As we suffer through pandemic-mandated home confinement, the media becomes more and more important to us each day. We follow it for information, for comfort, for life-saving advice and for ways to keep us from having nervous breakdowns.
In every time of crisis, some figures emerge that either capture our attention or stand out because of their impact on our lives, one way or another.
President Trump and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have commanded the continuous attention of us New Yorkers, because both have our fate in their hands in different ways. Obviously, the president has a major role at the national level, and as a state, we look to the governor. Both have traveled bumpy roads, but as time now shows, there are more differences between the two than similarities.
Knowing both men fairly well, I think back over the years on how each followed a chosen path to get to where they are today: in our face on a daily basis. The political world and the business world are like two different planets, and they presented different challenges to Cuomo and Trump. The president was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, and the governor came from a family of modest means. They’re both from Queens.
Trump struggled over the years to prove that he wasn’t just his father’s son, and Cuomo had an uphill fight to prove that he was a worthy heir to the Cuomo family name. When Trump made a lot of mistakes in the real estate business, he turned to his lawyers and family to bail him out. Andrew Cuomo had a brilliant mentor in his father, and made only one political mistake, which was his misguided decision to challenge State Comptroller Carl McCall for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002.
Those headaches briefly held both Trump and Cuomo back from their goals to get to the top of their respective mountains, but not for long. After their setbacks, each one decided that he would keep pushing, and nothing would get in the way. Trump was determined to emerge from his financial failures and make the world believe he was a business genius. With the smart use of public relations and a lot of lucky breaks, he became a household name thanks to the wildly popular television series “The Apprentice.” And, over the years, he managed to put his name on countless buildings and projects.
Cuomo didn’t have the benefit of a money machine behind him, but he always had a fierce determination to win, and understood the political world a lot more than any adversary. Time heals all wounds — even political ones — and in 2006, he decided to run for attorney general. He ran a highly professional office, and proved that he was his own man. Four years later, he turned his attention to mounting a campaign for governor, and, now in his third term, he has emerged as a national figure.
So today, Trump and Cuomo are in the spotlight at the same time, and the differences between them have emerged for all to see.
The president has his bully pulpit, with his nightly TV coronavirus briefings. At the same time, however, Cuomo has become a national celebrity with his daily briefings. The president holds forth in two-hour sessions laced with insults of the media and repeated insistence on being thanked for everything he has or hasn’t done. Cuomo presents facts and statistics, and gives viewers the feeling that he really cares about who lives or dies. There are 49 other governors, but at this point Cuomo leads the pack.
There is no doubt Trump believes that his daily pronouncements will help his re-election chances. But there is such a thing as too much exposure, and too much of the same wears on the average voter. On the other hand, Cuomo’s daily sessions have attracted a legion of new followers, and his prominence may play an important role in his political life years from now.
Unplanned as it was, the competition between the two guys from Queens has been a clear win for Cuomo.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.