Mario Cuomo, former three-term governor of New York, dead at 82.
Mario Cuomo was an eloquent spokesperson for not only liberal democrats but also for social justice. Nonetheless, he was a good, not a great, governor. Greatness did not elude him; he ran from it. We’ll never know what a Mario Cuomo presidency would look like. He could’ve run for president in 1988 and 1992, but he did not, though he flirted with the idea. He is famous for vacillating on whether or not to run for president, so much so that he was called “Hamlet on the Hudson.” He also declined a nomination to the United States Supreme Court by President Clinton.
Although Mario Cuomo believed in social justice and was a staunch opponent of the death penalty, he has three glaring strikes against him in matters of criminal justice: (1) He presided over the largest construction of prisons in New York’s history, having more prisons built during his 12 years in office than all the other governors combined, and financed this prison-building with funding from the Urban Development Corporation (in an essay I dubbed him Mario the Magician for this financial sleight-of-hand, taking money earmarked for building affordable housing in urban areas to building prisons in rural areas); (2) rarely exercised his power to grant executive clemency to people convicted of crimes – the son, the current governor, is just as “stingy,” as one headline stated – giving a mere 37 commutations in his 12 years in office, compared to 155 by Gov. Carey in his 8 years in office, and (3) during his fourth run for governor in 1994, although he was a staunch opponent of the death penalty, because his opponent George Pataki stated that if he was elected governor he would reinstate the death penalty, stated that the People could vote on a referendum whether or not to reinstate the death penalty.
Having said all of the above, let us now praise Mario….