Andrew Cuomo has become America’s Governor.
Since he has begun holding daily press conferences about the coronavirus pandemic, the 62-year-old governor of New York has vaulted to a status he has never enjoyed before.
In fact, it’s fair to say that not since New York mayor Rudy Giuliani managed to ease a city’s panic in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 has any politician received such widespread accolades.
Left-leaning MSNBC host Joy Reid tweeted: “Just gonna say it. [Cuomo] is really good at this. His leadership ability in this coronavirus crisis, and the usefulness of these press conferences are just putting Donald Trump to shame.”
On the right, Meghan McCain, the television personality and daughter of the late one-time Republican presidential candidate John McCain, tweeted that she is “incredibly impressed” with Cuomo’s performance.
Even former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, a vocal supporter of President Trump and the one-time governor of South Carolina, tweeted on the morning of March 21: “Confession: I look forward to watching Gov. Cuomo’s press conference every day. I get a kick out of how he talks about govt issues and then goes into a therapy session.”
Plain Talk and Tough Talk
They and many more onlookers agree that the key is Cuomo’s combination of plain-talk and tough-talk, his pragmatism as well as a healthy dose of compassion for the people who are suffering health and financial hardships. Together, it spells empathy.
Cuomo is not only talking. He’s taking actions that will help improve and even save people’s lives.
“I know he’s helping out with student debt, which is helpful,” observed Julianne Mosher a local journalist and a 2016 college graduate. Cuomo “knows how scary and important this is He’s doing all the right things to maintain order.”
Life has changed drastically as fear of the outbreak spreads. We now look warily at strangers on the street and maintain our distance from them. We are setting personal-best records for washing our hands. We mourn the newly dead and live in constant fear that we and our loved ones will be next. It will take a while before we return to life as usual, whatever usual will be.
Meanwhile, Cuomo has become a national phenomenon. Well beyond New York State, people are noticing his integrity and strength.
“Cuomo has done everything you would want a leader to do: shown empathy, worked on the quickest way to actually get results and be authoritative without being a bully,” said Laurie Goldberg, a public relations executive in Los Angeles. “And he has taken responsibility.”
He has prompted the whole nation – especially his New York constituents – watching via cable news coverage of his press briefings, to applaud his can-do spirit and resoluteness.
Most amazing, journalists, perhaps with tongues stuck deep in cheeks, suggest that Cuomo’s frequent presence on television has catapulted the man with the droopy eyelids, who often seems to speak in a gravelly flat voice that borders on a monotone, to the classic American pop-culture fable: the sex symbol.
The New York Post opined that women were “crushing on” Cuomo. The Website Jezebel published a story with this headline: “Help! I think I’m in love with Andrew Cuomo???”
Cuomo’s new exalted status comes at an opportune time for him. Just before the panic began, Cuomo was getting heat in the wake of the exit of the popular subway czar and "Train Daddy," Andy Byford, the president of the New York City Transit Authority from January 2018 to this past Feb. 21.
In earlier times, New York state residents carped about Cuomo’s handling of the education system and contracting policies, among other factors.
Will It Last?
These days, Cuomo is likely too busy to take time to savor his press clippings, much less read or acknowledge them.
His burst of popularity sparks an inevitable question: Will the good vibes last? Or will the public turn on Cuomo at some point? Will the laughing gas of adulation eventually and inevitably wear off and will the pain return?
Cuomo has been anything but a touchy-feely governor, even in good times. We seldom see his lighter side, though he did reveal a touch of it during a recent, playful interview with his brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo.
Of course, being called "America's Mayor" has not worked out well for the ever-controversial Giuliani.
Cuomo, a consummate politician – whose father was the legendary New York Governor, Mario Cuomo – will seek to safeguard his public image.
If he ever had aspirations to run for the presidency, he will no doubt shoot up the Democratic Party's short list of preferred candidates.
Someday, there will be a "flattening of the curve" (to quote an awful public-servant phrase that has crept into our normal syntax) and then this crisis will pass into history, along with 9/11, the assassination of JFK and Pearl Harbor.
Courage and Leadership
When that happens, Gov. Cuomo will become another rather mundane public official. But New Yorkers, at the very least, will never forget his courage and leadership.
Or his faith in their own courage and leadership.
"America is America because we overcome adversity and challenges," he said during his press conference on Sunday, March 22. "That's how we were born. That's what we've done all our life. We overcome challenges and this is a period of challenge for this generation. And that's what has always made America great and that's what going to make this generation great. I believe that to the bottom of my soul."