WATERTOWN — Members of the Cuomo administration have mastered the art of arrogantly refusing to hold themselves accountable during a health care crisis, and they should offer courses to other public officials.
Time after time, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has balked at the notion that he’s made mistakes in responding to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Certainly, he and his supporters can point to many instances where he’s been spot on regarding a particular problem and his decisions have been correct. But like every other political leader, he’s committed some errors.
That’s understandable; we’re all human and have flaws. No one has every conceivable answer, which means we goof up periodically. The best way to deal with such situations is to admit our blunders and pledge to do better.
This is when we have the chance to display our humility. We recognize our lapses in judgment and try to learn from the experience.
However, Cuomo doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who likes to own up to his gaffes. Perhaps he believes that copping to getting some things wrong would be a sign of weakness — and who wants to look weak?
In April, Anne McCloy from WRGB/CBS 6 in Albany clashed with Cuomo during one of his daily coronavirus briefings. She pointed out how his lockdown orders had ruined many people because they lost their jobs and had no source of income to support themselves and their families.
Cuomo refused to consider her suggestion that many of these people view the “cure” worse than the “illness.” He’s right and anyone who disagrees with him is wrong — case closed.
This is typical of how Cuomo and his administration simply double down on their assertions and move on.
He is able to get away with this now because of his reputation for how he’s handled the pandemic. But once the shine from his halo begins to fade, he’ll encounter more pushback.
Fox News Channel meteorologist Janice Dean has frequently called out Cuomo for some of his ill-advised decisions on the health care crisis. In particular, she’s offered harsh words over the state’s initial policy of allowing elderly individuals infected with the coronavirus to return to their long-term care facilities. Thousands of nursing home residents have died from COVID-19, and it’s reasonable to conclude this is the result (at least in part) from bringing back people with the virus.
Dean’s husband lost both his mother and father to COVID-19 while they resided in nursing homes. So she can be forgiven for having a less-than-favorable view of Cuomo and some of his actions.
On Tuesday, she labeled the state’s vaccination rollout as a “disaster”: “It is just another leadership failure from this governor.”
Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, rejected Dean’s comments. The website DailyMail.com solicited his input on the criticism, and his statement was rather dismissive.
“Every state has had issues with vaccine distribution because of lack of federal funds, but we’re rapidly ramping up distribution and currently have administered more than 60 percent of the vaccines we have,” he said, adding this callous dig at Dean: “Last I checked, she’s not a credible source on anything except maybe the weather.”
To have someone representing the governor demean Dean’s views like Azzopardi did is crass and unprofessional. He treated her as if she were just some ditzy weather girl who shouldn’t be taken seriously on anything else.
Not addressing a problem directly isn’t unusual for the Cuomo administration. The question over how many deaths occurred due to Cuomo’s directive to allow infected people to return to nursing facilities has never been answered.
Cuomo denied this caused numerous deaths in nursing homes throughout the state. But interestingly, he did so while discontinuing the practice. He said an investigation into the matter cleared him and placed the blame on nursing home staffers and family members.
However, the state has refused to release pertinent information about what went on or how many people died. Failing to lay out all the facts does little but increase suspicions about where the government went wrong.
Using the lethal weapons of the ideological culture war in this country is no way to govern. Cuomo and his surrogates certainly have the right to respond to criticism.
But countering a point someone raises by trying to diminish their value as a person is offensive. New Yorkers deserve better from their state government, and representatives of the executive branch need to address issues without the snark.
Being honest with constituents about where mistakes were made will increase Cuomo’s credibility, not erode it. And treating critics respectfully is a sign of an administration that has confidence in its actions.
On the other hand, a desire to demean rivals indicates a need to deflect people’s attention. There’s no better way to spread skepticism about what the administration is doing than to be petty and catty in addressing problems. Headline writers will focus on the boorish behavior rather than peering at what’s behind the curtain.
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. They also may follow him on Twitter: @WDT_OpEd.