Cuomo Uses the Trump Scandal Playbook
Kellyanne Conway Gets Big Book Deal
Mo Brooks Will Run for Senate In Alabama
White House Warms to Filibuster Reform
Republicans Worried Pelosi May Decide Iowa Race
Trump Faces Onslaught of Legal Problems
• Governors in Trouble, Part I: Gavin Newsom
• Governors in Trouble, Part II: Andrew Cuomo
• Filibuster Theater: Biden and McConnell
• The Five Types of Republicans
• Ohio Senate Race Likely to Feature a "Hillbilly"
• It's Hard to Stand out in Today's GOP
• They Were Trump Before Trump, Part IV: James Gordon Bennett
Happy St. Patrick's Day to our Irish readers! And to our non-Irish readers, for that matter; as
they say, "Everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's Day."
Also, quite a few readers—with D.D. in Platte City, MO, leading the way—noticed that yesterday's posting was 100% Trump-free. This weekend, we'll run some of the letters that were sent in response to that auspicious occasion. But don't count on it staying that way from now on. Not even today.
On Tuesday, the National Intelligence Council released a declassified report on foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election. The executive summary: several unfriendlies tried to muck around in the election; none of them were particularly successful.
A more detailed rundown of the five main conclusions of the report:
- The Russians launched an influence campaign meant to undermine Joe Biden.
- The Iranians launched influence campaigns meant to undermine Donald Trump.
- Other foreign actors, including Hezbollah, Venezuela, and Cuba, also tried to undermine Trump.
- China stayed out of the election.
- None of these entities tried to interfere with the actual mechanics of the election (registration, casting of ballots, vote reporting, vote counting).
It is interesting to learn where these various actors think their interests lie. The Russians obviously felt that Trump was better for them, on the whole, than Biden. The Iranians, the Cubans, the Venezuelans, and Hezbollah reached the opposite conclusion, which certainly makes sense in the case of the first three, since Trump had such an adversarial relationship with those nations. Presumably Hezbollah, for their part, was not happy about his work with, and for, Israel. And the Chinese decided that neither president was particularly "better" for them, at least not enough so to assume the risk of getting caught red-handed.
The good news is that this was limited entirely to propaganda, and was mostly online. That's obviously not ideal, but it's surely better than actually messing around with voting records and election results. Since Vladimir Putin, in particular, would have no qualms about such tinkering, we have to assume that it's beyond his power, perhaps due to the highly decentralized nature of American elections.
Going forward, it will presumably be harder and harder for the bad guys to insinuate themselves into American elections. First, because the social media platforms they depend upon to spread their messaging are cracking down. Second, because there is now a presidential administration that is interested in curtailing such behavior, as opposed to looking the other way. (Z)
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) got some bad news this week: It looks like supporters of a recall will collect the 1.5 million signatures needed by today's deadline. So, it would seem that the recall is happening.
Under California law, much of the decision-making will be in the hands of Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D). Once Secretary of State Shirley Weber's (D) staff has verified the signatures on the recall petition, Kounalakis has to schedule the election within 60-80 days. If there was a regularly scheduled election within 180 days, she could delay, but there isn't, so she can't. On "Recall Day," California voters will be asked to cast an up/down vote on the recall, and also to cast their vote for a potential successor (there will likely be multiple hundreds of candidates, a few of them serious, most of them unserious). If a majority votes "yes" for recall, then the candidate (among the hundreds) who gets the most votes is elected, even if they are short of 50% (Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected with 48% of the vote in 2003, the last and only previous time this has happened).
You don't get to be governor of California without learning a few tricks, and so Newsom has been hustling this week in order to save himself. Among the maneuvers he's executed:
- He's made a very
out of not getting vaccinated, so it's clear he's not "jumping the line" and he's not "any better than anyone else." Of course, voters who remember
his mid-pandemic dinner at the exclusive restaurant the French Laundry might not be impressed with such messaging.
that if Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) resigns her seat, he will appoint a Black woman in her place. When Feinstein observed that she
has no intention of doing do, Newsom had to walk that back a bit.
- He's unveiled a number of "let Newsom keep his job" endorsements from prominent Democrats, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren
(D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Reps. Karen Bass and Barbara Lee (both CA).
- He's launched a website, stoptherepublicanrecall.com, which (not unreasonably) frames the recall effort as a scheme by Republicans, many of them not actually Californians, to sneak one of their own into the governor's mansion through the back door.
The Republicans who are leading the recall charge respond to the latter claim by observing that about one-third of the pro-recall signatures came from people who are not registered Republicans. That certainly makes it seem like the recall effort has broad support, but don't be fooled. First of all, a lot of Republican-leaning voters in California are registered as independents or as members of third parties. Second, the people who collect signatures generally stand in front of grocery stores or in other public places, and basically accost people. Many folks sign just because it's the path of least resistance. A new poll from Emerson supports the conclusion that the recall is not all that bipartisan. It finds that 57% of California voters think the state is headed in the right direction, 42% approve of the job Newsom is doing, and only 38% would support a recall. Those aren't stellar numbers, but they are a far sight better than the ones Gov. Gray Davis (D) was pulling before he was recalled by Californians in 2003.
Even if Newsom is recalled, the GOP has another problem: They need to have just one serious candidate on the ballot. Given that Republicans are in the minority, if the Republican vote is split, it will be very difficult for a member of the Party to triumph in the jungle-style election. And, unfortunately for them, the California GOP is in disarray, and is dealing with the same Trump/NeverTrump divide that other Republican Party organs are. If a top-tier member of the red team were to jump in, it might clear out the field, but there might not be one of those in the state. Right now, it's looking like it will be a whole gaggle of second-tier Republicans, including former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, former ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, twice-unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate John H. Cox, and, throwing his hat into the ring on Tuesday, former representative Doug Ose.
This is going to suck up a lot of oxygen for the next few months, since it will be pretty much the only game in town, horse-race wise (except for a handful of special elections for House seats). However, odds are that the status quo is sustained. (Z)
As we pointed out on Monday, all of the prominent Democrats in New York (both U.S. senators, a bunch of representatives, the leaders of both chambers of the state house, etc.) have called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) to resign, but he'll remain fairly safe as long as longtime ally Joe Biden remains in his corner. Well, the Governor got some very bad news on Tuesday. Sitting for an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, the President said that he wants to wait until AG Letitia James' investigation is complete, but that if the charges against Cuomo are verified, then he should resign and will probably face prosecution. Ouch.
Only James knows how fast she is going to wrap this up, but whenever she does complete her investigation, certainly the substance of the charges against Cuomo will be sustained. It is fairly rare for accusers to lie about these things and it's all-but-unheard of for six different accusers to all be lying. Further, Cuomo has effectively admitted his guilt, falling back on the excuse that he "didn't mean anything by it." Now that his last, best major ally is backing away, he's in serious trouble. And even if the Governor does not choose to resign, he might be impeached. All in all, we think Gavin Newsom (see above) is in a much stronger position right now than Cuomo is. In part this is due to the difference in style between the two governors. Cuomo is extremely aggressive and pushy and tends to make enemies easily. Newsom is much less so. Also, Newsom hasn't been governor nearly as long as Cuomo, so he has made fewer enemies than Cuomo. (Z)
We've taken the position a number of times, including yesterday, that all the public arguing about the filibuster is just carefully scripted kabuki theater designed to give centrist Democrats like Joe Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) cover for supporting some sort of change. Two weeks ago, Manchin said he was not interested in making a change, and then last week he said he would be ok with making the filibuster "more painful" and reinstating the Jimmy-Stewart-style talking filibuster. Last week, Biden said he was not interested in making a change, and then this week (in the same interview where he backed away from Andrew Cuomo), he said he's ok with making the filibuster more painful, and reinstating the Jimmy-Stewart-style talking filibuster. This comes roughly 24 hours after liberal Democrats like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Stacey Abrams made very public cases for the evils of the filibuster.
Of course, Biden isn't the only one who knows about political theater. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) might not be invited to the Democrats' scripting sessions—er, planning meetings—but he has no problem crashing their show. And so, he made a floor speech on Tuesday in which he displayed his very best King Kong impression. Pounding his chest (well, rhetorically), he warned that if the Democrats kill the filibuster, he and his caucus will use every dirty trick in the book to cause Senate business to grind to a halt. And then, when the GOP gets control of the government again, the pendulum will "swing hard," and the Republicans will defund Planned Parenthood, pass concealed carry laws, restrict or outlaw abortion, support new and expanded oil drilling, etc.
It should be clear that we do not find Biden's and Manchin's "evolution" on this issue to be particularly genuine. Nor do we find McConnell's bluster to be particularly persuasive. After all, he makes these same threats every time the filibuster appears to be endangered. And the odds of the Republican Party claiming the trifecta again, anytime soon, are pretty low. By the time they do, the Supreme Court will have already decided, one way or the other, if it's sticking with Roe v. Wade, while America's auto fleet will be well on the way to being all-electric. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has already lost the majority of its federal funding, while all red states (and many blue states) already allow some form of concealed carry. Point is, these specific threats are rather empty.
Anyhow, this drama appears to be drawing toward its denouement more quickly than seemed possible two months ago. We may have an answer, one way or the other, by the time summer arrives.
The big test will come when H.R. 1 comes up for a vote. For Democrats, this is do or die. In contrast, Republicans are willing to destroy the Senate if need be to stop it. That's when we will find out if the Democrats are willing to change the rules. An infrastructure bill might come up first, but Democrats can probably pass that using budget reconciliation. There is no way H.R. 1 can be passed using budget reconciliation, so that is where the rubber will meet the road. (Z)
The polling firm of Fabrizio and Lee, which worked for Donald Trump back when he was a candidate for political office, decided they would like to understand the current state of the Republican Party. And so, they surveyed more than 1,400 registered GOP voters to see where they stand, and how they feel about the former president.
Based on the results, Fabrizio and Lee believes that the current iteration of the GOP is made up of five "tribes." Here they are, from most Trumpy to least Trumpy:
- InfoWars GOP (10%): The folks who believe all the conspiracy theories, and who would
follow Trump to the gates of hell if he led them there.
- Diehard Trumpers (27%): They don't believe the conspiracy theories, but they would also
follow Trump to the gates of hell if he led them there.
- Trump Boosters (28%): They like Trump, but they are Republicans first and foremost, and
some of them might like to see a different candidate in 2024.
- Post-Trump GOP (20%): They liked Trump, but would like to see the party move on from
- Never Trump (15%): They don't like Trump, and probably won't vote for him in either the primaries or the general in 2024, if he's on the ballot.
We pass this poll along because we're a politics-oriented site, and it's gotten a fair bit of attention. However, we are underwhelmed by it. To start, we're not at all clear what this is ultimately supposed to tell us. That, less than two months removed from the end of the Trump presidency, most Republicans are having trouble imagining someone else with the reins of the Party in their hands? No kidding. In March of 2016, Democrats had trouble imagining anyone other than Barack Obama running the show. Some time needs to pass before we conclude exactly how Trumpy the Republican Party remains.
Further, it's worth asking what the motivation behind this poll is. Again, Fabrizio and Lee worked for Trump, not the RNC. So, it's doubtful they have any loyalty to the Party, per se, or any interest in helping them to chart a path forward. More probable is that they would like Trump, at least for now, to resume his pursuit of the White House, and to use some of that sweet, sweet super PAC money to hire some pollsters in service of same. Pollsters like, say, Fabrizio and Lee. That agenda would certainly be helped by a poll that "proves" that 85% of Republicans like Trump, and well above 50% of them want him to run again. Particularly when that poll is presented in the form of a PowerPoint slide show, with lots and lots of pretty visuals.
This poll also seems to be a little sloppy to us, methodologically. The line between the Trump Boosters and Post-Trump GOP, in particular, seems fuzzy. Further, how can Fabrizio and Lee be certain that people are telling the truth about their belief in conspiracy theories? It is improbable that the line between "I believe" and "I don't believe" is binary; there's more likely a spectrum of belief. And, for that matter, how are Fabrizio and Lee avoiding the problem that other pollsters had, namely that many Trump-loving voters refuse to talk to polling houses?
So again, we just don't see much of value here. But we pass it along, because it got covered by most of the mainstream outlets, and because your mileage may vary. (Z)
Speaking of Trumpy Republicans, Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance has made quite a career of claiming to understand poor, white workers despite himself being a wealthy, Yale-trained lawyer. It is true that Vance grew up in more modest circumstances than, say, Donald Trump did. However, it's also true that he appears to have exaggerated exactly how humble his roots were, claiming experiences that were actually those of his grandparents as his own. Further, he reaches the basic conclusion that the poor people of Appalachia (and, by extension, poor people everywhere) are to blame for their own problems because they don't try hard enough to overcome their circumstances. That's a viewpoint right out of some century, but it ain't the 21st. Or the 20th, for that matter.
Unsurprisingly, conservatives—particularly wealthy ones—love Vance and what he has to say (in much the same way that they love Black folks like Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, who blame Black people for failing to overcome racism). And now, some major Trump supporters have committed big bucks to Vance's potential run for the U.S. Senate seat that is about to be vacated by Rob Portman (R-OH). Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel has given $10 million to a Vance-aligned PAC, while the Mercer family has also said they will pony up in an effort to get him elected.
Vance has not officially declared for the race, but with that kind of money already in the bank, and with the likely enthusiastic backing of Donald Trump, it's probable he'll jump in very soon. Exactly how good a fit for Ohio Vance is will be the $10 million (and counting) question. Recall that Portman is pretty moderate, and the other Buckeye State senator (Sherrod Brown) is a fairly liberal Democrat, whereas Vance is quite conservative. While Vance and Trump have much in common, Trump never, ever told poor, white working people that they are to blame for their own problems. In fact, Trump's specialty was blaming others (Mexicans, Muslims, the deep state, Hillary Clinton, etc.). Once the voters who would be Vance's base get wind of a few choice quotes from Hillbilly Elegy, they may not be so enthusiastic about the would-be senator. (Z)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) believes he has big things in his future. He wants to inherit Donald Trump's mantle, and his voters, and ride that all the way to the White House in 2024. To that end, the Senator jumps in on every single culture-wars controversy that presents itself (well, at least, the ones that pop up when he's not off vacationing in Cancun). Cruz had plenty to say about Dr. Seuss, and he's had plenty to say about the 2022 Olympics, and now he's ridden to the "rescue" of Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Why does Carlson need rescuing, you may ask? Truth be told, he doesn't. That said, to understand the latest faux controversy, let us offer two statements of fact:
- Women are allowed to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. This was settled a century ago.
- Sometimes, women get pregnant. This was settled considerably more than a century ago.
In view of these two things, the Pentagon decided that they really ought to make accommodations, uniform-wise, for pregnant female soldiers. Seems reasonable, right?
Well, unless you are Tucker Carlson, that is. Carlson, whose time in uniform is limited to the few months he spent at the Swiss boarding school Collège du Léman before getting kicked out, decided that the Pentagon had gone crazy, and tore into them for making that change. The Pentagon fired back, telling Carlson he doesn't know what he's talking about, and that he really needs to run his mouth in other directions. And that is where Cruz enters; he's now demanded a meeting with Pentagon brass so they can explain how they would dare to criticize Carlson.
Our point here is not about Carlson. Nobody really cares about him; he's just a 21st century P.T. Barnum who will do whatever he has to in order to keep people's attention. If he could get ratings telling people the way to the great egress, he'd do it. The point here is about Cruz. Everyone who knows him says he's a really smart guy, and we're willing to believe them, even if we haven't seen all that much evidence ourselves. However, while he might be smarter than Donald Trump (not a high bar to clear, to be sure), Cruz has two real challenges when it comes to reinventing himself as Trump v2.0. The first is that there are a lot of other folks in the Republican Party who are trying to do the same basic thing, and it's not so easy to stand out when competing against the Matt Gaetzes and the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world.
The second thing is that Trump is a vastly better sh**-stirrer than Cruz is. Trump has an uncanny instinct for knowing what will piss his base off, and for making them believe that it pisses him off, too. Maybe he really cares about kneeling football players and Hillary's e-mails and "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" and maybe he doesn't, but either way, he very effectively sold his alleged "feelings" to the base. With Cruz, it's just not the same. Maybe the Senator picks his battles poorly (perhaps because he picks so many of them), or maybe—and more likely—he just comes off as phony and calculating. In any case, this is why we don't believe he'll ever be the Republican nominee for president, much less the President of the United States. (Z)
The series returns. Past entries:
- Samuel Adams, Pamphleteer and Politician
- Andrew Jackson, General and President
- Henry Ward Beecher, Minister and Author
This Saturday, when we described Joseph Pulitzer as "one of the two towering figures of 19th century journalism," we said the other would get an item this week. And so, we now give you...James Gordon Bennett (William Randolph Hearst was more 20th century, in our view, though he will be showing up later in the series).
What Makes Him Trump-like, in 25 Words or Less: He was a New Yorker with "flexible" morals and party loyalty who took advantage of changes in the media to achieve broad influence.
Trump-like Quote: "Poor Pierce." (Bennett making up a nasty nickname for a politician he disliked, in this case Franklin Pierce, 1852)
The Rise: Like Pulitzer, Bennett was an immigrant. Born and raised in Scotland, he sailed for North America at the age of 24 with just £5 (about $250 in modern money) to his name. Arriving on this side of the Atlantic in mid-1819, he spent some time in Canada (uh, oh), then Maine, and then South Carolina before moving to New York, working as a correspondent for a string of newspapers and journals.
The newspapers of that time were rather different from those of today. They tended to be the province of the elite, and were supported by (somewhat expensive) annual subscriptions, often supplemented by funding from political parties. They were also quite dry, and were primarily in the business of advocating the politics of one faction or another. Since news was difficult to collect in a timely fashion, it was generally relegated to the back pages, with the front pages devoted to editorials and op-eds.
By the mid-1830s, however, technological change laid the groundwork for a different approach. Paper became cheaper, printing presses (powered by steam) became faster, and the advent of the telegraph made it possible to collect timely information from faraway places. In densely populated New York City, a number of newspaper publishers—notably Benjamin Day of The New York Sun—had started marketing newspapers to the masses. Priced at one penny (about a quarter today), they were within the budget of nearly anyone. That said, none of the New York newspapermen had quite managed to crack the code, with the result that their circulations remained fairly modest (the Sun, for example, sold about 5,000 copies per day).
Glory Days: In 1835, Bennett founded The New York Herald, the newspaper he would helm for the rest of his career. His genius was in knowing what "the masses" wanted, particularly working-class Irishmen. The Herald first attracted attention with its sensational coverage of the murder of prostitute Helen Jewett, and the trial of her accused killer, Richard P. Robinson (who was probably guilty, but was acquitted due to familial connections).
Thereafter, Bennett implemented a string of ideas and innovations that would reinvent the newspaper into something resembling its modern form. Among them:
- Coverage of professional sports
- Interviews with presidents (Martin Van Buren sat for the first ever presidential newspaper interview)
- Hiring foreign correspondents (most notably a German fellow named Karl Marx)
- Coverage of the stock market (including inventing the terms "bear" and "bull" markets)
- Illustrations and cartoons (printing photos wouldn't be possible until the 1880s)
- A gossip page
- Extensive coverage of Civil War battles
- Founding of the Associated Press to share telegraphy expenses
In addition to innovations like these, readers loved Bennett's willingness to pick fights in the pages of the Herald with politicians and with other newspaper editors. It was a rare day, week, or month that some feud was not ongoing, and usually it was multiple feuds. Indeed, Bennett's feud with rival publisher Horace Greeley of The New York Tribune lasted for the better part of two decades. Bennett's crudity, lack of social graces, and propensity for cheap shots denied him acceptance into the upper echelons of New York society, despite the fact that he was one of the wealthiest people in town and desperately wanted to be a part of the "in" crowd. He was also physically accosted and beaten on the streets of New York on multiple occasions by the targets of his insults.
As someone who not only loved to stir the pot, but made millions doing so, Bennett's loyalties were to himself rather than to any politician or party. Over the course of seven presidential elections between 1840 and 1864, he endorsed a Whig, a Democrat, another Whig, another Democrat, a Republican, a Southern Democrat, and a Northern Democrat. And even that doesn't really do it justice; imagine if, in the last seven elections, a newspaper had endorsed Al Gore, Dick Cheney, Joe Biden, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Jeff Sessions, and James Mattis, and you start to get the picture. Bennett was also an unsparing critic of Abraham Lincoln while the 16th president was alive, and that included panning the Gettysburg Address ("dishwatery utterances"). However, after Lincoln was shot, Bennett saw that the money was in fawning tributes, and made it his business to turn the dead president into a martyr; coverage that allowed the Herald to sell out multiple special editions.Afterwards: Not long after the Civil War ended, the 71-year-old Bennett decided that journalism was a young man's game and handed off the reins of the Herald to his son, James Gordon Bennett Jr. The elder Bennett lived another 6 years, succumbing in 1872 after suffering violent seizures. The younger Bennett proved to be a poor businessman, a spendthrift, and a substance abuser, and eventually lost control of his father's newspaper.
Next up: William Magear Tweed. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar16 Biden's Headaches, Part II: The Budget
Mar16 Biden's Headaches, Part III: The Winter Olympics
Mar16 Haaland Is Confirmed
Mar16 Democrats Now Waging Full-Frontal Assault on the Filibuster
Mar16 Iowa Voters: Grassley Must Go!
Mar16 Booker May Challenge Paul in Kentucky
Mar15 Trump Is Adrift
Mar15 Trump Will Be Discovered
Mar15 Where's Joe?
Mar15 Stacey Abrams Wants to Exempt Election Bills from the Filibuster
Mar15 Treasury Won't Have to Borrow $1.86 Trillion to Fund the Relief Bill
Mar15 Jay Ashcroft Won't Run for the Senate
Mar15 McConnell Is Already Looking for Senate Candidates
Mar15 First House Retirement is Announced
Mar15 Suppose You Could Vote for a Party Where Everyone Agreed with You?
Mar14 Sunday Mailbag
Mar13 Saturday Q&A
Mar12 Biden Addresses the Nation
Mar12 Watchdog Group Wants 13 GOP Representatives Investigated
Mar12 The Gubernatorial Jockeying Is Well Underway
Mar12 Donald Who?
Mar12 Newsmax What?
Mar12 Sex; Explosions; Meghan, Duchess of Sussex; and the Big Problem with Donald Trump
Mar12 Why So Many Politicians Are Such A**holes
Mar11 Congress Passes the COVID-19 Relief Bill
Mar11 Merrick Garland Finally Gets a New Job
Mar11 Cohen Met with Vance Yesterday
Mar11 Bernie Wins Nevada
Mar11 Nobody Knows Who Won Iowa
Mar11 Florida May Ban Drop Boxes for Absentee Ballots
Mar11 Democrats Shouldn't Take Latinos for Granted
Mar11 What's Going on with Ron Johnson?
Mar11 A Woman to Watch
Mar10 House Expected to Pass COVID-19 Relief Bill Today...
Mar10 ...And They Passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act Yesterday
Mar10 Greene, Other Trumpy House Members Dial Up the Obnoxiousness
Mar10 Arkansas Tries to Set Collision Course with Roe
Mar10 Lindsey Graham, Racketeer?
Mar10 Republicans Endeavor to Overhaul Grassroots Fundraising
Mar10 So Much for Facebook's Political Ad Ban
Mar09 To Be Blunt, Roy's Out
Mar09 Senate Retirements Complicate Things for the GOP
Mar09 McConnell at Work on Succession Plan
Mar09 RNC Will Not Cease and Desist Using Trump's Image
Mar09 Vance Investigation Adds Second City
Mar09 The Republican War on Voting Has Commenced
Mar09 Biden Kinda, Sorta Wants to Keep the Filibuster
Mar08 Manchin Is Open to Making the Filibuster More Painful
Mar08 How Badly Is Cuomo Wounded?