Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus ‘victory tour’ makes no sense

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks in front of stacks of medical protective supplies during a news conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre, which will be partially converted into a temporary hospital during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo botched New York’s initial coronavirus response and ordered nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients. Over 6,000 people died in nursing homes.
  • Now the governor is blowing off calls for an independent investigation as part of “politically-motivated” media attacks on his heroic image.
  • He’s gotten the hero treatment from the media for giving press conferences, and flouts his own mask guidelines when backslapping other politicians.
  • And his crackdowns on bars and restaurants selling to-go cocktails are hurting small businesses who may not have many options left at survival.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus has laid bare the gross incompetence of numerous public officials.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s admonition to go out to Chinatown and party as the virus was already quietly ravaging the city aged terribly. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to open up far and wide, and as early as possible, has been a disaster. No one bears more responsibility, however, than President Trump. His denialism, incoherence, and narcissism have contributed to countless deaths and immeasurable suffering.

But other than a brief moment where conservatives thought DeSantis deserved an “apology” from pointy-headed media elites who thought it a bit imprudent for a governor to act as if his state was immune from a highly communicable and deadly disease, none of these negligent politicians has gotten the “hero” treatment.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the other hand, continues to fail up.

Cuomo’s inexplicable “victory lap”

Cuomo’s coronavirus celebrity received a substantial boost from his televised press conferences in the early weeks of the pandemic.

Even though these public health PSA/therapy sessions took place during the height of a catastrophe for which he deserves a substantial cut of the blame, Cuomo’s calm and dignified appearance benefited from favourable comparisons to De Blasio’s “Sideshow Bob” impression and Trump’s daily meltdowns.

Comedians – normally the people we count on to call BS when it’s called for – openly swooned for the heartthrob governor.

CNN saw nothing unethical about putting Cuomo on the air night-after-night for extended interviews with his own brother during prime-time. That the segments often consisted of little-more than effusive praise and skin-crawling attempts at humour, as opposed to probing inquiries of an elected official, should come as little surprise.

Though the three-term governor presides over a state with more confirmed cases of COVID than all but four countries outside the US, Cuomo is for some reason being indulged with a “victory tour” for his wafer-thing claim to successful leadership in a crisis.

This isn’t to say Cuomo hasn’t done anything right in his own coronavirus response, quite the contrary.

New York was one of the first states hit hard by the virus at a time when governors had far less equipment, knowledge, and time to prepare than they have had in recent months. Under his governance, New York has successfully flattened the curve. And Cuomo pulled this off with virtually no help from the federal government.

But even now, Cuomo is making inexplicable decisions that fly in the face of his own guidance.

The governor took a trip to Georgia last week, appearing with Savannah’s mayor to announce New York’s donation of PPE and its plan to help establish contact tracing and new testing sites.

That’s all great and neighborly, but given our brave new world where everything from school to political conventions are being done virtually, why exactly did Cuomo have to fly to Georgia? And why didn’t he wear a mask when he was hugging and backslapping his fellow politicians? And what authority does the 14-day quarantine order he’s imposed on visitors to New York from 31 states (including Georgia) carry if he himself won’t abide by it?

Cuomo’s also gotten the requisite giggle-interview with Jimmy Fallon, and is now selling for $US11.50 an “incoherent” poster depicting his great “success” in flattening the curve.

You can hardly blame Cuomo for loving the limelight. He’s the son of a legendary three-term governor who was a Democratic icon in his time. Andrew, in his third term, was fairly undistinguished by comparison until his coronavirus briefings. But make no mistake, he has presided over a tragedy for which he bears a great amount of responsibility, and his back-patting press tours are the exact opposite of an exercise in stoic humility.

Swimming in this bath of unearned adoration, it’s no wonder Cuomo is so thin-skinned when belatedly called out for his failures.

The buck steps elsewhere

One can’t make a credible claim to leadership without taking ownership of both one’s actions and the consequences. Confronted with his own poor decisions, Cuomo points at a shiny object, hoping his interlocutors look away.

He was saying things like “fear is more dangerous than the virus”a week after New York City schools had been closed in March, and in late April blamed The New York Times for not “blowing the bugle” warning that the pandemic could hit our shores – even though The Times published 450 stories on the novel coronavirus before March 1.

This weekend he laid more blame on the media for the influx of infections in other states: “Florida listened to the New York Post. Texas listened to the Wall Street Journal. Arizona listened to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.”

And when confronted with arguably his most catastrophic mistake – his order to nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients which has in part been blamed for over 6,000 deaths he again punted the issue as a fabrication of the “politically-motivated” media.

This wouldn’t mean much more than the usual “why is the press so mean to me” self-pity typically exhibited by elected officials but for the substance of the question Cuomo had been asked, which was won’t he appoint an independent investigation into the nursing home situation, given the fact that his own government’s investigation has been slammed by health experts for “flawed methodology.”

At least do no harm, governor

It’s not just his past decisions that are hurting New Yorkers. His executive decisions and failures at the outset of the pandemic having already caused untold damage to the livelihoods of millions of New Yorkers, Cuomo continues to impose solutions in need of problems.

Small businesses all over the state – especially bars and restaurants – are dying. The government loans for which some of them have qualified are not enough to keep them afloat and new funds are being held up by Washington fighting.

To help those restaurants and bars survive, the state and New York City have loosened regulations on allowing footpath dining, but this only makes up a fraction of normal capacity and business. It’s like giving a cancer patient an aspirin.

And though he authorised the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to allow for the sale of to-go alcoholic beverages with the purchase of food, Cuomo has decided to now make things even harder to these businesses by cracking down on establishments that aren’t selling “enough” food.

The purchase of “Cuomo chips” or a bag of pretzels for a buck along with a local business-supporting overpriced cocktail is apparently a public health menace in need of intervention, so now the SLA will require establishments (some of which don’t normally serve food) to sell salads, sandwiches or other “meals” to make the sale of alcohol legally compliant.

So serious is the governor about keeping willing customers from purchasing a product most likely to generate a profit that he’s “tasked the State Liquor Authority and the State Police to help local governments more aggressively enforce the law.”

When the state needed decisive leadership in March, Cuomo at first dithered, then he fumbled.

Now that the public accounting is due, he blames the media – which created the myth of his heroism in the first place – for the bad optics of thousands of dead elderly New Yorkers.

He refuses an independent investigation out of hand, and then he makes it a point to go after booze sales, during a sweltering summer heat wave as we enter the fifth consecutive month of hell.

Cuomo’s no hero, just cosplaying as a “man of action.”