If Joe Biden were a female singer, he might be best described as Tammy Wynette. Known as the First Lady of Country Music, the singer wrote and recorded “Stand by Your Man,” which the president apparently has taken to heart. Why else would the current occupant of the White House refuse to put another hole in the hull of a sinking ship called Cuomo when everyone else has lined up to pitch him overboard? Perhaps it has to do with their lifelong political affair as buddies and boosters.
Two Peas in a Pod
With the strains of the Marine One helicopter blade slicing through the air as a backdrop, Mr. Biden gave his longtime pal a pass, unwilling to call for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s head despite multiple political and personal scandals. “I think the investigation is underway, and we should see what it brings us” was all the president offered amid questions about whether Cuomo should resign. Such a tepid response had Democrats and Republicans scratching their heads.
But it should not have.
Messrs. Biden and Cuomo go back – as in way back. Despite the occasional dust-up that occurs in every relationship, the two men have shared many years of friendship with ties that bind. This longstanding affinity for one another – both politically and personally – could be the reason Mr. Biden is holding his powder dry in the face of Cuomo’s many tawdry public disgraces.
In 2015, Cuomo was aboard the Hillary train but refused to “dissuade Mr. Biden from running” for president against her, according to a New York Times report. Mr. Biden referred to this magic moment in a memoir. The Times stated, “Mr. Cuomo’s warm posture toward Mr. Biden raised eyebrows in Mrs. Clinton’s camp.”
But it should not have.
Both men have stood at the pinnacle of the Democratic Party for years, both have worked hard to maintain a “moderate” label in the face of a progressive onslaught within their party, and both are hardscrabble back-room politicos. While Biden’s brush with hair sniffing is not nearly as egregious in the minds of the Fourth Estate as the bevy of women who have come forward alleging Cuomo’s sexual misconduct, they even share #MeToo moments. See Tara Reade’s allegations for details.
When the governor faced a primary challenge in 2019, guess who stepped up to intone Cuomo’s praises? Why that would be Mr. Biden, who “blanketed the airwaves” with a glowing ad. According to NPR, “He touted his achievements such as paid family leave, minimum wage increases, and tougher gun laws — and highlighted his full-throated opposition to President Trump.”
Biden and Cuomo, Cuomo and Biden – rarely has any political daylight been seen between the two men. Even President Donald Trump could not induce a rift between the political pals, though he did try. “[Cuomo] would make a better candidate than Sleepy Joe,” chortled Trump on Fox & Friends last year. However, neither man reached for the low-hanging fruit.
Their relationship as political allies intensified through various personal tragedies – and this is perhaps the bond that keeps the two so closely tied. According to The New York Times:
“On a personal level, their allies say, Mr. Biden and Mr. Cuomo enjoy an easy rapport that has matured into a deeper friendship. In 2015, their candid conversations about the presidency took place in a period of mourning for both men: Mr. Biden had recently lost his son, Beau, to brain cancer. Mr. Cuomo was still mourning his father, who died on New Year’s Day. Mr. Biden traveled to New York for Mario Cuomo’s wake, and Mr. Cuomo attended Beau Biden’s wake in Dover, Del.”
Old-school political hacks like Mr. Biden are often wise to let others do their dirty work. In refusing to pile on while myriad others have called for Cuomo to step down, Mr. Biden maintains his kinder, gentler façade, does not risk peeving some in his party who still stand with Cuomo, and strikes an “above it all” posture. Perhaps he does not want to be seen as someone going in for the kill. Any way you turn the political Rubik’s Cube, Mr. Biden comes out as the guy in the white hat, which is precisely the tune he has been singing all along.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.