[Editor’s Note: Liberty Nation’s Pennel Bird presents a two-part portrait of Donald Trump and Andrew Cuomo – two New Yorkers with similar starts in life, similar traits, but very different beliefs and approaches. What follows is part one: the background and rise to power of these two consequential and controversial figures of American politics.]
New York City is famous for its plain-spoken natives who often tend to eschew the social norms of politeness for blunt, even rude honesty. Two gentlemen who fit that bill are former president Donald John Trump and governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. Both men were born and grew up in Queens and share many similarities. But the fjord-like chasms representing their differences are also noteworthy, as are the exceedingly consequential ways the two interfaced during these last years of fraught and highly charged political division.
The city is also known around the globe as possibly the world’s greatest – or, at least, the most famous – of all cities. The unique role it has played in the story of America is unquestioned, and proof of its unmatched dynamism is the sheer number of genuinely great Americans it has produced. Cultural giants including Walt Whitman, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Washington Irving, Billie Holiday, Herman Melville, Edward Hopper, Jean Michel Basquiat, Diane Arbus, Aaron Copland, Sammy Davis Jr., Humphrey Bogart, Eugene O’Neil, Denzel Washington, Michael Jordan, Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar all hail from the city from which Lady Liberty beckons the world.
Similar Beginnings, Diverse Paths
Trump and Cuomo are a decade apart in age, but both men attended Fordham University, and both benefited from their powerful, successful fathers in whose respective, professional footsteps both men followed. Fred Trump, was a real estate mogul who bequeathed the presidency of his vast business to his son in 1971. Donald renamed it the Trump Organization with an instinctively self-referential rebranding that would serve him well for years afterward throughout his real estate adventurism and forays into entertainment.
Cuomo’s father Mario was the governor of New York for three terms from 1983 to 1994. He was critical of then-President Reagan and twice refused to seek his party’s nomination for the presidency – a reluctance that earned him the sobriquet “Hamlet on the Hudson.” After a career in law, oldest son Andrew followed his father into politics and eventually attained the governorship of New York State. Where Cuomo, the senior, was considered – even self-effacing at times – Cuomo Jr. is brash, pugnacious, and provocative.
These traits and an abiding narcissism are characteristics Andrew Cuomo shares with fellow Queens denizen Donald Trump. Trump’s bestseller The Art of the Deal is an indispensable bible of sorts for business hopefuls worldwide. It contains no shortage of self-congratulatory hyperbole about the author’s favorite subject – himself.
It went on to sell over a million copies and established Trump as an entrepreneurial legend who overcame multiple bankruptcies to become the most successful high-profile business mogul on earth. But his garish personal taste, his many marriages, and his seeming lack of refinement despite his enormous wealth made him anathema to many in high society long before he shocked the world by beating Hillary Clinton in 2016 for the U.S. presidency.
For his part, the New York governor had the audacity to write and publish his own book this past year, rife with as much self-worship as Trump’s, that effectively functioned as a literary real-time hero’s parade thrown by Andrew Cuomo in honor of Andrew Cuomo. American Crisis – Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic is an adoring ode to the self that details what Cuomo asserts is real leadership during grave crisis.
Early on, Cuomo’s locked-horn skirmishes with President Trump about hospital ships, ventilators, and the right way to govern in an emergency were being touted as the very paradigm of presidential. According to an unseemly and adoring press, Cuomo was apparently all the things Trump was not. Much ink was spilled about whether the governor would swoop in at the eleventh hour to seize the Democratic nomination away from the enfeebled Joe Biden, who spent much of the pandemic hidden away in a basement.
But toward the end of annus horribilis, 2020, dark clouds had gathered for both Cuomo and Trump. No matter what Trump did right – and he arguably did more right in his four years than any president in recent memory, or longer – he was castigated, maligned, and openly loathed by the mainstream media. His army of scorched earth critics in the Fourth Estate alleges he badly mishandled the pandemic, directly causing thousands of unnecessary American deaths. While arguments can be marshaled in favor of this thesis, there is scant proof of the claim. But a terrible truth about Cuomo’s direct complicity in the very same accusation – the deaths of thousands of Americans – was slowly beginning to emerge from beneath the cloak of partisan media suppression.
Look out for part two of this series tomorrow, March 1: Donald Trump faces unexpected defeat, while Cuomo’s fortunes take a turn for the worse. Only one of these men may have a path back to the top.
Read more from Pennel Bird.
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