From street fighter to a man of ‘peace’

Governor Cuomo on April 12th making an announcement at Pathways Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Governor Cuomo on April 12th making an announcement at Pathways Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor Cuomo on April 12th making an announcement at Pathways Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

From street fighter to a man of ‘peace’

Cuomo says he’s not going to fight Trump over easing social distancing restrictions
April 14, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been called a political street fighter many times during his three terms as governor, but peace was on his mind Tuesday after President Donald Trump attacked him via Twitter in the morning, likening him and other governors to 18th century mutineers. “Sometimes it is better to walk away from a fight,” Cuomo said. “If he wants a fight, he is not going to get it from me.”

The governor and the president have clashed in the past day over Trump’s claim of “total” control over when social distancing restrictions should end – a position at odds with the U.S. Constitution. While the governor is asserting that the state is firmly in charge of the emergency response, fighting with Trump could jeopardize the progress made in reducing the spread of the virus just as the rate of hospitalizations begins to flatten in the state.

“We could lose all the progress we made in one week,” Cuomo said at a Tuesday press conference at the state Capitol, referring to loosening social distancing restrictions too early. Trump is pushing for a reopening of the national economy in early May, which public health experts warn could risk fueling a second wave of infections. Cuomo has said that a more gradual approach should be taken in partnership with other nearby states in the months ahead.

New York and six other states announced a new pact Monday where they would form a joint approach through a 21-member “council.” Three West Coast states have set up a similar arrangement. While the president has yet to announce any concrete actions to block such an approach – and has suggested in the past it was governors’ responsibility to direct the government response to the pandemic – he has appeared to bristle at the idea of governors now getting the credit for managing the crisis. “Cuomo’s been calling daily, even hourly, begging for everything” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “Now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!”

Cuomo said Tuesday morning that he has not discussed the multistate confederacy with the president. He has not discussed possible legal options with his advisers or state Attorney General Letitia James, he added. But he made his position on the matter clear during a morning blitz of cable news. “We don’t have a king,” Cuomo told NBC’s “Today” show. “If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it,” Cuomo told CNN later this morning.

Zach Williams
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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