For much of the 21st Century, New York politics has been on a long, strange trip, a weird voyage that is taking a little detour this week at Hofstra University where the State Democratic Convention is being held.

When we’ve seen a governor resign in a prostitution scandal and a state attorney general accused of beating women, it’s understandable that we hardly bat an eye when a former First Lady turned Senator turned failed Presidential candidate shares the stage with a son-of-a-governor turned cabinet secretary turned failed politician turned governor.

But it’s still worth noting how the worm has turned. Sixteen years ago, Hillary Clinton pointedly snubbed Andrew Cuomo when they were both visiting the State Fair in Syracuse. Then-Senator Clinton was a  Democratic diva while Cuomo’s campaign for governor was foundering against the rocks of Democratic rival Carl McCall. While Clinton officially was staying neutral in the race (after all, Cuomo served as a cabinet secretary for her husband for four years), it was clear she was rooting for McCall, the highest-elected African-American official in state history. Less than a quarter of a mile away from Cuomo, Clinton kept her distance that day.

Two failed presidential campaigns later and a remarkable series of events in state politics have led to a reversal in fortune. Hillary Clinton is now a private citizen while Andrew Cuomo is a second-term governor who was overwhelmingly re-nominated for his job by delegates at the convention yesterday.

Clinton still got a spotlight as the keynote speaker and she used it to take a swipe at the current president by quoting her predecessor in the Senate, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,’’ is the Moynihan mantra that was almost wearily repeated by Clinton. In an odd touch, the governor presented Clinton with a bouquet after the speech and they briefly illuminated the stage with their shared star power.

Earlier in the day, Matilda Cuomo seconded the nomination of her son and invoked the memory of her husband, the late Mario Cuomo, who for twelve years lived in the same room in the governor’s mansion that’s now occupied by his son.

It’s easy to forget that in a different lifetime, Hillary Clinton’s husband was apologizing to Matlida Cuomo’s husband for agreeing that the New York governor acted like a “mafioso.”

And the ultimate make-good apology that was later offered by Hillary Clinton’s husband to Matilda Cuomo’s husband was a Supreme Court seat – a seat that was turned down in favor of a failed attempt at a fourth run for governor in 1994.

Politics is filled with wistful “what-ifs” and tortured histories and they were there lurking in the shadows in a sports complex at a university on Long Island.

In the end, Hillary got flowers while Andrew Cuomo took home 95 percent of the vote.


Bob Hardt