Originally published in the New York Post, February 25, 2014
Both Cuomo, de Blasio Heirs to Clinton Politics
Since Election Day 2013, there’s been a tight struggle between Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio to determine, not just who’s the King of New York, but who’s the biggest “SOB.” That is, who’s the true “Son of Bill” — the rightful heir to that other Bill who still looms over Democratic politics: Bill Clinton.
After all, the still-beloved-by-his-party 42nd president swore in New York’s 109th mayor on Jan. 1. But, ever the master of the middle-of-the-road, he tipped the rhetorical hat to departing Mayor Mike Bloomberg — striking a different tone than others on the inaugural stage — even while endorsing the new mayor’s concerns over income inequality.
Just a few feet away sat Gov. Cuomo, who served as President Clinton’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development — where de Blasio worked before heading back north to run then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s US Senate campaign.
Publicly, both the governor and the mayor claim they’re old friends from that time. But de Blasio confidantes paint a slightly more complex picture, saying Cuomo was a high-handed boss who didn’t mind reminding subordinates (particularly one Bill de Blasio) who was top dog. That dynamic seems to fit what’s happened in the few weeks since they shared that inaugural stage.
The fact is, each man seems to have learned different things from Clinton: Cuomo’s copied Clintonian tactics, while de Blasio seems to have absorbed some of his worst habits, including political ones.
Cuomo has plainly mastered the classic Clinton technique of triangulation — and skillfully used de Blasio to do it. The president set himself up as the above-the-fray moderate between an unacceptable/incompetent left (old-school Democrats) and a radical right (my then-boss, Newt Gingrich, and the post-1994 Republican Congress). That allowed him to reject the overly ambitious liberal agenda (HillaryCare) of his first two years, rebound from a disastrous 1994 midterm election that swept the GOP into power and cruise to a rather easy 1996 re-election.
Cuomo has done something similar since de Blasio became mayor. The progressive mayor has provided the governor with a tax-and-spend (on Pre-K and minimum wage) foil that Cuomo has been only too happy to parry at every turn.
Thus, even the governor’s rhetorical misstep about there being “no place” for pro-life, Second Amendment-supporting conservatives in New York (a case of triangulating a little too hard?) seems to have faded from the collective memory, replaced by the image of a “reasonable” leader balancing a social policy that enjoys widespread support statewide while hewing to a fiscal rectitude “brand” by refusing to raise taxes for that policy — as one too-liberal mayor demands.
Secondly, how was that fiscal rectitude brand first displayed? By trading decades of Albany dysfunction for three (soon to be four) on-time balanced budgets.
The on-time bit makes for another interesting contrast with de Blasio, who in his first weeks in office has shown an impressive ability to emulate one of Bill Clinton’s least endearing habits — perpetual lateness.
Ask anyone who had to engage with the then-president in the ’90s, and you’ll always hear the same thing: He can’t be on time for almost anything — and the earlier in the day the event was, the less likely he’d make it.
And while Clinton never started his State of the Union a half-hour late, Mayor de Blasio did just that at his first State of the City.
Apparently, like Clinton, the mayor stays up late — and thus doesn’t get up so early. That squares with what we know about one incident: He was wide awake enough to call the NYPD following the post-11 pm arrest (and subsequent release) of Bishop Orlando Findlayter.
Needless to say, perpetual tardiness leads to other poor judgment calls — such as, ahem, speeding to your next appointment two days after calling for stricter speed laws.
Hey, it’s been barely two months. Bill Clinton managed to right his ship of state after the aforementioned midterms. Bill de Blasio may just want to slow down, get some rest and study some of those lessons, so he can become not just Tall Bill, but NYC’s true SOB.
Labels: Andrew Cuomo, Bill Clinton, Bill de Blasio