“The tumult and the shouting dies,
The Captains and the Kings depart.
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice–
An humble and a contrite heart.”
I first used that verse from Rudyard Kipling–immortalized in the title of Taylor Caldwell’s novel, The Captains and the Kings–when I wrote about the last New York governor who resigned in disgrace amid sexual scandal.
That was Eliot Spitzer, who quit in 2008 after being caught regularly patronizing a prostitution ring–even as, while New York’s attorney general, he had prosecuted such criminal enterprises.
Now it is Andrew Cuomo, resigning after an investigation commissioned by NY Attorney General Letitia James concluded that he had sexually harassed 11 women–and physically groped at least one–who were either subordinates or with whom he had dealings as governor.
As with Spitzer, sexual misbehavior was far from the only scandal engulfing Cuomo. Indeed, among those investigating other allegations against Spitzer was none other than then-NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Since Cuomo took office in 2010, we have seen:
- the Moreland Commission, which he established ostensibly to root out corruption in Albany, then abruptly dissolved when it reportedly got too close to corruption in his own office;
- his “Buffalo Billions” economic project, which ultimately saw two Cuomo operatives–including family political confidante Joseph Percoco, whom Andrew had dubbed his father Mario’s “third son” –sent to prison for bribe-taking;
- most egregious of all, the nursing home scandal, in which Cuomo and his health commissioner ordered those facilities to accept COVID-positive patients into their vulnerable, elderly populations; then–as admitted by the governor’s own chief assistant–Cuomo manipulated figures to underreport, by thousands, the number of subsequent COVID-related deaths among nursing home residents;
- a related investigation into whether he illegally utilized state workers to promote a book he authored touting his heroic leadership during the pandemic.
For faithful Catholics, other actions by the self-professed Catholic governor also constitute scandal: proudly enacting same-sex “marriage” in New York, and signing a radical pro-abortion law that goes even beyond the extremes of Roe v. Wade. It allows no limits regardless of fetal age or development; no parental rights regarding abortions for minors; no protection for pro-life taxpayers from forced complicity in abortions; no requirement that abortions be performed by licensed physicians; and no legal protection for babies born alive following a failed abortion.
So, is Andrew Cuomo’s political career finished? Not likely, if the past, and the specifics of his drawn-out resignation, are any indication.
When I quoted those lines from Kipling regarding Eliot Spitzer, I naively assumed he was through with politics. Alas, he “rose again” five years later, running for Comptroller of New York City (he lost the Democratic primary). Nor was he alone. Anthony Weiner, driven from Congress in a sexting scandal, re-emerged to run for mayor of NYC–and was polling well, until he again was caught sexting, this time with a minor, and had to withdraw.
Nor is it only Democrats, or only in New York. South Carolina Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, whose political career seemed over when he was caught in an extra-marital affair–in South America, while lying to constituents and media as to his whereabouts–later ran and got elected to Congress.
Cuomo, as pundits across ideological lines are observing, seems already to be laying the groundwork for a political comeback. In resigning, he gave himself a two-week grace period before leaving office, very publicly continuing to issue various government edicts. He used a farewell address not to apologize or accept responsibility, but almost as a victory lap–denying any wrongdoing, condemning the AG’s investigation as a “rush to judgement,” and touting his accomplishments, as though he were departing honorably after a successfully completed term.
He seems very much in the mold of his predecessors-in-scandal: driven by an insatiable lust for power; an obsession with being in the public eye, unable to distinguish between public fame and public shame; and possessed of an apparently messianic impulse that tells them their governance is absolutely indispensable to us.
I would commend to Andrew Cuomo a different–and decidedly more Catholic–path: that chosen by John Profumo, the married British secretary of war who in 1962, at the height of the Cold War, resigned after being caught in an affair with a woman who was at the same time cavorting with a Soviet spy.
As Peggy Noonan recounted in a beautiful 2013 column in the Wall Street Journal, Profumo never sought a return to political power. He spent the next 40 years working at “a rundown settlement house” for the poor in east London. He did “the scut work of social work,” Noonan wrote, “washing dishes and cleaning toilets. He visited prisons for the criminally insane, helped with housing for the poor and worker education.” And learned, as he attested 40 years later, “humility.”
I would humbly urge Andrew Cuomo to do likewise. Let the tumult and the shouting of public adulation die; let the captains and the kings of political power depart. Find instead–in true service to others, not the contrived “public service” of political power and prestige–Kipling’s “humble and contrite heart.”
In short, be Christ to others–as we are all called to do.