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As Governor And Puppet Master, Cuomo Pulls The Strings

New York politicians are used to having somebody else pull the strings. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a talented puppeteer.

Puppet shows can be great fun, but most of us prefer it when the marionettes are wooden dolls rather than elected officials.

In New York, however, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a deft puppeteer, while other elected officials seem content to let him pull the strings.

The Wall Street Journal reported that at least three officials used nearly identical language when introducing the governor during Cuomo’s recent statewide tour to promote his budget plan. The language came from what were called “suggested talking points,” though it appears that the governor’s aides provided a fully-formed text that some officials used verbatim.

“This is standard operating practice for any governmental or political office at any level of government, and anyone who has worked in one, knows that,” Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for Cuomo, told The Journal. Officials who followed the script said they did not feel any pressure to use it, and that they agreed with the content.

Cuomo is not a bad governor. He has gotten things done in Albany, one of the most dysfunctional capitals in the country. He almost single-handedly got the state Legislature to approve gay marriage. He got a budget in on time in 2011, the first on-time plan in New York in five years, and again in 2012. And even if he is not a tax cutter in the Ronald Reagan mold, he still serves as a check on the Democratic-controlled state Assembly’s worst instincts.

I have no big problems with Cuomo in substance. In style, it is evident that he is something of a control freak. His type of governance can only work in a state like New York, where politicians who have any measure of self-respect and independence are in chronically short supply.

The New York tradition of having all important decisions made by three men in a room – to wit, the governor and the majority leaders for the state Assembly and state Senate – is alive and well. Most other politicians (with a notable exception in New York City’s politically and financially independent mayor, Michael Bloomberg) just do what they’re told. In most places, legislators answer to their constituents; in New York, they answer to their party’s leaders. This is partly the result of an insider-dominated electoral system that makes successful primary challenges next to impossible, partly due to gerrymandered districts that seldom permit real competition between the parties, and not least because legislative leaders have the power to control individual legislators’ incomes, since pay varies with committee assignments and other responsibilities.

Local politicians don’t owe their positions directly to Cuomo in the same way, but many of them clearly see him as a rising Democratic star to which they can hitch their wagons. The price Cuomo demands for a ride on his coattails is, apparently, absolute loyalty – down to scripting their reactions to his visits.

As Kevin Sheekey, a former Bloomberg deputy, told The Journal, “In politics, it’s always more important what someone says about you than what you say about yourself.”

So when New York’s governor wants someone to say something nice about him, he only has to pull the right strings. That’s show business, Albany style.

For more articles on financial, business, and other topics, view the Palisades Hudson newsletter, Sentinel, or subscribe to my daily opinion column, Current Commentary.

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Cadeyrn August 27, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Hardly as sweet on Cuomo as Bob and PC Proud. When it comes to liberals my expectations are at curb level. So ... he surprises at times, but disappoints overall. He'll swivel in a nano-second.
George Datino August 27, 2012 at 12:11 PM
A puppeteer in the land of puppets is no surprise, however who is pulling the puppeteer's strings?
Mike August 27, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Follow the money and it takes you to the string puller!
Aidan August 27, 2012 at 01:42 PM
"Paul Ryan is a liar and a hypocrite and can be proven over and over ..." Typical liberal sniper comment.
bruiser August 27, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Aidan i stand by my comment,as for being a liberal(BWAHAHAHAHA) just about the most foolish words i have heard in years.I am an independent, always have been and always will be,i refuse to follow any political party.In the last election we handed the republicans the election,in this cycle we will hand it back to the democrats who i believe will finally get it right.VOTE SMART VOTE INDEPENDENT

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