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Cuomo Is a 21st-Century Dick

Dick Nixon, that is. We'll explain what we mean by that shortly, but we wouldn't want to be accused of burying the lede, so we will start by noting that New York AG Letitia James (D) has completed her investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), and concluded that he is guilty of sexually harassing nearly a dozen women.

The AG's report is 168 pages long, and is full of damning details (see here for a rundown of some of the most damning). The Governor repeatedly crossed the line with his words, with his hands, and with his lips. Particular attention is being paid to the account of a state trooper, whose name is being withheld. She says that Cuomo maneuvered to get her assigned to his personal security detail, and then, on an ongoing basis, behaved in a manner that was "flirtatious" and "creepy," including unwanted kissing, unwanted touching of her chest, sexually suggestive comments, and invitations to join Cuomo "upstairs" in the governor's mansion.

Cuomo promptly defended himself, declaring: "I want you to know directly from me that I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances." He also released a bunch of photos, some of them showing the Governor interacting with his staff and other people, and other photos showing non-Cuomo politicians interacting with their staff and with other people in the same way. The implication: "Hey, everyone does it!"

Obviously, the Governor is going to go with the best argument he can come up with, and this is presumably the best he could do under the circumstances (i.e., caught red-handed). We wonder if he realizes how very flimsy his defense is, though, or if he's actually convinced himself that he's a victim here. As to his declaration, he's conceding that he did indeed touch people (and, it would seem, that he did make sexual advances on people). Since "appropriate" is in the eye of the beholder, and at least 11 beholders say they were uncomfortable, then Cuomo has effectively convicted himself.

Meanwhile, it hardly needs to be said that "Hey, everyone does it!" is such a lousy defense as to be a cliché for lousy defenses (recall the default parental response to that one: "If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?"). And that is before we get into the fact that photographs offer little in the way of context, and two otherwise similar images can document very different circumstances. As a quick object lesson, consider these four famous "kiss" images. Do you know which one would be considered sexual assault by modern standards?

Black and white of Elvis Presley French kissing a woman whose 
face cannot be seen; close-up color picture of Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger from 'Brokeback Mountain;' black and white of a sailor and a dental
hygienist in Times Square; and color image of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in 'Gone with the Wind.'

The images, in case you don't recognize them, clockwise from top left: (1) Elvis Presley and fan Barbara Gray in 1956; (2) Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain" (2005); (4) Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in "Gone with the Wind" (1939) and (4) George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer Friedman in Times Square in 1945. The answer is at the bottom of this item.

For now, however, we will reiterate that Cuomo's defense of his conduct is a non-defense, one that would not work in a court of law, and that should not be expected to work in the court of public opinion. And indeed, the court of public opinion has pretty much already rendered its verdict. If you can think of a prominent Democrat whose opinion might carry some weight here, the odds are that yesterday they called on the Governor to resign. That includes Joe Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and the entire New York State Congressional delegation (that's two senators and 27 representatives). Keeping in mind that "the entire New York State Congressional delegation" includes Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), that means that all three of the most powerful Democrats in Washington have turned their backs on Cuomo.

Of course, none of these people have any actual, formal power in New York State politics. And you don't get to be a three-term governor of New York without being pretty tough, and developing an ability to weather storms, both actual and metaphorical. However, Achilles was pretty tough, too, and we know what happened to him. In Cuomo's case, he happens to govern a state that allows for governors to be impeached. It's only happened once before, in 1912, when Democrat William Sulzer ran afoul of New York City political machine Tammany Hall, and was tried, convicted, and removed based on charges of dubious merit.

Still, the law is on the books, and the requirements are similar to those for a presidential impeachment and removal. First, half of the 150-member New York State Assembly has to vote to impeach, Then, then two-thirds of the 63-member New York State Senate (minus the majority leader, who is recused by the terms of the New York state constitution) plus the 7-member New York State Court of Appeals have to vote to convict. That works out to 76 votes to impeach, and 46 votes to convict. As of the close of business Tuesday, at least 50 state Assembly members, most of them Democrats, have called on Cuomo to resign, as have at least 55 state Senate members. Speaker Carl Heastie (D) is leading the charge in the Assembly, and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) is leading the charge in the Senate, and both say impeachment is coming if the Governor tries to hold on.

It is Cuomo's bad luck that, beyond being a lech, he was born in a blue state, and to a prominent Democratic family. Donald Trump surely did worse than Cuomo—in fact, he is accused of rape, among other sexual assaults—and he's retained all of his political power while avoiding any sort of meaningful investigation. If the E. Jean Carroll/Summer Zervos/Alva Johnson lawsuits are not successful, the former president will likely suffer no political, criminal, or civil consequences for his misdeeds before he goes to the wrong side of the dirt. To take another example, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is accused of doing far worse than former Democratic senator Al Franken ever did. Gaetz may still pay the price for his alleged misdeeds, but he most certainly hasn't been run out of town the way Franken was. There was a time when human decency and a sense of honor could sometimes override partisanship in both parties. Now, that only seems to be true for one party.

And that's where we get to the Dick angle. During the Watergate scandal, of course, Nixon insisted that he was going to hang on, too. And he apparently believed it, right up until he got a visit from Sen. Barry Goldwater, one of the most respected members of the Senate Republican Conference. When Goldwater told Nixon the game was up and even most Republicans had turned against him, Tricky Dick folded up the tent, and quickly resigned and got out of Dodge. To be more precise, the Senator broke the bad news on Aug. 7, Nixon resigned on Aug. 8, and he left office on Aug. 9.

That, then, is where we assume this is headed. We don't know if there is an obvious emissary in the New York state Senate to play the Goldwater role, or if Cuomo is concerned about the possible loss of pension and other benefits (as Nixon was). But the fact is that the Democratic Party has turned against the Governor, and we don't see what point there would be in him digging his heels in. He's going to be the lamest of lame ducks for however long he hangs on, his reputation is going to be dragged through the mud, and he's obviously no longer electable, so a fourth term is out.

That said, we are also interested in what you think. Send us a message telling us: (1) what date you think the Governor will bow to reality and resign; or (2) that you think he won't resign. Get back to us by noon PT on Thursday; we'll report back with results on Friday. And please include your city; once the answer is known, we'll give credit (by initials) to the reader or readers who come closest to hitting the bullseye.

And finally, in answer to the question above, it's possible that you may have dismissed the movie images as possibilities. However, there are many examples of movie actors being forced to do things they did not wish to do, and in a manner that could create civil or criminal liability; including at least one famous recent example. That said, the correct answer is actually the famous V-J Day photo on the lower left. Friedman, who is almost universally believed to be the woman in the image, said at various times that "It wasn't my choice to be kissed," and "That man was very strong. I wasn't kissing him. He was kissing me," and "I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this tight grip." Although she never went so far as to condemn Mendonsa (who died in 2019) or to say that she regarded herself as a victim, she pointedly and steadfastly refused to re-create the pose when asked. And what Friedman did say is more than enough to make the image problematic.

As to the other three, there is at least the possibility they were problematic, and that the five folks shown who are no longer living (all but Gyllenhaal) took that to their graves. However, all of the participants, while alive, expressed nothing but positive feelings about their experiences. And again, the point is that a photo may be worth 1,000 words, but it most certainly doesn't tell the whole story. (Z)

The Establishment Strikes Back

The good people of OH-11 and OH-15 have had their say. And they gave wins to the establishments of the two parties.

We will start with OH-15, the Republican-leaning district where Donald Trump's political muscle was being put to the test. When the votes were counted, the former president's candidate, coal lobbyist Mike Carey, won with ease. He got 37% of the vote, easily outpacing second-place finisher Jeff LaRe (13.3%) and third-place finisher Ron Hood (13.1%). In the general election, Carey will face state Rep. Allison Russo (D), who demolished Greg Betts 84.2% to 15.8%. She's a definite longshot, but in an R+9 district, with a special election electorate, and all the money she's going to get from hopeful Democrats nationwide, you never know. We don't think she'll win, obviously, but we're not willing to say it's completely hopeless, either.

This is, at very least, a reprieve for Trump, since his "win" here means that we won't spend the next 6 months talking about how his endorsement doesn't seem to matter much. That said, we always caution, including in our writeup of the Trump "loss" in TX-06 last week, against putting too much weight on special elections. Yes, Trump's candidate won last night, and by a sizable margin. However, the candidates were unknowns, the electorate was small and likely idiosyncratic, and the non-Trump candidates collected nearly two-thirds of the votes. So, let's not be granting The Donald the title of "kingmaker" just yet.

Meanwhile, if "hopeless" is what you are looking for, then OH-11 will suit your needs nicely. That one is D+30, which means that a Republican there has about as much chance as a narc at a biker rally. And in a reminder that "very Democratic" does not necessarily mean "very lefty," the district gave centrist Shontel Brown (D) a comfortable victory over progressive (and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, ally) Nina Turner, 50.4% to 44.5%. The district is 53.5% Black, and nearly all of the prominent Black Democrats threw their support behind Brown, which was enough to wipe out Turner's originally enormous polling lead. Brown will now face another Black woman, namely Republican Laverne Gore, and is all but certain to win. Remember: D+30.

In our preview item yesterday, we wondered about the possibility of ratfu**ing in the OH-15 race, since the state has open primaries. And it would appear that if there was ratfu**ing going on, it was actually much more significant in OH-11. In last year's regular election in OH-11, the Democrat (Marcia Fudge) collected 80% of the ballots cast (against the very same Laverne Gore who is back for another bite at the apple). Yesterday, the Democratic candidates collected 93.4% of the ballots cast. Either Republicans stayed home because they saw no point, or some of them cast ballots for the less problematic Democrat (from their point of view), or both. The point, given the possibility of Republican involvement, is that we did not necessarily learn that "the progressive Democrats can't win elections." Oh, and the breakdown for OH-15 is that the Republican (Steve Stivers) collected 63.4% of ballots cast last year, while last night the Republicans collected 75%. Some ratfu**ing is certainly possible, but there's no way it swung the result, whereas it might have done so in OH-11. (Z)

Biden to Extend Eviction Moratorium

Yesterday, we had items entitled "Well, This Was Entirely Predictable" Parts I-III. This one might as well be Part IV because—surprise!—Joe Biden would prefer that millions of people not be evicted on his watch. And he would also prefer not to be arguing publicly with the other leaders of his Party, most obviously Nancy Pelosi. And so, the President decided on Tuesday to extend the eviction moratorium, despite conceding that he's still not sure he's got the legal authority to do so.

The good news for Biden is that this is not a permanent situation. One way or another, the hold on evictions can't last forever, and eventually renters and mortgagors are going to have to settle their debts or move on. So, Biden just needs to buy a little time, and this will probably do it. In fact, we would say that he's taken a messy situation and crafted a pretty good solution, politically. Now, the following messages are all out there:

That doesn't mean that Biden and his party won't get the blame if this situation blows up, but to the extent he can blunt that, he appears to have done so.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that while the Ohio election result (see above) is a disappointment for progressives, this situation is a pretty big win for them, especially for Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), who is approaching AOC territory when it comes to national prominence. Bush has been camping out on the steps of the Capitol as a form of protest in order to press her fellow Democrats to take action, and it seems to have worked. It's been a while since anyone in Washington cared what a politician named Bush had to say, but she's clearly a rising star in the House Democratic Caucus. (Z)

House Democrats Need to Work on their Messaging

Speaking of House Democrats, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), who is also the current chair of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), had a meeting last week with a number of his most vulnerable Democratic colleagues. And he shared with them some unvarnished truth: Republicans are leading Democrats on the generic ballot in many swing districts, and if House Democrats don't get on the ball, messaging-wise, then the Party will lose its majority in the House.

According to DCCC data, swing-district Democrats need to be doing two things. The first is really playing up the policy accomplishments of the Biden administration, particularly as regards infrastructure (which is, of course, an anticipated accomplishment, and not an actual accomplishment, as yet). The second is hitting Republicans over the head, focusing on their extremism, particularly as regards 1/6 and vaccination.

This story is interesting and useful enough that we ran with it, but don't assign too much weight to it quite yet. There are a lot of known unknowns, including who the Republican opponents will be, what's going to happen with the pandemic/economy, and what is going to happen with redistricting. There are undoubtedly unknown unknowns too, but we cannot list them because we don't know what they are. Further, the DCCC's needs are best served by telling members that the sky is falling, and not by telling them "take it easy, and don't worry too much about fundraising and campaigning, because you've got this in the bag." Also, there hasn't been much campaigning yet. And when there is, any Democrat who can't figure out for themselves that they should run on (1) the most popular initiatives of the Democrat in the White House, and (2) the most unpopular behaviors and positions of the opponent's political party, really ought to be drummed out of the business. (Z)

Speaking of Questionable Gubernatorial Behavior...

For obvious reasons, Andrew Cuomo dominated the less-than-admirable-governor coverage on Tuesday. But he was hardly the only one to raise some eyebrows. Indeed, that was going on all over the map yesterday.

Let's start with the most substantive example, namely Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX). As expected, he managed to get himself and his state sued by the Department of Justice. The Governor is holding firm on the executive order that allows state officials to send vehicles with undocumented immigrants in them back to Mexico, under the pretext of protecting Americans (at least, some of them) against COVID-19. Border enforcement is unambiguously the prerogative of the federal government, and so the DoJ suit was inevitable (particularly once AG Merrick Garland threatened it last week). An eventual loss for Abbott is also inevitable, but it would appear that he would prefer to reap the PR benefits of fighting a hopeless battle. It's a modern-day version of the Alamo! We wonder if the Governor killed him a b'ar when he was only three.

Moving on, Gov. Mike Parson (R-MO) has been persuaded that, ever since Mark and Patricia McCloskey were charged with crimes for waving their guns at a group of peaceful Black protesters, the couple was getting a raw deal and was deserving of a gubernatorial pardon. Never mind that Parson reached these conclusions despite everyone having seen the video evidence, and before the McCloskeys were actually convicted of anything (they ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and paid about $3,000 in fines). Anyhow, Parson made good on his promise yesterday, and issued pardons for both. Now, Mark McCloskey will be able to suffer a crushing defeat in Missouri's U.S. Senate primary with a clean record.

And then there is Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who apparently never met a culture wars fight he didn't like. As most people know, the company (Unilever) that makes Ben & Jerry's ice cream is pretty lefty. They're in Vermont, the same state that sent Bernie Sanders to the U.S. Senate, so there must be something in the water there. Anyhow, not too long ago, Unilever decided to cancel the license granted to the Israeli distributor for its ice cream, since they no longer want to do business in "occupied Palestinian territory." While the GOP is generally laissez-faire when it comes to corporate behavior, at least when it comes to things like environmental impact and labor unions, it would appear that "owning the libs" is even more important.

His priorities being what they are, DeSantis announced yesterday that Unilever has been added to Florida's "scrutinized companies" list. It's basically like Richard Nixon's enemies list, except it's not a secret, and it features liberal companies instead of liberal people. This means that Unilever has 90 days to end its boycott, or else suffer the consequences. They're not going to do so, and so DeSantis will be doing some crowing in 90 days about how he's fighting the good fight for the people of Israel. After all, as any student of history knows, the destruction of the Second Temple started with dispute over which brand of ice cream should be served in Jerusalem. As he peacocks, the Governor probably won't spend much time pointing out that the "consequences" of his action are basically that: (1) Ben & Jerry's ice cream will not be sold in state-owned facilities, and (2) the state won't invest pension funds in Unilever stock. Hardly the breakup of Ma Bell we're talking about here. He will also probably forget to mention that Ben (Cohen) and Jerry (Greenfield) are both Jewish.

And finally, we conclude with a former governor, namely Illinois Democrat Rod Blagojevich. He was so wildly corrupt during his time in office that he was impeached and convicted, and he was also criminally charged and sent to prison. As part of his impeachment, he was disqualified from future officeholding. However, since he was pardoned (by good buddy Donald Trump), Blago thinks his disqualification from future officeholding should be canceled as well. And so, he filed suit on Tuesday to restore his right to run for office. The former governor (and, technically, former crook) said that he's not currently planning a run for office, but he did declare "I'm back!" Who knows what he's playing at here, since he's not likely to win the suit and he's about as viable these days as Andrew Cuomo is. Blago always loved attention; maybe that's the point here. In any event, his disqualification from office is only statewide, so if he really is planning another run, it's presumably not for federal office. If he was eyeing a seat in Congress, the lawsuit would not be needed.

None of these stories was quite notable enough to merit an item on its own, but as a group, well, you're now up-to-date on eyebrow-raising gubernatorial news. (Z)

It's Not Just Speculation Anymore

These two stories are somewhat different from each other, but what they have in common is that they provide cold, hard numerical evidence that backs some of our past COVID-19-related speculation.

To start, we—and many readers—have guessed that when it comes to vaccination, partisans who have not gotten the shot(s) might be persuaded by members of their own party, but might be driven further in the anti-vaxx direction by members of the other party. Now, a new study from scholars at Stanford, Columbia, Northwestern, and MIT—all of them schools nearly as good as UCLA, and so worth taking seriously—confirms these suspicions. Specifically, unvaccinated Republicans who were shown a pro-vaxx message from a prominent Republican were 7% more likely to express intent to get vaccinated than those who were shown a pro-vaxx message from a prominent Democrat. The folks shown a pro-vaxx message from a neutral speaker were 5.7% more likely to express intent to get vaccinated. This suggests that when an unvaccinated Republican hears from a Republican, it helps a little. And when they hear from a Democrat, it hurts a lot.

Meanwhile, we have also guessed that 2022 candidate for reelection, and aspiring 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis is going to be hurt by his aggressive stance against measures designed to control the pandemic. It didn't work for Donald Trump, so why should it work for him? And yesterday, St. Pete Polls released the first poll of the cycle in which DeSantis is not the favorite in next year's gubernatorial election. They give the Governor a 43.7% approval rating against 48.5% disapproval, putting him underwater by about 5 points. And they have former and aspiring future governor Charlie Crist (D, but previously R) up on DeSantis, 45.3% to 43.8%. The other leading Democrat, Nikki Fried, still trails DeSantis, but only by a few points 45.1% to 41.8%.

This is only one poll, and Crist's "lead" is actually within the margin of error, so it's hardly armageddon for DeSantis. However, the pandemic is likely to get worse in Florida, since it's already nearing "out of control" territory right now. And that is going to bump up against the start of the school year in a few weeks. Either DeSantis is going to stick to his guns, and people are going to die as a result, or he's going to be forced to change course. The former would alienate moderates, the latter would put him in the position of flip-flopping and thus pissing off everyone. Either way, he seems to have painted himself into a corner. (Z)

World's Longest International Border Remains Closed For Now

As long as we're on the COVID beat, the Biden administration announced this week that the world's longest international border would remain mostly closed for now. That would be the U.S.-Canada border, which is 5,524 miles long, outdistancing the 4,254-mile Russia-Kazakhstan border and the 3,299 mile Chile-Argentina border (for readers who prefer the newfangled, fancy-pants metric system, that's 8,890 km, 6,846 km, and 5,308 km, respectively).

At the moment, Canadians are allowed to fly into the United States without restriction, but only "essential" land and sea travel is permitted. By contrast, starting next week, vaccinated Americans will be allowed to visit the Great White North as they please, regardless of mode of transportation. The governors of the states that border Canada are not happy right now, since they make money from Canadian tourism, and also from folks who come across the border to buy various American products (like, say, the entire inventory at Trader Joe's). So, the governors are demanding answers.

Thus far, no answers have been forthcoming from the White House, nor is there any indication that the administration will change course when the current extension of the border rules expires on Aug. 21. That leaves us to speculate as to what is going on. Readers of this site are, of course, well aware of one possible concern. Beyond that, there is a limited political benefit to throwing the gates open, but potentially a great risk if the rules are loosened and then there are COVID-19 surges across the northern states. Another possibility is that liberalizing the rules for the northern border might be bad optics at a time when the administration is fighting with various (red) states about enforcement of the southern border. That's about all we've got, however. If readers, particularly those who are closer to the situation than California/The Netherlands, have theories or insights, please do send them along. (Z)

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