Of the resignation speeches I’ve watched, Cuomo’s is the last
Cuomo’s resignation speech was a lot like Nixon’s, except Nixon wasn’t planning a comeback.
Photo: Office of the Governor
As a midday TV drama, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s speech culminating in his resignation from office was top notch, despite all the selfish and weasel-like content. That this came after his attorney’s attack on an attorney general report that destroyed Cuomo’s base of support among New York Democrats added a lot of momentary suspense. Would the famous stubborn veteran governor force the legislature to remove him from office? Would he resign only at the 11th hour to prevent any action that would deprive him of an opportunity to return in 2022 or beyond? It wasn’t clear until the very end, after her weird, drenched effort to pose as a feminist by identification with her three daughters, who must have cringe if they were watching at all.
Drama aside, as a resignation message rooted in unapologetic apologies and a purported desire not to let accusers disrupt governance, the immediate analogy that came to our minds of baby boomers was the Richard M. Nixon’s speech to the nation almost exactly 47 years ago, August 8, 1974.
There really was no doubt what Nixon was going to do. Republican leaders had made it clear to him that impeachment and impeachment was a certainty if he did not resign following the appearance of a “smoking” tape exposing the president’s personal involvement in a cover-up of the scandal. Watergate.
A key overlap between Nixon and Cuomo’s speeches involves an insincere apology that sidestepped the allegations that made the resignation necessary. Here is Nixon’s:
I deeply regret all the injuries that may have been caused during the events leading up to this decision. I would only say that if some of my judgments were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interests of the Nation.
And this is Cuomo:
I have known people too much. My sense of humor can be callous and off-putting. I casually hug and kiss people, women and men. I’ve been doing it all my life. This is who I have been since I can remember. In my mind, I never crossed the line with anyone, but I didn’t realize how much the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural changes that I just didn’t fully appreciate, and should have. No excuses.
The pair also explained that their resignations were the product of politics rather than justice. Nixon said he was resigning because:
I no longer have a sufficiently solid political base in Congress to justify continuing this effort. As long as there was such a basis, I was convinced that it was necessary to go to the end of the constitutional process, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of this deliberately difficult process and would set a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the to come up. But with the disappearance of this base, I now believe that the constitutional objective has been achieved and that there is no longer a need to prolong the process.
Cuomo was even more blunt:
This situation and this moment is not about the facts. It is not about the truth. This is not a thoughtful analysis. It is not about how to improve the system. It is about politics. And our political system today is too often driven by extremes.
Finally, both Nixon and Cuomo seemed preoccupied with insisting that they were not “resigning” but that they were selflessly putting their personal feelings aside out of concern for the office they were resigning from. . Here is Nixon:
I have never been a let go. To leave office before the end of my mandate is odious to all the instincts of my body. But as president, I have to put America’s best interests first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, especially at this time with the issues we face at home and abroad. To continue to fight over the next few months for my personal vindication would almost completely absorb the time and attention of the President and Congress at a time when all of our attention should be on the big questions of peace abroad and of peace. prosperity without domestic inflation.
I’m a fighter, and my instinct is to fight through this controversy, which I believe is really politically motivated. I think this is unfair and false, and I believe it demonizes behavior that is not sustainable for society. If I could communicate the facts through the frenzy, New Yorkers would understand… but I have become a fighter for you, and it is your best interests that I must serve. This situation by its current trajectory will generate months of political and legal controversy … It will consume the government. It will cost taxpayers millions of dollars. It will brutalize people …
I think under the circumstances the best way for me to help now is to step aside and let the government take over. And so, that’s what I’m going to do because I’m working for you, and doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you.
The biggest difference, of course, is that, as far as we know, Nixon was not planning a political comeback but to stay out of the hoosegow – a possibility soon suppressed by the pardon his successor, Gerald Ford, granted him. .
Speaking of Ford, another famous resignation speech preceded Nixon’s by ten months: that of former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. He had to explain to the American people the plea deal he had signed days earlier, which included his resignation as a veep (only to be replaced by Ford).
Like Nixon and Cuomo, Agnew worked his way through a denial of any real guilt, attributing his forced resignation to politics (in his case, the politics of Maryland’s tradition of bribes and setbacks, in which he was caught by shocked federal prosecutors who stumbled upon evidence that the former Baltimore County executive and governor of Maryland had accepted and still accepted cash bribes from road contractors) . But there was little doubt that Agnew resigned to avoid jail (he got parole instead by pleading guilty to tax evasion on the money he pocketed), and the only drama was her resignation. himself, which took place six days before his speech.
A governor’s resignation speech that came out of the blue and which I thought of as I looked at Cuomo’s cautious, serpentine exposure was Sarah Palin’s on July 2, 2009.
Palin came up with a signature word salad that never really explained why she was stepping down with almost a year and a half remaining in her tenure alone. She vaguely alluded to political enemies investigating her involvement in “Troopergate,” a state employee sacking scandal, but it was all quite confusing. As I noted at the time, “To the extent that there are consistent justifications expressed in his announcement, they involve the distractions of his battles with his 48 inferior enemies (and possibly their Alaskan cronies) and her realization that she doesn’t do a lot of work like a lame duck, so why wait to resign? “
At least Cuomo hasn’t let us guess at his motives, just as one wonders if he’s already dreaming of a 2022 return – which would be delusional, though not exactly surprising from either egos. most famous in American politics. . Either way, the disgraced governor’s resignation speech is likely to be of interest to political scientists and psychologists for a long time.