The Corner

Even the Times Can’t Defend Andrew Cuomo’s Shirking a Debate with Rob Astorino

The editorial board of the New York Times, which couldn’t bring itself to endorse Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination (citing the huge ethics and corruption problems the same paper uncovered), has still reconciled with Cuomo fils, it seems. They’re now rapping him for agreeing to debate his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, but refusing to do so on television. Their argument:

With New York elections less than a month away, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on a vigorous campaign to sell his new autobiography. What’s missing from this busy schedule is the political reality of the moment.

Mr. Cuomo is running for re-election on Nov. 4, and, so far, he has agreed to a single one-hour televised debate with three other candidates, including Rob Astorino, the Republican in the race. That isn’t sufficient for voters who need to hear and see the back and forth on issues like ethics in Albany, taxes, women’s rights and the economy.

Mr. Astorino, the Westchester County executive, has said at least five such debates were proposed, mostly by news organizations. However, Mr. Cuomo is willing to participate only in a group debate — which would include Mr. Astorino and candidates from the Green and Libertarian parties — in Buffalo on Oct. 22.

While this is better than nothing, the format means that the four candidates will essentially be participating in a panel discussion that allows less time for each candidate to challenge the others, and Mr. Cuomo knows that.

The Cuomo campaign has said that the governor had agreed to one radio debate with Mr. Astorino. Unfortunately, Mr. Astorino refused the offer because he wanted it to be televised, a demand the Cuomo campaign rejected.

On the one hand, you might be sort of surprised that the Times is so eager to force Cuomo onto a stage with Astorino, a candidate they once practically called a neo-Confederate for fighting a wasteful and pointless federal housing decree. On the other hand, Cuomo happens to live in the county Astorino is trying to defend as not, you know, segregated, so maybe the Times has come around on the ridiculousness of their stance.

And as Astorino has pointed out, even Vladimir Putin has debated his opponents on TV. It’s been more than 80 years since the Times was carrying water for the practices of Russian strongmen!

Patrick Brennan was a senior communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Trump administration and is former opinion editor of National Review Online.

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