The Emperor Strikes Out—Cuomo, COVID and Comeuppance | Opinion

It's shocking to see New York Governor Andrew Cuomo falling from grace so quickly. The man might have been the savior of the Democratic Party if Joe Biden stumbled and couldn't get up—and now it looks like he's about to be run out of office.

That the pressure's mounting is no surprise. In the "woke" culture that runs his party and state, he stands accused of committing more than one unpardonable act, leading a dozen members of his state's congressional delegation Friday to call on him to resign. He's been tagged with the brush of "sexual misconduct"—an umbrella term that means anything from offering an unwanted compliment to actual assault but, in Cuomo's case, seems limited to making lewd and suggestive comments and, according to one complainant, groping.

The governor has denied all this (when he was still making statements about it) saying he regretted if anything he said or did was misinterpreted or if he made anyone feel uncomfortable by his actions. He is also refusing to step down and, as yet, has not abandoned plans to seek a fourth term in 2022.

Once upon a time, the apology might have been enough. He might have survived through the end of his current term and, over time, found himself on sure enough footing to run again. Not anymore. In today's environment, an accusation all by itself can be fatal to one's career because, as we're told time and again (except when Joe Biden is involved), "all women must be believed."

The way Cuomo is being treated is unfair—and not just because the state official who is best positioned to lead an investigation in the charges being levied against him, New York Attorney General Letitia James, wants his job (and may view it as a stepping stone to others). We are still a nation of laws and the presumption of innocence still applies, no matter how many party operatives and former associates may step forward to complain.

No politician, of course, wants to go through such things. There really isn't a way to win once anything like that starts (unless your name is Bill Clinton). But what's going on in Albany right now says a lot about political priorities and the desire of the supposedly diverse media establishment to hold politicians accountable for their behavior.

Embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images

What are we to think of a society in which the chief executive of a major state may see headlines demanding his head on a platter because he once asked an aide about playing strip poker on a private jet, when the revelation he ordered recovering COVID patients into nursing homes, who then spread the disease to people who did not have it and then had the numbers fudged to cover it all up, is held out as a mere talking point?

If there's to be an investigation by the New York State legislature, it should be into what Governor Cuomo knew about the nursing home situation, not how he treated the women who worked for him. If, as some have alleged, he acted in ways or ordered others to act in ways that led to COVID fatalities because he feared an investigation by the Trump Justice Department, hold him accountable for that.

None of that excuses any misbehavior with women who worked for, or with, him. These are two separate issues that together say something about the character of the man who started in politics as the "fixer" for his father, the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo. He plays hardball and that can sometimes backfire.

There are a lot of people who have a considerable amount of soul-searching to do on this one. One group that comes to mind is the self-anointed guardians of the public's safety, who jumped on every comment former President Donald Trump made about COVID yet remained silent about the nursing home orders imposed by Cuomo and five other governors. Who was helped and who was hurt by that?

It's easy to say Trump mishandled the crisis. His pollster's autopsy after his 2020 loss to Biden says COVID was the single biggest factor in his failure to win re-election. What's been clear for some time is that others mishandled it, too. What are we supposed to do about that? Sweep it all under the rug and forget about it?

When it comes to reasons to be outraged, what has happened to society's sense of proportion, and to what we expect from our public officials? If allegations of sexual misconduct capture more of our attention and drive Cuomo from office, maybe that's just the way it works now and we need to adjust to it. Woe is us.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International, and other publications. He can be reached by email at RoffColumns@GMAIL.com. Follow him on Twitter: @PeterRoff.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.