Andrew & Gavin: Egos, Errors, and Enormous Stakes.

NYS Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (l.) and California’s Governor Gavin Newsom.

Together, they represent 60 million people — or some 20% of the US Population — in their States. Between the two of them, Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York State (with whom I worked during his father’s Administrations) and Gavin Newsom of California have logged nearly 60 years of public service. They’ve championed progressive causes like Marriage & Gender Equality, expansion of healthcare benefits, and strict gun control legislation, and each has an accomplished woman serving as Lt. Governor.

Why then, have two such skilled, smart and strong public servants done such stupid things, prompting calls for Cuomo’s resignation during his third term, and Newsom’s recall before his first term as Governor ends?

Are they simply big, tempting targets for Right Wing extremists and disgruntled opponents within their own parties? Arrogant avatars of political royalty in the two of the nation’s largest States? Or, just plain tone-deaf, male lunkheads?

With the Ides of March fast approaching as well as the March 17 deadline for the Newsom Recall petition in California, and the Annual March 31 Budget Deadline in New York State, March may be the cruelest month for Andrew & Gavin.

Senator Bernie Sanders, popular among California progressives, rushed to Newsom’s defense this week, tweeting:

“Right-Wing Republicans in CA are trying to Recall Governor Newsom for the crime of telling people to wear masks and for listening to scientists during COVID. Extremist Republicans have done enough to undermine democracy already. We must all unite to oppose the recall in CA.”

In New York, 23 Democratic Assemblywomen, led by Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes from Buffalo, backed Cuomo’s call to let the NYS Attorney General Letitia James’ Investigation takes it’s course to carefully examine sexual harassment claims against the Governor. The announcement by the 23 elected Democratic women, came the day after the Senate Majority Leader — another Black, female, Democrat — called upon Cuomo to resign, and on the same day AG James announced two crackerjack attorneys with subpoena power, to lead the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. According to the New York Times, “the lawyers will be required to report weekly to Ms. James and publish a public report with their findings, probably months from now.”

For now, provided there are no more bombshells from either coast, the tiki torches have been turned off, although California’s recall reactionaries are claiming they have 500,000 more signatures more than they need to put the measure on the ballot. So, what caused such powerful, effective leaders of 60 million citizens to be reading their own political obituaries in real time? Nano-second news cycles on social media may be a contributing factor, as well as the death sport into which politics has devolved. But to what extent, are Newsom and Cuomo responsible for their own messes?

In California, we’ve seen Newsom’s proclivity for being a putz before, with his screwball marriage to Kimberly Guilfoyle-hat and reports of his sleeping with his best friend’s wife while he was SF Mayor. This year, his dumb-as-a-rock attendance at a lobbyist friend’s birthday party in the ultra expensive Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry — during the peak of the pandemic when the rest of us were under lockdown — was unbelievably stupid. Stupid enough to merit being thrown out of office? I don’t think so.

In New York, arrogance has bitten Andrew Cuomo in the ass before, when he disbanded the Moreland Commission on Ethics a few years back, and declared recently that he knew more than the nine healthcare professionals who resigned his administration following the burgeoning Nursing Home controversy — the subject of yet another investigation. Arrogance has long been Andrew’s Achilles heel, but stupidity…? Never. Until now.

What kind of brilliant political tactician meets privately in his office with female staff members, without another ranking female staff member present to monitor the meeting? In 2021, what supervisor in his or her right mind would discuss sex with a sexual assault survivor — known to you to be a sexual assault survivor? Astounding.

Santa Rosa attorney and a leading advocate for sexual assault victims Michael A. Fiumara, who won one of the largest sexual assault cases in California vs. the Catholic Church, noted that the mere mention of sex or anything sexual, “sets off post-traumatic stress triggers,” in most sexual assault victims. Surely a former Attorney General and a champion of women’s rights and protections for domestic violence victims like Cuomo, should have known that. It’s incomprehensible that he didn’t.

Incomprehensible? Yes. Insensitive? Yes. impeachable? I don’t think so. Nor should Cuomo even think of resigning before a full and independent fact-finding investigation — with those making allegations having a fair hearing of their complaints — has been completed by the State AG’s office.

New York and California hold 80 of the nation’s 435 seats in Congress. Approximately a dozen of those Congressional seats are in swing districts, at a time when the switch of only 6 seats in the House of Representatives, could give the misogynistic, racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Science, anti-LGBTQ, White Supremacist GOP control of the House, and the ability to suffocate all Civil Rights legislation. The sweeping, political and social justice stakes for this nation have rarely been higher.

I fully understand that as the grandfather of 3 granddaughters and the partner of a strong, independent woman for 49 years, I leave myself open to the charge of either being generationally out-of-touch, or a hypocrite who would want the women in my life believed if they were sexually harassed. I might not be willing to listen to the facts, nor to wait for a months-long investigation. I’d probably want to follow the lead of Lorena Bobbitt, with the ostensibly offending male.

I hope I would have the strength to stick to the rule of law, and abide by the findings of a legitimate and impartial investigation into such explosive and life-changing charges. I’m not certain I would. But I do know, having been trained in both the law and in language, to understand that words, and actions, have consequences, and that, more than ever, we need to insist on the unvarnished facts, despite which side we’re on. I’d like to think I’m on the side of the truth, no matter how painful.

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