Cuomo resigns, but his apologies for ‘insensitive’ behavior seem clueless

It was just a matter of time.

The man who ruled New York state politics with an iron fist knew he was caught in the gears of justice, however unfair he claimed the machinery to be.

But he wanted to go down swinging, and that’s what he did Tuesday.

And he did it from a script, again taking no questions from reporters.

Cuomo, who faced certain impeachment, proclaimed himself a fighter but said he wanted to spare his constituents months of legal battles. It’s equally true that he had no allies left in his party, from the White House to Capitol Hill to Albany. And 70 percent of registered voters in a New York poll said he should go.

In the end, Cuomo’s strengths — the head-knocking, threatening, sometimes bullying style — turned out to be his fatal weakness. His brawling tactics helped his father Mario win the office three times, but his own third term is ending abruptly, entirely because of self-inflicted wounds.

Cuomo’s defense, following a session with his lawyer, deliberately gave no hint that the speech, and his career, would take a final turn. And some of his attempts to deflect and defuse the most serious accusations ranged from sad to appalling.

The governor (for two more weeks) acted like he just woke up from a long slumber and discovered this thing called the #MeToo movement.

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He “didn’t fully appreciate” the “generational and cultural shifts,” he said. He liked to hug and kiss people. He would slip and call women ‘Honey’ and ‘Sweetheart.’ He never crossed the line, but, he said, “I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.” That would have happened back around the time of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby.

Cuomo kept trying to thread a rhetorical needle. The most severe allegations “have no credible factual basis,” he said. But, “this is not to say there aren’t 11 women I offended,” and for that “I deeply, deeply apologize.” His sense of humor could be “insensitive.”

I mean, seriously? These women were revolted. They feared for their jobs. Some said the governor was clearly trying to sleep with them.

Back and forth he went. Cuomo said he had “no excuses.” But he also said he didn’t recall touching the state trooper’s stomach as she held the door for him. “But if she said I did it, I believe her.” That was “totally thoughtless,” “disrespectful” and “a mistake.” He should have realized some of the women would find his conduct “offensive.”

Cuomo sounded like the lawyer he is, denying criminal liability for touching or groping but also throwing himself on the mercy of the court of public opinion.

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He invoked his three daughters, wanting them to know that he respects women’s rights and acknowledges he made mistakes. But he is also looking to history’s judgment.

Those who insisted the Democrat would never step down may have forgotten that he bailed out of a 2002 primary for governor once it became clear he had no chance to win. That sparked some media chatter that by avoiding impeachment, Cuomo preserves the option of running again in the future. At the moment, that seems like the longest of long shots.

Back in 1988, when I interviewed Cuomo about his efforts to build housing for the homeless — with help from his dad’s government — he denied using that as a political springboard. “I have no future plans for elective office,” he told me. I knew that was a crock. After a pause he added: “I feel like Mario talking about the presidential race.”

His father never did make a bid for the White House, and neither did his son. In a bit of historical irony, the politician accused of mistreating women is clearing the way for the state’s first female leader, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was always squeezed out of his inner circle.

From a liberal perspective, Cuomo accomplished a great deal during his decade in office, though his early efforts on Covid were badly marred by his mishandling of nursing home deaths. But all that is overshadowed now. Once a superstar married to a Kennedy, he tarnished the family name and created huge problems for his brother Chris.

Andrew Cuomo wanted to make history, and everyone now knows how his obituary will begin.

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