Andrew Cuomo, America's Governor
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
The New York governor's poise and decisive action under crisis has become a national model.
Susan Del Percio
Susan Del Percio is a New York–based Republican strategist and senior advisor to the Lincoln Project.
Over the past several weeks Americans have been looking to our president for leadership on the coronavirus pandemic. It appears that they finally saw some on Monday as President Donald Trump announced stricter guidelines to help slow down its spread. This was to be followed by a press conference on Tuesday, where his idea of offering calm was to predict, “we’re going to win” the fight against coronavirus.
In sharp contrast, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been providing updates, facts and concrete information since the first confirmed case of coronavirus was reported on March 1. Those of us in New York government and politics know that the governor is never more in his element as when there is a crisis to tackle. I know this firsthand, serving as special advisor to the governor during the Ebola crisis. You can almost see his mind clicking through all of the things that must be done and what he will say to the public.
You know you must be doing something right when Trump retreats.
His leadership during the coronavirus crisis has been exactly what people desperately need from their elected officials. We do not want things sugar-coated: We want our leaders to take responsibility, play it straight and assure us that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it seems impossible to spot.
New York state now has the most reported cases of coronavirus, and it is preparing for the worst. The country and, in fact, the world has taken notice of New York’s response.
After announcing the first confirmed case of coronavirus, Cuomo has been, forgive the expression, hands-on. The March 10 decision to implement emergency containment measures within a one-mile radius of the town of New Rochelle, which has been deemed a cluster, drew national attention — especially when he deployed the National Guard to assist in implementing emergency protocols that included closing schools, houses of worship and other large gathering facilities.
On the heels of declaring a containment zone, New York announced the state’s first drive-thru COVID-19 mobile testing center in New Rochelle. This was followed by a March 15 open letter to the president that appeared in The New York Times, where he both questioned the president’s handling of the crisis and requested that Trump “utilize the Army Corps of Engineers to leverage its expertise, equipment and people power to retrofit and equip existing facilities — like military bases or college dormitories — to serve as temporary medical centers. Then we can designate existing hospital beds for the acutely ill.” In New York, we call this chutzpah.
You know you must be doing something right when Trump retreats. It comes as no surprise that the president would blast Cuomo after the New York Times letter, tweeting, “Cuomo of New York has to ‘do more,’” followed by, “Andrew, keep politics out of it.”
What was shocking was to hear the president, when referring to Cuomo just a few hours later, say, “We’re both doing a really good job.” That’s about the highest praise this president offers.
Cuomo has also shown the human face of the crisis, when he shared that after having “possible” exposure to coronavirus, one of his daughters would be placed in a “precautionary quarantine” for 14 days. This shows compassion, which frankly the governor is not known for, and gives reassurance that we are all in this together.
However, it was in the press conference that he held on Tuesday that he did something most elected officials, especially the current president, are afraid to do in a crisis — he owned it. He said straight to the camera: “I want to say to the people of the state of New York, if you are upset with what we have done, be upset with me. … I made these decisions, these were all state-ordered rules. … My judgment is: Do whatever is necessary to contain this virus.”
It is that no-nonsense, straight-talking, New York response that has quickly made Andrew Cuomo America’s governor.