Cuomo's choice

Cuomo's choice
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Denial is a funny thing. First it soothes and comforts, then it ingloriously surrenders to distress and despair. Instead of accepting reality, it refuses to even acknowledge it, like some bad dream that’ll surely end come daybreak.

As the embattled Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoGovernors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Tucker Carlson says he lies when 'I'm really cornered or something' Judge blocks NY state vaccine mandate for medical workers MORE publicly disses any and all suggestions of stepping aside, he’s fighting a losing battle against basic physics: When anyone is snared by quicksand, the harder they struggle the faster they sink.

Andrew Cuomo’s done.

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The only question now is whether he can preserve any shred of positive legacy and — with the passage of time and the imponderable future ahead — a shot at redemption. The old Andrew Cuomo wouldn’t think of it; the Cuomo of now has no other choice.

This much we know.

Six women have come forward alleging sexual harassment. Cuomo has denied he did anything wrong.

New York State under-reported COVID-related nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent. Worried about an investigation, Cuomo’s team tried to cover it up as the Governor glibly shrugged it off by saying, essentially, death is death, doesn’t matter where it happened.

A Democratic assemblyman asking for the truth about the nursing home fatalities fiasco says the governor threatened him. The assemblyman’s wife was so alarmed by Cuomo’s cell phone rage she said she feared for her husband’s life.

With each new allegation, each fresh rebuff from Democratic allies, and each lame excuse, Andrew Cuomo — Albany’s bully atop the bully pulpit — is finding out the tables have turned, that he has become the hunted in the hunger games of public opinion.

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The countless people he’s demeaned and dismissed over the years are now in full command and without fear of retribution.

Verily, “Cuomo-lot” has passed, its knight — a one-time petitioner for Kennedy royalty — is done, and without a new game plan, the road ahead cannot be repaired — even with the biggest infrastructure program in human history.

Now that he’s run through his normal playbook — deny the offense(s), smear the accuser(s), threaten the questioners, offer a bevy of excuses until one sticks — it’s time for Cuomo engage in what for him will feel like a wholly alien strategy: honesty.

My unsolicited advice, Governor:

One — Stop the excuses. What you did, and how you responded, was horribly wrong. The women in your wanton web of want have been hurt. Own their pain by being willing to suffer some of your own.

Two — Admit you got it wrong. No one suggests you set out to kill grandma and grandpa in New York’s nursing homes when the COVID-infected were sent there.  Say you made a bum decision that, while well-intended, proved terribly ill-advised. Own that one too.

Three — Declare you will see the pandemic out, then resign as governor no later than year’s end. Then commit to working 24/7 to finish the job you started. You don’t have to be in elected office to prove you have a servant’s heart.

Short of this, Andrew Cuomo could be eviscerated by a feeding frenzy of new accusations, ones that further portray him as a cretin by day and a creep by night. If Cuomo refuses to leave the stage, others waiting in the wings might move to occupy it. 

In addition, he will be increasingly disowned by his own. Fellow Democrats, seeing Cuomo has been transformed from legend to leper, will avoid contact with him whenever possible so as not to be accused of aiding and abetting.

One year ago, before the truth of Andrew Cuomo was exposed before all of us, he was on a roll. Seen as a gubernatorial pillar in the early days of COVID, and by many Democrats as a possible last-minute replacement for their then-weak presumptive presidential nominee, Cuomo exuded confidence, strength, and frankness.

Nearly one year later, he’s the poster child for everything we dislike about people in power — and how they choose to wield that power.

The sports book on Andrew Cuomo’s past and present predicament is closed. He will not be elected to a fourth term as governor. He will not be allowed to call the shots anymore in a state he’s ruled with an iron fist. He will not be exonerated for acts of unconscionable behavior towards women — or for the disgrace of putting his political health ahead of the lives of older New Yorkers.

Yet because politics is full of improbable comeback stories, Cuomo’s future is still anyone’s guess. If he musters genuine contrition, exchanges personal venom for public virtue, and properly resigns from office (instead of being driven from it) his book of life is not yet closed.

If not, and Cuomo decides to slug it out, none will rue the moment he’s forced to leave. They’ll celebrate it as an emancipation.

Adam Goodman, a national Republican media strategist and columnist, is the first Edward R. Murrow senior fellow at Tufts University's Fletcher School. Follow him on Twitter @adamgoodman3