Interview with Governor Mario M. Cuomo

The Morning After

The 2012 Presidential Election

William O’Shaughnessy

Interview with 

Governor Mario M. Cuomo

November 7, 2012

WVOX & WVIP Worldwide

 

We’ve broadcast many interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo which have also appeared in my four previous books for Fordham University Press.  On the morning after Barack Obama was elected to a second term (which surprised the hell out of my Republican friends!) we again summoned up Mr. Cuomo’s wisdom.  Now in his 80th year, the Governor retains a keen interest in the great issues of the day.  In this delightful – and insightful – conversation, the man the Boston Globe calls “the great philosopher-statesman of the American nation” has some sage advice for the President as he begins his second term.  And as usual, it’s accompanied as well by Mario Cuomo’s great wit and charm.  Once again I didn’t lay a glove on him and I couldn’t even get him to talk about his son and heir Andrew.  Or did he?

W.O.

William O’Shaughnessy:

On this The Morning After the national election of 2012 … we repair now to the counsel and wisdom of an individual who almost ran for that job of President of the United States of America:  Governor Mario Matthew Cuomo.  Governor … were you surprised Barack won big?

Mario Cuomo:

Was I surprised?  No.  I expected he would win and I was convinced it would be a relatively close race.  And it was both those things.  He did win. And it was a very close race.  I’m not sure it was his best campaign.  Notwithstanding, a billion dollars were spent.  They didn’t get their money’s worth.  I didn’t think there were enough debates.  The first one was a knock-out in the first round by Romney and then there were a couple of other debates which didn’t do much to enlighten the American audience.  No … I’m not surprised.  I’m pleased at the results and I’m pleased at how the Republicans have responded so far.  Let me not say it that broadly … not the Republicans so much as the Republicans in the House. 

The Republicans in the House have said very clearly to the President that they wish to deal with him in a collaborative exercise that will produce the kind of policies both sides know we need.  It’s a very good start and I hope they keep at it until they get it done.

WO:

Governor Cuomo … Mario Cuomo … what about the second term?  Your friend Bill Clinton, he had two terms.

MC:

Yes … what I said for months and months is I hope what happens here is what happened in the Clinton years.  Clinton’s first four years were a near tragedy. He made a faint at the question of healthcare and how to get people the healthcare they need at a reasonable cost that won’t bankrupt the country.  He tried and then had to back off after various interested parties attacked the approach he was taking.  And so he got that setback and some other failures which had people saying we made a mistake appointing Bill Clinton.  I did not think so and I was delighted to see I was right in the second half of his eight-year term.  In the second four-year term … I’ll tell you what happened and why it happened.

WO:

This is Bill Clinton’s second term?

MC:

Yes.  Bill Clinton’s second four years.  And now Obama is going to have his second go at it.  Four more years.  What Clinton wound up getting for the people of the United States of America was 22 million new jobs … an upwardly moving middle class … an upwardly moving upper class.  More people achieved tremendous wealth than ever before in the history of the country.  Balanced budgets.  Sharp decline in the number of poor people.  A strengthening of the middle class.  All of these things in the second term.  And balanced budgets.  And finally … a projected surplus in the end of the eight years of trillions of dollars.  I think that can be done.  He proved it can be done.  The evidence is there for all to see.  It can’t be eradicated from the record.  Can Obama do the same thing?

WO:

That’s the big question.  Can he?

MC:

One big word is all you need, Bill.  And it’s called “collaboration.”  The difference between the first four years and the second four years is that Clinton did not have a collaborative atmosphere with the Republicans.  In the second four years he did … and he went to all the Republican leaders and he did what he had to do to create sufficient confidence by the Republicans so they can work together.  And when they worked together, that magic word – collaboration – gave us all those successes.  There is no reason to say … well, it can’t happen again.  I think it could happen again. And I think it should happen again.  I think we should all be pushing for it. 

WO:

Governor Cuomo, great wordsmith that you are … and orator … and careful linguist … what’s the difference between collaboration and compromise.  Is there a difference? 

MC:

Not really … nuances perhaps.  Collaboration and compromise is another way of saying common sense.  My mother and father were not given the gift of an education.  Not even a grammar school education.  But they could make deals.  And they had to make deals every day.  Because they had very scant resources to live on.  They had to be constantly dealing with other people, trading their services for this or that.  They learned how to collaborate.  Well … Clinton learned how to collaborate.  He told us about it again in the speech he gave for Obama which was probably the best speech in the campaign for Obama.  At their convention … Bill Clinton was asked by Obama to explain what he (Obama) was going to do.  He did and the polls went immediately in favor of Obama.  And so … collaboration … cooperation.  Common sense.  What’s good for you and good for me simultaneously happens when you collaborate.  And if you don’t collaborate.  If you don’t like that word …  if you don’t like the idea of collaboration or whatever word you are going to use and do what the Republicans did in the very beginning of Obama’s term when they announced to the world – McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate – announced to the world they were not going to help this president because they wanted to get rid of this president and they would work to get rid of the president.

Well, how do you do that?  Make sure he doesn’t do good things.  What good things would they be?  They would be jobs for people.  It would be a healthcare that they can afford that is wonderful in terms of reaching all the people who really need help for themselves.

We’re given now a second chance.  We’re given a chance that started with  our friend Bill Clinton and that ended with Bush.  Then came the eight years of Bush.  And look at the difference between the eight years of Bush and the eight years before that which gave us 22 million new jobs, etc. etc …  Two wars.  Two wars and a recession.  Ok.  But that’s an old story now.  Let’s just forget it.  Let’s just concentrate on this president and this bunch of Republicans who are suggesting to us that they are going to be collaborative.  If the Republicans are collaborative … they will have earned our respect and gratitude … notwithstanding they tried to take the presidency from Obama.

WO:

Governor … As you get into Bush, notice I try to change the subject.

MC:

Yes … I don’t blame you, O’Shaughnessy.

WO:

Governor, you hold up Bill Clinton as an example for Barack.  Do you realize that if you had done a few things differently like order that plane to take off for New Hampshire … do you realize you might have been holding up yourself?

MC:

Let me end this with you right now … maybe we can continue it another time.

WO:

I have a few more questions …

MC:

Well … maybe these two questions I’m going to give you will be enough for you.   Why would somebody who is considering running for president … maybe Hillary Clinton … decide to consider running for president.  This would happen because she’s going to obviously leave as secretary of state … get some rest, well-deserved rest.  She’s done a terrific job.  But let’s assume she and maybe various governors, from various states are going to consider running for president.

WO:

Anyone we know?

MC:

Two questions, Brother Bill, they have to answer.  Two questions. More for themselves than for the rest of us.  The first question is:  Can I win?  Well … that’s the question almost all candidates for the presidency will ask.  Can I win?  And most of the time they will say yes … because, why not?  They are probably people who have experience, etc., etc.  And yes, they can win.  If Bush, Jr. can win … if Obama can win … they could win. So that one is an easy question. But here’s the tough one.  I think if you want to run for president, you have to be able to look into the mirror, and what you see in the mirror … you have to be able to say that person in the mirror is the best person available to be president of the United States. If you want to be President … to be morally right you should convince yourself there is nobody better than you are to run the United States of America.  Now … I doubt that most candidates ask themselves that question.  Because if most candidates asked themselves that question … they would probably have a very difficult time saying Yes … I’m the very best person who can run this country.  I know I didn’t feel that way. 

WO:

But, sir … with all due respect … a hell of a lot of people who know Mario Cuomo and respect you … they felt you are … worthy and eminently capable as you say.

MC:

Well, I would have concluded they were wrong.  For my own decision was … it’s hard to believe that.  As a matter of fact, I proved my disbelief that I was the best by supporting John Kerry … not the second Kerry but the first Kerry who was wounded in action and who I gave money to go for the presidency while I was governor. For the presidency.  And when I was asked about it … I said yes.  I think he’s the best person on the scene for his ability to make a good president.

WO:

Governor … you mention Hillary Clinton.  Are you saying she should look in the mirror?  Or are you giving her permission to run?

MC:

No … I just used her name because everyone is using her name.  I have no idea whether she wants to run … whether she will run or not.  I have a good idea about her abilities.  And I think she’s terrific. And she’s proven it over and over again.  And she made the most convincing case as secretary of state.

WO:

Sir, do you have any idea who else might be thinking like this … looking in the mirror?

MC:

I have no idea.  How about you?  You’re a smart guy … you’re good-looking.  Do you see yourself as the best person available?

WO:

I’m too young for you.  I’m 74.  Governor, you said your parents – Immaculata and Andrea Cuomo – had very few gifts.  They had the gift of Mario Cuomo who has been called the great philosopher-statesman of the American nation.  We’re very grateful to you for sharing this with us on the morning after a presidential election.  Once again you didn’t let me take you where I wanted you to go ….

MC:

Well … let me say something about that last comment of yours, Bill.  They – my parents – didn’t think of me as a gift.  And if they did think of me as a gift, why the hell did they keep hitting me on the derriere when I did something wrong?

WO:

Weren’t you a perfect youngster? Even when you were clandestinely and stealthily playing baseball on four different teams using four different names when you’re only supposed to be on one at a time … they didn’t catch you.

MC:

No … thank goodness they didn’t know a lot about me playing as “Lava Libretti” and the umpire over in the New Jersey sandlot league said to me “Mario … where did you get that name Lava?”  I said Lava … always hot!  I was also known for a time as Oiram Omouc.  Exotic, right?  That’s my name backwards.

WO:

And didn’t you use other names?  Connie Cutts?  How about Matt Dente? And don’t forget the immortal Glendy LaDuke, your most famous nom de plume … save A.J. Parkinson. But he didn’t play ball … he merely opined.

MC:

Dente … yes indeed.  I used Dente.  That’s also true, O’Shaughnessy.  And who can forget the immortal Glendy LaDuke?

WO:

You see I did a little research on your blazing career in the sandlot league in Queens … if not as a candidate for the presidency.

MC:

Now you’re really getting dangerous and threatening, Brother Bill.  So I’m really going to hang up!

WO:

Thank you, sir.  I still wish you’d have owned up to the damn name:  “Mr. President” …

 

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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.

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher

Whitney Media

914-235-3279

cindy@wvox.com

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