Andrew Cuomo’s farewell address Monday afternoon ending his three terms in office resonated with self-pity, and bore all the earmarks of a campaign speech. He appeared to suggest that his fall from grace was not of his own doing but a matter of “intense political pressure and media frenzy that caused a rush to judgment.”
With the “woe is me” out of the way, the pre-recorded goodbye became a litany of accomplishments. “No governor in the nation has passed more progressive measures than I have, but I disagree with some people in my own party who called to defund the police. I believe it is misguided. I believe it is dangerous,” he said. Then he applauded his rebuilding of upstate airports, the new LaGuardia and JFK airports, and Penn Station. He touched on what he had done on marriage equality and equal rights for the LGBTQ community. And he stressed his hike of the minimum wage for millions of New Yorkers.
During his quest for office, he never missed an opportunity to reach out to that significant bloc of voters who often propelled him in the gubernatorial race—Black and Latino voters. “Gun violence and crime are savaging inner cities. Look at New York City. The majority of victims are poor, Black and brown. Reforming police must be the goal. Ending discrimination by the police, ending the unnecessary use of force, and then building back trust and respect between the police and the community they serve. That’s the real answer and that is easier said than done, but it’s also the truth and the right way forward.”
Inevitably, he had to evoke how masterful he was in dealing with the pandemic, so much so that he was being touted for a possible presidential bid. “We did what no one thought could be done. Why? Because when the rest of the nation put their head in the sand, and denied science, and played politics, we faced up to the facts and we made the tough but necessary decisions. And while our infection rate went down, other states have been going up. And now the situation is reversed. New York has one of the lowest infection rates in the nation, and other states are seeing rapid increases. It’s sweeping Florida, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, South Dakota, and more. So now we must realize the reality that the spread will inevitably affect us, and we have to act before it becomes critical.”
There is no refuting his achievements, and it is good that he called it a “we” thing in the same way his downfall was characterized in the plural: “In sum,” he said toward the close of his comparatively short address, “we didn’t get everything done that we wanted to, or even everything we should have done. And we didn’t always get it quite right. But I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, that every day I worked my hardest. I gave it my all and I tried my best to deliver for you. And that is God’s honest truth.”
As he did upon hearing the results of the investigation in which the testimony of 11 women was deemed credible by the state’s attorney general, Cuomo had some kind words for his successor Kathy Hochul who he believed “will step up the challenge. We all wish her success. Eric Adams will be the next mayor of New York City. I think he’ll bring a new philosophy and competence to the position which can give New York City residents hope for the future.”
If the praise for Adams was a veiled slam at Bill de Blasio it would have been in keeping with Cuomo’s bag of parting shots.