Monday, September 21, 2009
New York's next governor?
(Above, Andrew Cuomo, New York State Attorney General; on left, Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo, villain in The Godfather)
When President Obama's emissaries asked the unpopular Governor Paterson of New York last year not to run for reelection in 2010 "for the good of the Democratic party," what they meant, of course, was "for the good of Obama." Obama's strategists saw Andrew Cuomo as the best Democratic bet to beat Rudolph Giuliani in the next gubernatorial election. (Cuomo was the only one who consistently polled ahead of Giuliani, who has since disavowed any interest in running for Governor.) Since Giuliani was seen at the time as a potential Republican threat to the President in 2012, Obama's people wanted to stop him in his tracks. But ever since, Cuomo has been the presumptive Democratic nominee and front-runner.
On Saturday, Cuomo finally announced what everyone already knew, that he was running for Governor.
I actually think Cuomo has done an excellent job as Attorney General. Of course, it's easier to look good as AG than as Governor. Just ask Eliot Spitzer. As AG you get to satisfy the public by going after the obvious bad guys, a role which tends to make you look like you'd be right at home at the Round Table. As Governor, you have to, well, govern, a role which tends to make you look like just another politician. Giuliani went through much the same evolution. Giuliani was an excellent U.S. Attorney General, going after the Mafia and insider traders alike. He was an okay Mayor, and got far too much credit for simply being in office and not falling apart on 9/11. And he was a dismal failure in his most recent political incarnation as neocon Presidential candidate.
When Francis Ford Coppola was casting for the role of Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo, the evil Mafioso in The Godfather, he looked for the greasiest, most menacing actor he could find. He settled on Al Lettieri, who played the role with a wonderful unctuousness. ("Michael," he purred with his oily baritone after shooting Don Corleone, "It was only business.")
Every time I see a picture of Andrew Cuomo, I'm struck by how much he resembles Lettieri-as-Sollozzo. Coincidentally, Cuomo's father, former NY governor Mario, an avowed liberal, was long rumored to have Mafia connections. I don't know if this is true. But I do know that Mario Cuomo was given a $50,000 campaign contribution by Anthony Scotto, a made member of the Gambino family, when he first ran for lieutenant governor. (Who knew the Mafia were such bleeding hearts? Or maybe it was only business.)
Let's hope that Andrew, if elected, breaks free from the pattern that has dogged other AG's. And let's hope that resemblance to Sollozzo is purely physical.