Just how strange is Governor Andrew Cuomo?

September 16, 2014

New York Governor M. Cuomo stands during a news conference following a bi-state meeting on regional security and preparedness in New York

1. What’s the matter with Andrew Cuomo?

By now I assume New Yorker editor David Remnick has assigned someone to do a profile of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is fast becoming the Howard Hughes of big-time politicians.

But just in case he hasn’t, here’s a reminder for him or any other smart editor why it’s time to take a long look at the governor: The New York Times report in late July detailing how Cuomo interfered with his supposedly independent corruption commission was great stuff. Even better were subsequent accounts in the Times and elsewhere about the governor’s clumsy attempts to explain things once he got caught.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his partner Sandra Lee talk during memorial observances held at the site of the World Trade Center in New YorkBut the scandal over Cuomo’s scandal commission — which has spawned an investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in New York — seems to be the tip of a proverbial iceberg of not just classic political hypocrisy but downright weirdness and paranoia not seen among big-shot politicians since President Richard M. Nixon roamed the halls of the White House.

As this other Times story by Thomas Kaplan points out in hilarious detail, Cuomo, who is running for reelection, doesn’t like to talk to people when he makes campaign appearances. In fact, he doesn’t make many campaign appearances at all.

Even the most mundane ceremonial events in the most out of the way places are tightly controlled and scripted so that the governor — protected by rope lines that keep back the few onlookers who show up — doesn’t have to say anything spontaneous to anyone.

On top of that, last Tuesday when he faced a primary challenge from a relatively unknown contender (who ended up getting one-third of the vote), Cuomo not only did not make an appearance on election night to make a victory speech, but he also instructed his staff not to tell the press where he was. In the few times he has been seen since, he has seemed nervous and out of sorts.

In 2006, Cuomo won praise and admiration in political circles after bouncing back from a disastrous campaign for governor in 2002 and winning election as state attorney general. He was given credit for running a campaign that, unlike the earlier try for governor, was disciplined and featured a candidate who never strayed off message.

Through his tenure as attorney general, and then his 2010 campaign for governor, he won similar praise for that same tight-message control.  But does his apparent unwillingness lately to risk even the most inconsequential spontaneous engagement with people he doesn’t control, not to mention his ham-handed interference with his corruption commission, mean he’s taken self-discipline and his quest for control over the deep end?

It’s time for someone to get inside the State House in Albany and figure out what’s going on. Who are Cuomo’s H.R. Haldemans and John Ehrlichmans — the staffers enabling him like these two men enabled Nixon? Are things as off-kilter as they seem?

2. Looking at the sagging Yankees, Inc.

Has anyone else been thinking that the Steinbrenner generation that succeeded George Steinbrenner and took control of the New York Yankees after “The Boss” died may not have the old man’s talent when it comes to running a baseball enterprise?

Steinbrenner died in 2010. His son, Hal, took control of the team in 2007 as his father’s health worsened. Hal Steinbrenner’s siblings have also been involved in the Yankees’ management.

MLB: Game Two-New York Yankees at Baltimore OriolesIt is now almost certain that, for the first time in 20 years, the Yankees will not make the playoffs for the second year in a row, despite spending lavishly this winter to bring in new talent.

Sure, it’s hard to blame management for the injuries and subpar performances that have plagued the team. But it’s also hard to have a lot of confidence in a front-office brain trust that has produced a version of the Bronx Bombers where anyone who hits over .260 with more than 50 runs batted in or 15 home runs looks like Babe Ruth.

I would love to read the inside story of how the Yankees are being run and how much the team’s bottom line is being hurt as hapless management flails away through September in a stadium that seems half-empty every night. How much are overall revenues down? And how much has the YES Network, which televises Yankee games and is 20 percent owned by the team, been hurt by what have to be falling ratings?

The entity that owns the Yankees, and that Hal Steinbrenner runs, is a limited partnership, not a public company, which will make reporting this story difficult. But there have to be some limited partners or former limited partners who will shed some light, especially if they’re dissatisfied with the current state of play.

It’s certainly worth a try.

There is also this possible sidebar: Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox owns the other 80 percent of the YES Network. Murdoch and his team can’t be happy with the Yankees either.

What’s his relationship now with the Steinbrenners? Any chance Fox might end up being a buyer if the Yankees continue their slide?


PHOTO (TOP): New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stands during a news conference following a bi-state meeting on regional security in New York, September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

PHOTO (INSERT): New York Yankees pitcher Bryan Mitchell (65) pitches in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles in game two of a doubleheader at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, September 12, 2014. REUTERS/ Joy R. Absalon

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