickups on Tuesday saying it's important to prevent a super majority in the State Senate. State party chair Nick Langworthy also said it's time for a bigger check on your COVID related, your COVID related checks on power next session. Does the outcome of the state races change your outlook for the 2021 session in any way?

Yeah, two things. I said this on your show before but it's an intelligent nuance that the reporters still haven't figured out. Check on my COVID power. Here's what the law said, if they ever read the law. I can do an emergency order. If the legislature doesn't like it, they reverse it. With a simple majority, that's all. They reverse it with a simple majority, they get on the telephone, they have their virtual meeting, and they reverse it. I've done dozens of executive orders, they haven't reversed any. And all they had to do was have a simple majority and reverse it. So this excessive power of COVID, the reporters don't know what they're talking about. And they've allowed them to say it over and over again. And they never said what do you mean, excessive power? The legislature has convened multiple times. Why didn't they convene, and undo an executive order? I mean, the unintelligence of our political dialogue is one of the problems here. I think, first, don't count your chickens before they're hatched. There are still ballots being counted. I think the Democrats are going to do better in the house races and the Senate races and the assembly races when they count all the ballots. But it shouldn't have been this close. I agree with that. I believe the Republicans beat the Democrats on the messaging. I think they branded democrats as anti law and order. And that, that hurt Democrats, it was untrue. The Democrats, we are against the injustice in the criminal justice system. We're against the racism and discrimination in policing. What happened with George Floyd is a disgrace, and it was a long line of cases. Eric Garner here in New York, that has to stop. But we're pro public safety. When crime goes up, it’s the black and brown and the poor people who get hurt the most. So you can be pro public safety, but anti injustice. And that's where we are. One bad police officer spoils the bunch, you know, one priest, abused as a child. That doesn't mean you're anti Catholic Church. It means you're anti a clergy member who abuses children. A bad cop, a bad apple is bad for the entire police force. And that's what I'm trying to deal with my collaborative. Reinvent the criminal justice system now. And policing but we're not anti public safety. And the Republicans did that successfully. You know, the Democrats, there'll be havoc, like in New York City. They ran de Blasio’s picture all over the state. They'll turn New York State into New York City, looting and crime and homelessness, law and order. That's was their message. And it resonated more than it should have. Again, I think when they count all the ballots we’ll be fine. But it should not have been this close. Hello?

Yes. The Working Families Party did quite well. They stay on the ballot. Despite the rules, you've been accused of being angry at them because they ran somebody against you, in a primary. So what do you make of the Working Families’ success?

If I was angry at everybody who ran against me, I would be talking to no one. By the way, I be talk I wouldn't be talking to you if I was against people who supported my opponent, right? So yeah, I've run on the Working Families Party line. They've run primary races against me. Hey look, the Democratic Party ran primary races against my father. That's politics. The way we set the thresholds, we always expected the Working Families Party to survive. It was set deliberately so we expected the Conservative Party to survive, but you're going to a public finance system. Should taxpayers really fund all these races, in all these little marginal parties? the SAM Party should be funded by taxpayer money? The Independence Party, if you want taxpayer money, you have to be a credible party. And otherwise, it'd be extraordinarily expensive and the voters and the citizens in this state would be upset and rightfully so. Conservative Party, legitimate party. Working Families Party, legitimate party. Democratic Party, Republican Party, legitimate parties. Okay, I have no problem saying to the public, we should do public financing for those parties. They are legitimate parties.

Let's go to marijuana here. So let me ask you this. You know, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, what's going on in New York? We keep hearing that the legislature wants somehow to make sure that everybody's in on the money. You talk to those folks. What do they mean by that?

New Jersey did it on the ballot, which in retrospect, I think was probably turned out to be the faster way to do it. I've supported it for years. The question becomes about the money about the distribution and the power, right? But as it always comes down to money and power, who gets the licenses and who gets the money? I think this year it is ripe because the state is going to be desperate for funding, even with Biden, even with the stimulus. Even with everything else, we're still going to need funding, and it's also the right policy. So I think we get there this year.

And the leaders will go along with you and you figured out how to satisfy them as to who gets these licenses and how the money is going to be distributed?

Well, I think the pressure is going to be on because we're going to need the money so badly, you know, and you have such a gap now, I think it's going to be an easier conversation.

Okay, so COVID. It’s obviously spreading, it's going to hit New York hard again. Where are we and what can we do about it?

COVID is, what's happening is, it's funny, the COVID numbers, I believe are related to the election numbers. I believe if Donald Trump had handled COVID, right, he would have won this election or could have won this election. I think it's his abysmal failure of leadership that caused this COVID problem. Every scientist told us come the fall, it's going to go up. Every scientist told us that. We got ready here in New York, we have our micro cluster strategy. We have our additional testing we’re the third lowest in the country. Oh, wait, let me rub something in. Only Vermont and Maine have a lower infection rate than we do. Only Vermont and Maine, which are rural states, right? Less dense. Every other state has a higher infection rate. So if you want to be safe, Alan, come to New York, the safe state. But having said that, the nation's rate is going up. Cases are going up all across the country. They're going up all around the globe, and they're going to go up in New York. We're not an island. We're taking preventative measures. But if it's going up in Jersey, it's going up in Connecticut, which it is. It’s going up in California, it's going up everywhere. You know, our boat floats on the national tide.

I live in Massachusetts, as you know. It’s a very good state and I love it very much. And a good Republican governor and I, you know, every once in a while, I have to go over the border and go to work at WAMC on Central Avenue in in Albany. And then you put out this thing about you know, Massachusetts people would have to quarantine themselves. And I was wondering whether or not because I've gone and come back and I haven't quarantined myself, so I'm wondering whether or not you were gonna have me arrested.

Yeah, you're a criminal.

So is that working out? I mean, now a lot of people live over here who work in Albany. That's for sure.

Obviously I’m kidding you. We have a quarantine policy doesn't affect contiguous states. So Massachusetts is a contiguous state before that reason, because people go back and forth. But if you were doing that from a non-contiguous state, then I would hang up the phone call the state police, Alan Chartock incarcerated. Yeah. How do you think you would do by the way?

If I was incarcerated? I don't think I'd like it.

I don't think you would do well. I wonder if you could broadcast from the cell.

So you know, the White House is very angry at you. They say you miss all their briefings, and, and you're the head as you've pointed of the Governor's Conference. And so is that true? And is this if it is true, why do you skip the briefings?

They do briefings once a week or something. I've also missed circuses. I don't go to a lot of circuses. Between the White House conference call and a circus, I think a circus would teach me more about COVID. I was on the last call. It's a joke. They do a briefing. Their briefing is basically this. ‘We turned the corner. Everything is going great. Okay, let's ask the Republican Governors, what do they think? Republican Governor One, everything's going great. Republican Governor Two. God bless Trump. Republican Governor Three. It's never been better. I say, Can I please somebody call on me? No. Nobody calls on the chairman of the National Governors Association. Now, I'll tell you what they're doing. Their vaccination plan is horrendous. And I'm going to mobilize now because Joe Biden wins, court cases, etc. But he doesn't take office to January 21. They're implementing the vaccination plan now, by their vaccination plan now, they use just private provider networks, CVS, Walgreens, etc. Yeah, that's great, except they're not in black and brown neighborhoods. And that's where you have the highest infection rate. And that's where you have the highest mortality rate. And that's where you have the highest number of essential workers. And they have no regard for that. What they then do on the vaccination plan is they require the state to sign what's called a data sharing agreement. They want the immigration status of people who get the vaccine. And then they say the federal government can share that information with other federal agencies, ICE and DHS. Why do you need an immigration status before you give somebody a vaccination? So same thing they tried to do on the census. So I'm opposing them on both. It's discriminatory, the vaccination plan. And it's, it's being used to illegally in my opinion, deport people.

Let me, we have some time left here. Let me ask you about the report that you sent one of your daughter's boyfriends who is a cop to the Canadian border to get even with him. Is that right?

That is not right. Even the New York Post, which can be long on drama and short on facts, as you know, there was a voluntary transfer from a person on the detail. It was a voluntary transfer because he wanted to get different experience.

But he was going out with your daughter?

I sent no one anywhere. But he was going no one anywhere.

Was he going out with your daughter?

That you'd have to ask my daughter. She tells me very little.

I got it. I got it. So, you know, your father was accused of grabbing people from the Canadian border to play on the basketball team so that he could win.

That was true. That was true. Statute of limitation. Ran. If he ran into a ballplayer anywhere, he tried to get them transferred to Albany to play on this team.

That is very funny. Well, so I was gonna ask you whether or not you, you said at the beginning that Joe Biden was gonna win. And I was listening to you very carefully as I always do, Governor, and then all of a sudden you just said, If Trump wins, well, wait, which way is it gonna be here? You're supposed to be comforting all of us who are worried about this and now you're saying he might win?

No. Then let me rephrase that. The Trump I meant to say on the vaccination plan that Biden wins today. He doesn't take office until January 21. Trump will administer the vaccination plan between now and January 21. So even if Biden wins, Trump will still have the time to implement this vaccination plan despite Biden's victory.

Ok so what's the most horrible thing he can use do now, in let's assume Biden wins. What's the worst thing you worry about in the middle of the night that he can do in his time left?

He'll execute this vaccination plan which is discriminatory, and they'll try to get people to sign up and see they’re saying to a state, if you don't sign the data sharing agreement, we won't send you the vaccine. And they could send the vaccine in just a few weeks, before Biden takes office. And if you don't sign the data sharing agreement, you don't get the vaccine. If you sign the data sharing agreement, you wind up possibly giving people who get the vaccine the immigration status to be used by DHS. That would be terrible. I don't think he can do anything worse to New York State in particular. He’s done everything he could do. He's hit his hit us as hard as he could hit us. He will fill judgeships with his Senate. He will fill appointments all across the government and try to embed his people. And he'll sign as many regulations as he can, which will take time to undo.

So when you get together with the legislative leaders, are you telling them that because of these elections, there might be some change in your thinking?

No, the yeah, well, yes. With a Biden victory. We know there's going to be a state and local package.

Get some money.

And we know that that's going to go a long way towards handling New York's economic problem. We don't know how far, but it's a matter of time. Now, if Trump had won, we would be in really deep soup.

Okay, now, we have one minute, do you want to ask me a question?

You haven't read my book? Why not?

Oh, yeah, no, um, every day I say I gotta get to that book. I've got to get to it. I had the feeling you might send me one. But no, you probably wanted the money. So I have to go to the store and buy it. But I understand it's doing quite well. It was number seven the last time I looked on the on the New York Times list.

Yeah, I'm on the bestseller list this week again. Thank you for mentioning that. You have the book. Why haven't you read it?

No, I don't have the book.

You’re in possession of the book.

How do you know that?

I have information.

Are you calling me a liar? No, I don't have the book. But I want but I do want to get the book. And I do want to make sure that maybe you sent it to the radio station. And maybe that's the issue. So um, so we'll see. But in any case, guess what? We're out of time. We have to go right now. Goodbye.

It's been weeks. It's been weeks. You didn't read the book. How personally insulting.

Yeah, well, I was. Okay. You know, yeah. Okay.

You don’t like it when I ask the questions.

I understand that some erotic parts in it. So we'll see you, Governor and thanks for calling on us. We very much appreciate it.

Thank you, Alan. Thank you.

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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