• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Cuomo Comes Under Scrutiny

New York’s Attorney General Letitia James, be it because of her relentless pursuit of the nation’s oldest firearms association, the NRA, or her determination to expose the indecencies and spoil the fortune of Mr. Donald J. Trump, has become, of late, a figure on whom all attention has turned.


It seems, however, that her prior fame—and the partisan fire by which it was propelled—was but a flicker of more noteworthy things to come. It was the beginning of an unpredictable life as a public official—a strange occupation after which she willingly sought. Now, every pair of eyes, so accustomed to the torrent of ceaseless screens, fix themselves in her direction and watch with curiosity her next move. In so doing, they read with horror, while moistening with sorrow, the contents of a sobering, damning report over which she had the joyless task to preside.


The report, released late last week, exposed neither the depredations of a conservative rifle organization, nor the peccadilloes of a rejected Republican presidential nominee—both figures toward whom her prosecutorial fury would be more expectedly aimed.


Instead, it outlined a few extraordinary facts by which, doubtless, the reputation of her own political Party will be gravely damaged. It showed not only the small shortcomings and trifling improprieties of the government within and for which she works, but the shameless mendacity and the horrible deceit of the man with whom, at least ideologically, she’s supposed very intimately to be aligned.


For months, if not almost a year, we were led to believe that Governor Andrew Cuomo, scion of a celebrated name and inheritor of a gallant reputation, had handled the COVID-19 pandemic impeccably. Are we to be held responsible, I ask, for having been caught in so credulous a state? Can we be blamed for not having suspected to be false, that which we were assured was incontestably true?


After all, the encomia for the Governor’s efforts were unending; there was no writer employed in the legacy news media by whom his conduct was ever tentatively questioned, much less sharply criticized. Their praise for him was as effusive as their scrutiny was unforthcoming.


Every morning, his straight-shooting, unembellished news conferences were streamed directly through our basic cable channels, and every evening, he appeared on his younger brother’s eponymous show on CNN. Indeed, so engaging, vital, and culturally-significant were his one hundred and eleven daily briefings, that he was nominated for an Emmy award. It was a lofty recognition of which, despite the continued presence of a disease to which so many in his state had already succumbed, and by which many more would soon be killed, he felt himself fully deserving. He proudly accepted the award and flattered himself with the newfound distinction.


Before he could do that, though, Cuomo took the time to publish a best-selling book, an intimate work in which he reflected on the “leadership lessons” of which the COVID-19 crisis was so stern and onerous a teacher. One seldom encounters through history a leader so stoic and resolute, so competent and graceful, as to be able to write in “real-time” the perils by which he and his people are at that very same moment being confronted. Perhaps none but Julius Caesar, in his famous commentary on the Gauls, has so eloquently accomplished the feat.


Yet while Caesar’s victory over the Gallic tribes was never in dispute, Cuomo’s record against the Asiatic virus is somewhat less certain. Increasingly, it looks to have been a humiliating and total defeat, one from which a less distinguished name—be it Caesar or Cuomo—wouldn’t easily recover. For this fact, of which we’ve all now been made aware, we have Letitia James to thank.


Pressured by families bereft of their elders, and harried by conservatives insatiable for the truth, James’s office conducted an investigation into Cuomo’s directives. Specifically, she looked at the number of deaths for which his March 25th mandate (requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-positive residents back into their facilities) was responsible, as well as the figures his health department attempted to fudge.


Cuomo and his health department, of which the esteemed Dr. Howard Zucker remains the head, deliberately concealed from the public’s view the real number of nursing home deaths. Time and again, they blocked every sincere attempt to access this knowledge. Those who contracted the virus in the nursing homes, who were then transported to the hospital before their untimely death, were omitted from the count of “nursing home deaths”. In this way, he sought to evade responsibility for his fatal decree.


This collaborative effort, we now know, is perhaps the most egregious example of obscurantism to date. Letitia James, providing much-needed light on a subject through which none was able to shine, informed us that, all said, Cuomo’s administration knowingly undercounted the total number of “nursing home deaths” by fifty-six percent. Cuomo, for his part, appears as impenitent as ever, and shockingly unfazed by the revelation of his error, and the lengths to which he went to keep it concealed.


For him, I suppose, things aren’t so bad. Despite Ms. James’s report, he remains a media “darling”, a man with whom none is shy to rub an elbow. Accompanied by an Emmy award and the profits of a New York Times best-selling book, he can disinvite the buzzkill Attorney General from his new circle of friends, and banish from his thoughts those thirteen-thousand souls.

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