When he was president, Harry Truman had a slogan famously posted on his Oval Office desk: “The buck stops here.” It acknowledged that he was ultimately the one responsible for all actions by his office, right or wrong.
After two years of the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon found himself in August 1974 staring at impeachment, and the prospect of being the first president ever removed from office. He weighed the merits of fighting on or stepping down and made what he believed to be the best decision for himself, and the country, in the end.
As we write this, we don’t yet know what Governor Andrew Cuomo will do amid the damning allegations against him in the report of Attorney General Letitia James’ independent investigation into sexual harassment accusations made by 11 women.
It’s often said that “Once is by chance. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a pattern.”
Eleven times is not some vast left-wing conspiracy; it’s a horrific problem for the chief executive, and the people of New York.
Cuomo now finds himself an island unto himself, as even his most ardent supporters — from President Joe Biden to the head of the New York State Democratic Party, Jay Jacobs — have torn the bridges down and demanded his resignation.
The word “impeachment” is oft repeated around the state capitol these days, and it seems almost inevitable.
On Tuesday, the governor refuted many of the report’s findings and rebuffed calls to step down. He instead pleaded ignorance in a sense — that he didn’t wish to offend anyone, and that his actions were more displays of affection rather than malice.
But in the eyes of many, that defense amounted to a form of victim-blaming. It’s not about how the governor felt; it’s about how the people who interacted with the governor felt. Times have changed, as have the standards of conduct and interaction.
Either way, this investigation has irreparably damaged Cuomo’s legacy and administration. He has two choices: Continue to fight, and likely be ousted from office via impeachment; or take responsibility for his actions and resign from office.
The former choice would further hinder the state’s recovery from COVID-19; the latter choice would give the state the opportunity to press on in that recovery free of the shadow of scandal.
Will Cuomo follow the path of personal responsibility as Truman and Nixon did — or will he keep charting his own course, dragging New York along the way?