Biggy Rat'

Newton H. Minow, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under John F. Kennedy, denounced television as a “vast wasteland” in 1961. But at that same time, the nation’s children viewed the flickering images inside the electronic box as a “vast wonderland” — especially on Saturday mornings.

With parents and children freed from the routines of work and school for the weekend, mom and dad would sleep in, while the kids would pour bowls of sugar-infused breakfast cereal and plant themselves in front of the television for the morning’s animated fare. Comedy, action and even morality play came into the nation’s homes, courtesy of cartoons. It didn’t take long for the kids to distinguish the “good guys” and “bad guys,” as the contrast was as stark as the black and white in which it was televised.

One dastardly duo of that era’s animation — Biggy Rat and Itchy Brother — came roaring back into the collective consciousness of baby boomers last year in the real-life personas of Andrew and Chris Cuomo. The governor of New York and his younger sibling, a hectoring, lecturing cable news host, were ushered into American homes on a regular basis with repartee that the low-IQ brain trust at CNN apparently regarded as the epitome of “infotainment.”

As they basked in their self-imagined, refracted fraternal glory, it became apparent within a nanosecond that the Cuomo brothers would never be confused with the Smothers Brothers, though Chris and Andrew did their own variation of the “mom always liked you best” routine. It was also painfully obvious that neither Cuomo boy grew into the man their father was.

In the age of Reagan, Gov. Mario Cuomo emerged as the “Great Democrat Hope,” especially following his keynote address at the 1984 San Francisco Convention. 

No less a Republican than Richard Nixon praised the elder Cuomo’s speech for its eloquence and effectiveness. But New York’s first Gov. Cuomo earned the unflattering nickname “Hamlet on the Hudson” for his indecisiveness and ultimate refusal to run for president. In late December 1991, a chartered plane was poised to fly him to New Hampshire 90 minutes prior to that state closing filing for its first in the nation presidential primary in February 1992. Mario Cuomo said no; another Democrat governor, Bill Clinton of Arkansas, became the 42nd president of the United States.

The second Gov. Cuomo was ultimately discovered to possess hungers and habits that can only be described as “Clintonesque.” But prior to those revelations, Andrew found another vehicle to raise his profile. Like so many other Democrats in 2020, he decided to politicize the pandemic; but unlike the rest of his leftist cohorts, he took a page out of his younger brother’s career handbook — daily television.

By making his “Live from Albany” daily telecasts available to CNN and every other conceivable video outlet, Andrew Cuomo was able to feast on the political equivalent of Manna — free media. It was a political masterstroke. 

Given the constant demand for COVID-19 news, and the media’s decided leftist tilt, Gov. Andrew Cuomo filled the vacuum and earned predictable plaudits. Reporter Shannon Fisher’s account from April 2020 is typical of the praise-filled prose: 

“The novel coronavirus pandemic thrust him into a white-hot spotlight. A challenge like that can really test a leader’s mettle, and Cuomo’s pragmatic, empathetic leadership … earned high marks.”

It also earned him a Daytime Emmy Award for his TV performances and over $5 million for his book, titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

The aforementioned “white-hot spotlight” and the partisan predilections of most in the press corps combined to slow scrutiny of the failures of Gov. Cuomo’s leadership. But eventually they were exposed. No less a progressive publication than the New York Times proved it wasn’t fooling around on April Fool’s Day of this year, when it reported that the governor’s staff lowered the number of COVID-19 nursing home fatalities appearing in a July 2020 report from 9,844 to 6,432. 

The practice of treating elderly patients with COVID-19 in hospital and then prematurely readmitting them to rest homes put other seniors at risk and undoubtedly led to additional deaths.

Strange, then, that the nursing home scandal did not prompt Andrew Cuomo’s resignation as governor. Instead, subsequent charges of sexual harassment proved the catalyst that forced the “Luv Guv” to call it quits.

Why?

Curious observers would do well to remember the political environment that exists in today’s Democratic Party. There are allegations of similar nursing home fatalities in Pennsylvania and Michigan, and both those states hold gubernatorial elections next year. Had Cuomo departed Albany because of the nursing home scandal, Tom Wolf and Gretchen Whitmer could have faced a similar fate in Harrisburg and Lansing, respectively.

Instead, New York’s female lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, becomes the Empire State’s first female governor, giving NY Dems the chance to “turn the page” prior to their own 2022 gubernatorial election.

What’s next for Andrew Cuomo? It would seem a “vast wasteland.”

While some predict a political comeback, it would be wise for him to wait until 2032… the Year of the Rat.