Campaign Diary Book Review
Well, it’s very Cuomo, right? Or as Jimmy Vielkind would say, “Cuomonian.” “All Things Possible” hits bookshelves this week.
The book is written distinctly in Cuomo’s voice. It sounds like one of his speeches, or an epic news conference at the State Capitol. You can almost hear him saying the words as you read. It sounds like he talked about his life for hours into a recording device, then those stories and anecdotes were transcribed into a well organized political memoir.
At times it is brutally honest, but also surprisingly tone deaf. Like the passage about Cuomo’s life lesson taken from a harrowing experience he had at the helm of his family’s 33-foot yacht while trying to navigate through foggy waters off New England’s coast.
Even the bad experiences feel like they are lacking in any real emotional connection. He explains his divorce from Kerry Kennedy in a stark but detached way. Almost like he is describing things that happened to someone else. That wasn’t just a divorce, it was a tabloid nightmare. And whatever your opinion of Andrew Cuomo, anybody who knows him ( even tangentially ) can understand how awful that must have been for him personally. Ten years hence, this would have been a good opportunity to explain in a little more detail how he felt during that time, and what it must be like to wind up on the wrong end of our tabloid feeding frenzy. There might even be a lot of people out there who feel Cuomo was treated very unfairly. He’ll never know unless he opens up, and he chooses not to do that here.
The same can be said about his description of dropping out of the 2002 Democratic Primary.
As I stood onstage, I felt my last bit of dignity drain out.
That’s about as emotional as it gets, folks.
There are some upsides too. His poignant recounting of time spent with his daughters after the divorce is quite touching and sincere ( although he concludes with “I thought I was helping them, but it turned out they were helping me.” Ugh. Somebody please call the cliche’ police ). So is the ( very short ) passage about meeting Sandra Lee, the woman who helped him put the pieces back together after his setbacks.
As for laying the groundwork for his enemies to dance on his political grave in 2002, Cuomo offers some valuable insight, even if much of it reads like a rationalization. He recalls being tasked with firing holdovers from Hugh Carey’s Administration when his father took office in 1983. Many had thought their jobs were safe since it was a Democrat transitioning to a fellow Democrat.
The newly unemployed didn’t lash out at my father. They blamed the messenger. The Albany media dubbed me “Prince of Darkness,” “Darth Vader,” and Mario’s “hatchet man.”
Cuomo then draws some questionable conclusions about his inability to make traction in the race for Governor the first time out,
This country doesn’t like political dynasties.
Uh, really? That actually sounds a bit laughable in the age of Bush and Clinton, and it’s even stranger coming from the man who married a Kennedy.
Cuomo definitely has a “Maverick” complex, and I say that with sympathy, not snark. It’s like every time he goes up there he is flying against a ghost. It’s hard to follow in Mario Cuomo’s footsteps. But what Mario lacked, Andrew has. particularly when it comes to dealmaking and getting what you want from people. It’s hard to write about that, but that’s also something people want to know more about. Small digression since I referenced “Top Gun.” Have you noticed that Tom Cruise is now so old that we can no longer accept him as an action hero on present day earth? All his movies lately need to be set in the future or on some other planet because we have stopped relating to him as a leading man here in the 21st century. Kinda sad, but also funny.
The section on the gay marriage vote in 2011 is probably the highlight of the book. It’s a very interesting insider’s account of what happened, and it sets up the march to that historic vote with page turning suspense and drama. Cuomo claims he had no idea how Buffalo Senator Mark Grisanti would even vote until they opened up the machines that night on the final day of the session. The Republican Senator ultimately voted in the affirmative.
Then there are other wonky things I wanted to hear more about, like the “Troopergate” report he wrote as Attorney General that exonerated Joe Bruno and undermined the Governorship of Eliot Spitzer. Cuomo dedicates all of three pages to this.
Coupla other notes…Cuomo uses the phrase “man of the house” one time too many times, particularly as he criss-crosses the state this month on the Women’s Equality Express tour. And it wouldn’t be a Cuomo presentation without more than one reference to the Erie Canal, a triumph of engineering that the Governor likes to point to in his speeches. The book doesn’t disappoint here.
Throughout the book, Cuomo writes about the miniature stone castles his grandfather had built in their backyard. At one point he goes to rescue them from the people who bought his old house. The castles almost seem like a metaphor for Cuomo being the Prince of New York. The anointed son. And anyone who feels Cuomo has an inflated sense of entitlement will probably not have that notion debunked by this book.
Finally, and this is just a personal pet peeve of mine…Cuomo ends the book with “This is what makes all things possible.” It drives me nuts when characters in movies or books actually say the title. It just seems so lazy and obvious. It should be inferred. The classic 2010 comedy “Hot Tub Time Machine” does a great mockup of this when Craig Robinson looks directly into the camera early in the film and explains that what they have stumbled on must be “some kind of Hot Tub Time Machine.” The camera lingers for a half beat to make sure you get the joke. And that my friends, concludes my “campaign diary book review.”
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