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Cuomo’s longed-for ’constitutional crisis’ is less about opposition to ‘King Trump’ than a power-grab for ‘King Cuomo’

Helen Buyniski
Helen Buyniski

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

Cuomo’s longed-for ’constitutional crisis’ is less about opposition to ‘King Trump’ than a power-grab for ‘King Cuomo’
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seems intent on dethroning President Donald Trump, picking a fight over reopening the economy while hinting a bigger ‘constitutional crisis’ would let him slay the orange dragon once and for all.

Cuomo came out swinging against the president this week, accusing him of declaring himself “King Trump” and trashing the work of “our founding fathers” in a series of fiery media appearances that could easily be mistaken for a campaign challenge.

The only way the situation gets worse is if the president creates a constitutional crisis,” Cuomo vowed on Morning Joe on Tuesday, referring to the nationwide coronavirus epidemic and attendant economic depression. “If he says to me ‘I declare [the economy] open’ and that is a public health risk or it’s reckless with the people of my state, I will oppose it.” 

You will have a constitutional crisis like you haven’t seen in decades.

Also on rt.com ‘That won’t happen!’ Trump & Cuomo clash over New York’s ‘independence’ post-coronavirus

As a second-generation New York politician, Cuomo was born into the sleazy self-dealing world of Albany - a trait that, one might argue, makes him uniquely suited to play the Saint George to second-generation real estate mogul Trump’s Dragon. Cuomo may see himself as the breath of fresh air the anti-Trump #Resistance so desperately needs. But he’d be wise to reconsider trying to drag Trump into the mud of “constitutional crisis,” given that the president has - according to the narrative-managers of the media establishment - weathered more than a handful of them and come out with nary a scratch.

Why else would he add that qualifier, “in decades”? Cuomo might have been thinking of all the other times a “constitutional crisis” has been declared over the course of Trump’s single term in office. Almost a year ago, Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera had already observed that anti-Trump “pundits & critics have been using the phrase #ConstitutionalCrisis so often over the last 2+ years-It is now seen as alarmist bulls***.” 

Even the New Yorker admitted at the time that the #Resistance seemed to have come down with constitutional-crisis-fatigue. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum, now a liberal thought-leader, called the newly-minted president a “constitutional crisis on two legs” on Inauguration Day 2017, and the ensuing Russiagate ‘scandal’ was fraught with “constitutional crises” like firing FBI director James Comey and refusing to release an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The fabled boy who cried wolf’s throat, in short, has gone hoarse.

The uninspired impeachment probe that began in September, just months before the coronavirus epidemic, didn’t reset the wolf-crying clock (though it, too, was a constitutional crisis, according to the New York Times). Democrats have already hinted they want a do-over, with House intel committee chair (and impeachment inquiry chief) Adam Schiff calling for a 9/11-style “nonpartisan commission” (the original 9/11 Commission was slammed for, among other things, being spinelessly partisan) to probe the administration’s perceived fumbles in the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Absent from the party’s criticism is any insight into the fact that the Trump administration’s hands were full fighting off the same impeachment efforts the Democrats now want to revive as first dozens and then hundreds of Chinese people were falling ill with the virus currently ravaging the US. 

Before baring his fangs this week, Cuomo had put a lot of effort into portraying himself as the responsible politician/father-figure hybrid the US needed amidst the uncertainty of the coronavirus epidemic, delivering somber daily speeches peppered with Winston Churchill quotes in contrast to what the media has gone out of its way to depict as Riefenstahl-esque “propaganda briefings” from Trump. 

In the last few days, however, the self-styled “America’s Governor” has amplified a simmering rivalry when even Trump had seemed willing to bury the hatchet, suggesting the pair were “getting along.” While Cuomo has accused Trump of “spoiling for a fight,” it’s the three-term governor who appears intent on mortally wounding the president - if not taking over the role himself.

Such an act would, of course, make him the party’s darling; already, if polls are to be believed, more Democratic voters would like to see him take on Trump in November than the increasingly feeble-minded former vice president Joe Biden.

Cuomo’s faint protests that he doesn’t want the job ring hollow - he was testing the waters for a run almost a decade ago before a challenge from his left by an underfunded near-total unknown nearly knocked him out of the governor’s mansion.

Cuomo would hardly be the first politician to go after a rival’s scalp in order to skip the line to the White House. But is it really Trump creating the “constitutional crisis”?

The reality of who has the right to reopen New York’s economy lies somewhere in the middle. The federal government controls interstate commerce, meaning there’s no legal basis for Cuomo’s multi-state coalitions, made up of fellow Democratic governors, bellying up to the White House and making demands. But Cuomo does have some say over the rules set in his own state - as do municipal governments like that of New York City, whose mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly clashed with Cuomo over closing schools and defunding Medicaid in the middle of the pandemic.

Also on rt.com Coronavirus death toll in New York state rises above 10,000 as governor says ‘worst is over’

With the nation’s economy essentially collapsed and 16 million Americans filing for unemployment in the last three weeks alone, the expiration of the president’s social-distancing guidelines at the end of April is the only light at the end of the tunnel for many New Yorkers. In hinting that he might pump the brakes on reopening the state’s economy for the sake of politics, Cuomo is holding his constituents hostage to his own ambitions.

There is no precedent in US history for the self-inflicted economic wounds generated by the coronavirus shutdown, and both state and federal governments are deep into uncharted territory. Making a political football of New Yorkers’ economic future in order to secure Cuomo’s own political future might be legal, but from the point of view of New Yorkers caught in the middle of his pissing match with the White House, it is unforgivable.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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