His is one of the great comeback stories
of the political era.
It’s curiously difficult to remember how washed-up Andrew was in 2001, after his intemperate, ill-timed, hugely disorganized—and extremely high profile—run for governor collapsed before it got to the primary election. This was one of those instances—seldom witnessed—when a politician was nakedly on display. His arrogance, inexperience, entitlement, absolute inability to keep his mouth shut, and pure contempt for everybody else in New York state politics were so transparent that I, for one, covering his campaign—he used to drive me home after campaign events, park in front of my house for an hour, and boast and lecture and crap on everybody else in the political world (and psychoanalyze his father, the former governor)—found the counter-intuitiveness of his effort almost charming. (I was, however, perhaps the only one.) Then there was his divorce—as operatic as any in politics. He had staked his political identity even more than on being his father’s son, on having married into the Kennedy family. But his Kennedy wife ran off with a ne'er-do-well polo player (the son of a McDonald franchise king), and it transpired, in an avalanche of publicity orchestrated by the Kennedys against Andrew, that the family had never liked him in the least. He was at the bottom of the political barrel: a loser and a joke.
Fortunately for him he was a loser and a joke in New York state, where, in contrast to the other losers and jokes, he was shortly seen as a comer and an astute player. Actually, before that, he was seen as a figure of fairly abject humility and modesty. This son of the legendary governor, a former cabinet secretary, a would-be governor himself, ran penitently for state attorney general, in the shadow of Eliot Spitzer, who had gotten the job that Andrew believed was deservedly his.
Possibly Andrew knew that Spitzer was a wild card. Certainly Andrew would have known, as well as anybody, that New York state is a wild card.
Still. First Spitzer, then Paterson—God has never been so kind.
But, too, we make our own luck. And, if Cuomo’s basic political character did not change—arrogance, entitlement, contempt (warranted and prescient) for every other politician in New York—nevertheless, the world’s most impatient man became preternaturally patient. The wild ambition was reduced to tactical design; his go-it-alone temperament (he was, by nature, candidate, consultant, driver, press secretary, rolled into one), was subsumed by a close-knit organization; and, most difficult of all, he learned to keep his mouth shut.
That last point is perhaps the most inviolable in modern politics. And that’s too bad because Andrew always had some tales to tell.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
Andrew Cuomo is about to become the hottest Democratic politician in America since Hillary Clinton went to the Senate from New York and Barack Obama became president.