2012 DNC

Schumer Sticks Up For Biden, Scolds Giuliani

ICYMI: US Sen. Chuck Schumer defended VP Joe Biden during a CapTon interview last night, telling me he’s “exactly the right kind of candidate” to be President Obama’s No. 2, and warning Biden critic Rudy Giuliani to “be a little more respectful.”

The gaffe-ridden vice president’s security on the ticket has been the subject of considerable speculation for months, with some – including many Republicans perhaps engaged in a little mischief-making – suggesting Biden should be replaced by US Secretary Hillary Clinton.

And then last month, the former NYC Mayor, who was the target of Biden’s infamous “a noun, a verb and 9/11” line during the 2008 campaign, went on national TV and questioned the vice president’s intelligence, saying:

“I think the vice president of the United States has become a laugh line on late night television. I mean, I’ve never seen a vice president that has made as many mistakes, said as many stupid things. … There’s a real fear if, God forbid, he ever had to be entrusted with the presidency, whether he really has the mental capacity to handle it.”

“I mean, this guy just isn’t bright. He’s never been bright. He isn’t bright. People think, ‘Well, he just talks a little too much.’ Actually, he’s just not very smart.”

I asked Schumer about Giuliani’s attack on Biden when the senior senator sat down with me in our skybox at the Time Warner Cable Arena last night before the president’s speech, and also inquired what the vice president brings to the table. He responded:

“A focus on average folks. He knows how to talk to them. He’s going to have far more effect in Toledo and Milwaukee and Columbus and Pittsburgh than he is here in Charlotte, and that’s how it ought to be.”

“Also the kind of voters he appeals to – white, working-class, many Catholic voters, not college educated – are just the voters Mitt Romney must have to try to pull the election away from Barack Obama. So, he’s exactly the right kind of candidate.”

“…You know, Rudy Giuliani ought to be a little more respectful. (Biden) is a very bright man. He’s every bit as smart as Rudy Giuliani. I know them both. They’re both very smart.”

(H/T to Colin Campbell who scooped me on my own scooplette. In my defense, I was somewhere in the air between Charlotte and Albany at the time).

Cuomo: One Way Or The Other, Lopez Payments Will Be Investigated

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office says the payments for alleged sexual harassment victims must be investigated and that a Moreland Act Commission is possible if their isn’t an inquiry.

In a statement from spokesman Josh Vlasto, the governor’s office says they have no reason to believe that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics will not investigate the settlements, which had been negotiated by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

But if there’s an attempt to block that probe, then the Moreland Act panel will be triggered.

“In response to public reports and inquiries today, we have no reason to believe that JCOPE is not acting appropriately and diligently and conducting a full, thorough investigation, using all its legal authority, of claims of sexual harassment against Assemblyman Vito Lopez and the circumstances surrounding their handling. As far as rumors to the contrary suggesting that JCOPE is not investigating the settlement payments and the circumstances under which they were made, we believe they are just that – rumors. However, if such rumors are true, we believe it would be unconscionable for any legislative appointees to JCOPE to block such investigation. If they are, the Governor will appoint a Moreland Act Commission to conduct an investigation that would include these matters. Either way, the public will know the facts and answers to the questions that have been raised.”

The New York Times reported today that JCOPE will not be investigating the settlements, which total more than $100,000, to legislative staffers who accused Lopez of sexual harassment.

Gloria Allred, the celebrity lawyer who is representing one of the women, confirmed she has received subpoenas relating to the case.

JCOPE itself has not confirmed it is conducting an investigation, but will be holding another special meeting on Monday.

Silver himself has said he regrets keeping the settlements a secret, but says they were conducted properly and the speaker’s office itself has said it would welcome an investigation. A JCOPE investigation or even a Moreland Act Commission would possibly show there was involvement from others beyond Silver in the case.

Naturally the news brought out the ever outspoken Ravi Batra, the JCOPE commissioner appointed by Senate Minority Leader John Sampson.

Batra, in a typically long statement originally released to the Times, claimed the ethics panel was being controlled by the governor, even as it’s supposed to investigate him.

Quinn Thrilled To Hear LGBT Issues Aired

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told reporters last night she’s sat through a number of presidential nomination speeches in her time, but for the first time was floored to hear a presidential candidate reference LGBT rights.

“Obviously personally i used to sit in these arenas and you hope that the word ‘gay’ might be said or that there would be some reference that you could piece together and know that you could piece together and know that was what the person running for president meant,” said Quinn, the first gay city council speaker and potential 2013 mayoral prospect. “And you’d sit there and wait for that moment and it usually be at the end and there would be a moment where you thought it was not going to happen. But those days are over.”

President Obama has said he supports same-sex marriage rights for gay couples and this year the Democratic platform for the first time includes a plank backing gay nuptials.

Members of the New York state delegation in Charlotte were taking more than just a little credit for that, considering the state is the largest to approve same-sex marriage, doing so just over a year ago in June 2011.

The marriage theme was one that Gov. Andrew Cuomo hit on in his speech before the New York delegation breakfast Thursday morning.

It is a shift for the party, whose candidates down the line in the last decade supported civil unions for gay couples, not marriage. But those views have changed after LGBT advocates and others pointed out the distinction created two separate classes of rights for gay and straight couples.

Quinn said it wasn’t just the president’s address, but the video presentations at the convention that supported same-sex marriage.

“For me personally, that was life changing,” she said.

Silver Impressed With Obama’s Brevity

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a somewhat deliberate speech-giver himself, praised President Obama’s speech last night at the Democratic National Convention, and jokingly marveled at its brevity.

“There’s nothing in there that surprised,” Silver said immediately after the speech concluded. “He did everything in a half hour, that was probably the biggest surprise, but it just flowed, flowed right through, hit the themes that we’ve been talking about for a long time.”

Silver was given the hook the night previous during the delegate roll call. While praising the many different geographic and cultural aspects of New York in his capacity as the delegation’s leader, Silver was asked to speed up how the state was voting for the presidential nomination.

Overall, Silver praised the speech for hammering home what former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday night.

“I think he hit all the issues, he reiterated a lot of what Bill Clinton said yesterday,” he said. “He defined the differences between Democrats and Republicans and what the vision for the future is.”

Cuomo: Obama Speech ‘Exactly Right’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised President Obama’s speech this evening for presenting his argument for re-election by comparing and contrasting his positions with the Republican ticket.

“I think his point about it being a very stark choice is exactly right,” Cuomo said. “And I think that’s exactly what people have to hear. It’s an election and elections are about choices, it’s about options and I think this convention clearly framed the options for this November.”

Cuomo called the speech a “beauty” and a “personally brilliant performance” by Obama.

Earlier in the day, Cuomo used his only day at the Democratic National Convention to blast Republicans on the national level and praise Obama.

The governor sat with the New York delegation throughout the speech at the arena here in Charlotte, clapping occasionally and frequently grinning during parts of the speech.

And if anyone thinks Cuomo will end his streak of spending a full day outside of New York, Cuomo said he’s jumping on a plane this evening back home.

Stringer: Jerusalem Plank Was ‘A Typo’

New York Democrats today are explaining away the omission of the word “God” and stating that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel from the Democratic platform as an unfortunate oversight that was quickly fixed.

But there was an outcry from Jewish leaders and others who felt original platform was slap in the face.

Now they are trying to move on from the error, which was an unforced one, that could spell trouble for the president in swing states like Florida.

“I like to think of it as a typo,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

He added, “I think people recognize it was a mistake, it was corrected quickly and it should not overshadow President Obama’s excellent record on Israel.”

Miner: ‘Makes The Most Sense’ To Speak To NY

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s speech to the New York delegation here in Charlotte had all the trappings of an address that could have been given in a large arena.

But instead, he is speaking only to his home state delegation.

The speech, though, would easily have translated to a national audience.

He spoke comparatively little about New York and when he did, it was in the context of why President Obama should be re-elected.

Unlike New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s keynote address in Tampa, Cuomo mentioned Obama at the top of the speech.

So it begs the question: Why not give this address in a more high-profile location?

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says he could have, but because the governor is so focused on New York, it made sense to speak to his fellow New Yorkers.

I think the governor could have given that speech at any arena anywhere in the country. It was the best I’ve ever heard him and he’s always exceptional. He gave it here, he was energized, he wanted to talk to the delegation. This is the state he’s in charge of governing, so it makes the most sense that he gave it here.

Gillibrand Insists She’s Not Running For President

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand insists that she isn’t interested in running for president, but says she wants Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to seek the job four years from now.

“I am going to be the chairperson of Hillary Clinton 2016,” Gillibrand said with a smile. “I’m hoping that Secretary Clinton runs. I really want to support her candidacy I think she’d make a great president. But we have one election at a time.”

Gillibrand spoke to the Iowa Democratic delegation this morning, the same day that Gov. Andrew Cuomo made his one-day appearance the Democratic National Convention, speaking before his home state’s breakfast.

The Iowa breakfast brought together a number of potential 2016 candidates, including Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Gillibrand has explained her experience away, saying that she’s there at the behest of Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin.

She added that the presidential talk is “flattering.”

And while she wants Clinton to run, Gillibrand thinks Cuomo would be a worthy candidate, too.

“He is an extraordinary candidate and he would make a great, great president,” she said.

Silver’s (Foreshortened) Moment

Despite speculation that the Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal would force Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to get booted from his announcer role during last night’s convention roll call, there was Silver, proudly bellowing into the microphone that the “great progressive state of New York” cast all its 384 votes for President Obama.

Several delegates told me Silver got to New York’s designated seating area early to get into his prime announcing position. As the night progressed, a growing number of elected officials and party leaders crowded around the speaker in hopes of getting into the shot when the big moment arrived.

As it turned out, the roll call happened late – it didn’t start until after Bill Clinton’s stemwinder ended well after 11 p.m. – which means it didn’t take place in prime time.

By the time it was New York’s term, it was after midnight. (Ohio, a prominent swing state, got to jump the line and go first, receiving the honor of pushing Obama over the threshold to become the official nominee).

Silver faded in and out during his announcement as he looked down to check his notes.

He recognized the state party chairs, his fellow statewide elected officials – Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and AG Eric Schneiderman – Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, the congressional delegation and the “finest, most dynamic governor in America today, Governor Andrew Cuomo!”

In the shot were: State Democratic Party Co-Chairs Keith Wright and Stephanie Miner, former Party Chairman Jay Jacobs, Sens. Jose Serrano and Ruth Hassell-Thompson, and Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Yvette Clarke, Paul Tonko, and Eliot Engel (he has a lot of practice, thanks to his State of the Union address antics).

Silver rambled on a bit, striving to mention every area of the state – “from the shores of Lake Erie to the Long Island sound” etc. – so no one would feel left out.

He went on so long that DNC Secretary Alice Germond cut him off at about the 2:30 minute mark, saying: “New York? New York. You have 384 votes, how do you cast them?”

In Rare Partisan Speech, Cuomo Condemns National GOP

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave a speech that was a sustained assault on national Republicans and a rare partisan address at the New York Democratic delegation breakfast this morning that simultaneously condemned the GOP presidential ticket and praised President Obama.

With some alterations, the address could have been given at the Democratic National Convention itself.

But instead he gave it inside a tent in the parking lot outside of a Doubletree about 20 minutes from downtown Charlotte full of New York Democrats (his advance team had transformed the tent to include red, white and blue balloons, along with a gussied up dais).

He called for the passage of same-sex marriage rights across the country, a nod to his signature issue since the successful passage of the measure in June 2011.

He repeatedly cited progressive taxation as a means to better society, only a year after he was coming under pressure to keep a surcharge making $250,000 and higher (he later engineered an overhaul of the state’s tax code).

And he sharply criticized Republicans on the national level, a rare foray into often rocky political terrain that he has largely shied away from.

Cuomo gave an at-times sarcastic, often passionate speech that blasted the Republican ticket for its impact on the nation’s middle class.

“The Ryan budget is a paint by numbers picture of the America they want to bring to us. And that picture is a foreign picture to me,” Cuomo said.

The speech was rare because Cuomo often emphasizes his work with state Senate Republicans and touts a spirit of compromise in Albany.

The line is a contrast to his initial reaction to the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman whose controversial one-house budget proposal has Democrats using it as a weapon in House races across the country.

Cuomo had told reporters that the selection will start a needed conversation that “Democrats should welcome.”

But today the governor was all about knocking national Republicans and holding up Obama as someone who has not only helped New York, but thew entire country.

The Republican convention in Tampa he said “was great theater. that’s why there were so many actors there. I’ll tell you, it made my day.”

He added that the election presents “two very stark choices, not just two different men, but two different philosophies.”

Cuomo is only in Charlotte for one day. Aides say he is not attending any fundraisers, but will conduct private meetings with delegates and union officials. Cuomo is expected to sit with the delegation at Time Warner Cable Arena for the president’s re-nomination speech.

The governor has kept a relatively low profile as rumors swirl that he is considering a run for president in 2016.

Cuomo is not speaking at the convention and has not appeared on TV as a major surrogate for the president.

But the governor’s surrogacy seemed to begin publicly today with fiery language for the president.

“We know the president is right,” Cuomo said. “We know he can do these things, because we are doing these things in New York.”