Exclusive interview with
Governor Mario M. Cuomo
January 4, 2013
WVOX & WVIP Worldwide
Governor Cuomo … an old opponent of yours has gone to another – and we’re sure … a better world. Andy O’Rourke ran against you for governor.
Bill, it’s very difficult to talk about Andy without sounding like you’ve made an effort to cover him as some kind of heroic figure. I really do think he is – was – and always will be … in my memory – a heroic figure … because he was such a powerful coming together of good things. His intelligence … his vision … his sense of humor … his sense of fairness … made all the political labels meaningless. Liberals are supposed to be Democrats and business people are supposed to be Republicans … all of that.
It makes you feel once you meet and see what he is and see his goodness and his charm and see his intelligence … you say who needs categories, political categories? Just get the best human beings you can to serve you as public servants. He was a wonderful public servant because he was a wonderful human being. He’s a great loss to Flora, his wife, and to his children.
Governor Cuomo … do you remember when he was running for governor against you … and he had that cardboard cut-out of Mario Cuomo?
Talk about sense of humor. Early in the campaign between Andy and me … we had always gotten together. But we had a small “disagreement” for a time which required on my end that I not debate until the very last moment and he – bright man that he was – thought of a way to deal with that. He had a cardboard cut-out made of me and it was a very good image of me … except it was considerably thinner than I was because it was just cardboard and he debated the cardboard figure. Now … I didn’t know that until – and I happened to be in Westchester on the first day he used it – I didn’t know it until the reporters came to me and said do you know Andy O’Rourke debated a cardboard figure of you … and I said, yes I know. I told them he’s done it more than once and so far I’m told the cardboard figure won two out of three!
But wasn’t it because you were something like 1000 points ahead and said I don’t have to debate this guy.
No … it wasn’t that at all, O’Shaughnessy. He said something about Andrew I didn’t like. And I decided to punish him … but he punished me by debating the cardboard figure. But then I put the cardboard figure on my side by saying he won two out of three!
Governor Cuomo … Andy O’Rourke was a Republican. Mario Cuomo – as the world knows – is a Democrat. How did you two get together.
Those are not real distinctions, Bill. And they shouldn’t be. And I wish sometimes – frankly – I think one of the greatest errors made by our founding fathers was ignoring George Washington when he said two things. First, that you should never allow a single person to declare war. And so you should never start a war because the president of the United States asked for it. That’s a ridiculous thing. It’s ridiculous because the one person shouldn’t be in a position where a bad judgment could be horrible for us. And he also said another thing. He said we should not have political parties. Why not? Because as soon as you commit yourself to leftists or rightists … to this kind of person or that kind of person … you choose up sides and you pit them against one another.
He said there should be no parties. And we didn’t listen to that. And I think since he said that, we have had something like 176 parties. And the parties do exactly what he projected they would. And that is they would take a position which was contrary to the other side … because that’s the way it is served up to us, our politics. And it’s foolish. First of all, we don’t stay true to the labels because there was a lot about Andy O’Rourke that wasn’t classical Republican. And there was a lot about Mario Cuomo that wasn’t classical Democrat. And so these silly labels – and they are silly labels. And who says so? George Washington. Too bad we didn’t listen.
Governor Cuomo … Andy O’Rourke helped your son build housing for the homeless here in Westchester when he was county executive. Do you remember those days? They both got ganged up on by the NIMBYs …
Yes … almost every time he did something notable … it was praiseworthy. What was a Republican in Westchester doing helping Andrew build housing for poor Democrats who were mainly the kind of people who lived in those humble homes he was building? But Andy (O’Rourke) – bright and intelligent person that he was – looked up over the labels constantly. If something was good he recognized it as good and he found something to do with it for our betterment. And that’s what he did with Andrew and the housing projects. It got him no votes. Got him the irritation of a lot of Republicans in your area. He would smile at that … make a joke and move on looking for another good thing to do.
Governor … finally … I wonder if there is a lesson. Barack and Romney … Obama and Romney. Clearly they hated each other. O’Rourke and Cuomo ended up as friends. Any lessons there? Or has it gotten meaner? Nastier?
Essentially you have to go back to George Washington again. Washington made it very clear in simple language. If you create parties … you are declaring that these two groups are different from one another and they should contend with one another. And you will not find your best answers by letting them fight with one another … lie about one another. And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since the people ignored him when they wrote the Constitution.
Governor Cuomo … I hear it in your voice. We’ve lost Andy O’Rourke here in Westchester. Opponent that he may have been … I think you kind of liked the guy.
I liked him a whole lot. I admired him. And I should. Andrew – my Andrew - I’m sure will have nice things to say about him. Andrew O’Rourke and Andrew Cuomo. Andrew Cuomo in the last poll got at least as many votes as a Republican as he did as a Democrat. And it might even be that he got slightly more on the Republican line in the latest poll. Now why is that? It’s because Andrew Cuomo has been acting like Andrew O’Rourke at his best. And I hope he keeps doing that.
Politics is a nasty business that only occasionally gets an Andy O’Rourke … and a Mario Cuomo.
O’Rourke was good, Bill. O’Rourke was really good. Mario Cuomo is not bad. But I tell you … that cardboard cut-out was a winner!
You never forget, Mario. Thank you, sir.
# # #
William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington. He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues, and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America. He operates two of the last independent stations in the New York area: WVOX and WVIP.
He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files” was released in January, 2011. He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, an anthology which will include this interview with Governor Cuomo.