The Morning Jolt


Will Andrew Cuomo Take Responsibility?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference during the outbreak of the coronavirus in New York City, New York, June 10, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Alexandra DeSanctis here. I’ll be filling in for Jim this week, notwithstanding what it says in your email inbox.

On the menu today: Andrew Cuomo somehow thinks his policies aren’t at all to blame for the enormous number of COVID-19-related deaths in New York nursing homes, a look ahead at some of the Democratic primaries on the docket this evening, and it looks like the University of Michigan will be backing out of hosting a presidential debate this fall.

Cuomo Doesn’t Want to Own Up

In an interview on MSNBC yesterday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo refused to accept any blame for the number of COVID-19 deaths among nursing-home residents in his state. It seems clear at this point that, based on conservative estimates, at least 6 percent of the New York’s more than 100,000 nursing-home residents have died of the disease during the state’s outbreak.

Instead of acknowledging the role that his decisions almost surely played in that disaster, though, Cuomo has consistently blamed the federal government and the CDC and, in this interview, wrote off criticism of his policies as a “political charade.”

MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle asked Cuomo about his much-criticized order that required nursing homes to continue housing residents who had tested positive for COVID-19. “Sixty-three hundred [residents] died in New York nursing homes. That is the most in this country,” she said. “The more time that’s passed, the more your office can look into this. Do you take responsibility for that order and the role it may have played in those deaths?”

But Cuomo appeared uninterested in taking responsibility of any kind:

Let’s look at the facts, right? Rather than the political rhetoric. Yes, we had more people die in nursing homes than anywhere else, because we had more people die, because the federal government missed the boat and never told us that this virus was coming from Europe and not from China.

The federal government and the CDC and all of them failed to handle this pandemic and warn this nation. So New York had more cases and more deaths and more deaths in nursing homes because that’s who the virus affects. It affects senior citizens. We know that. You look at any state, and they had a tremendous number of deaths in nursing homes.

Cuomo tried to use a similar argument last week in a local radio interview, telling the host that “the nursing home is an unfortunate situation on two levels,” adding,

Number one, people in nursing homes died. The nursing home is pure politics — the Republicans in Congress, they think there’s a vulnerability. . . . We had the worst case in the United States because the federal government had no idea what was going on. Where was the CDC? And where was the NIH? And where was everybody?

In a lengthy, well documented New York Post column over the weekend, Michael Goodwin outlined Cuomo’s many attempts to duck blame for his policy and explained why he shouldn’t be given a pass for refusing to own up to its failures. Here’s some of what Goodwin had to say:

Thousands of New York’s elderly died likely because of [Cuomo’s] blunders — yet he heartlessly refuses to acknowledge a single mistake to grieving families.

His biggest blunder was the infamous March 25 Department of Health order that required nursing homes and rehabilitation centers to admit COVID-19 patients being discharged from hospitals. It stands as one of the worst decisions in New York history because it condemned the most vulnerable to hellish deaths surrounded by strangers while no friends or relatives were allowed to visit.

The order gave nursing homes no warning, no help and no way to reject contagious patients. To prevent discrimination, it even said the homes could not ask if the patients being forced on them had tested positive.

Officially, New York says the coronavirus claimed 6,200 lives in nursing homes, or about 25 percent of the state total of nearly 25,000 fatalities, but the actual total is certainly higher. Some estimate that nursing home deaths are closer to 12,000.

Goodwin pointed out, too, that the public was unaware of the order for several weeks, and when a reporter asked Cuomo about how the state was handling the risks of such a policy, he replied, “That’s a good question, I don’t know,” before deferring to state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, who claimed that “the necessary precautions will be taken to protect the other [nursing home] residents.”

But, as Goodwin explains, that can’t have been true: “Because the order took effect immediately, without inspections or even conversations with managers, the state had no idea which of the 600 long-term-care facilities had sufficient space and staff to segregate COVID-19 patients. Nor did the state know if the facilities had any protective equipment for nurses and others who would care for infected patients.”

While Cuomo is right on some level that a general lack of preparedness across the country was part of the reason that New York got hammered by COVID-19, he ought to take responsibility to his own blunders in the aftermath of the outbreak. Plenty of other states managed to implement policies to limit death rates among the elderly, especially those in nursing homes, most notably Florida, which has a disproportionately large number of elderly residents but thus far has had a lower death rate than New York. Cuomo’s policy of shuttling infected elderly people back into nursing homes across the state was careless at best and deadly at worst. A good leader would be able to admit it.

Democrats Face Off in Tight Primaries

This evening, there will be primary elections in Kentucky, New York, and Virginia, along with congressional runoff elections in Mississippi and North Carolina. In particular, today’s contests will feature the Democratic primary in Kentucky’s Senate race, where Amy McGrath and Charles Booker are fighting for a chance to unseat Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell in November.

It seems pretty unlikely that either of the candidates have much of a shot to remove the majority leader, especially in a state that Trump carried in 2016 by 30 points, but they’re locked in a tight race for the chance. Booker, an African-American state representative, has been focusing his campaign on police violence in recent weeks as he faces McGrath, a former Marine pilot who until recently was thought to have the primary locked up.

In New York City, meanwhile, long-time Democratic congressman Eliot Engel, who represents the state’s 16th District covering the Bronx and Westchester County, is facing a challenge from his left. The most likely contender for an upset is Jamaal Bowman, a school principal with several endorsements from progressive politicians, including Senators Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), as well as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pulled off a similar primary victory from the left two years ago in the nearby 14th District.

Young, left-wing challengers have also mounted primary campaigns against a few other Democratic fixtures of the New York political scene, such as Representative Carolyn Maloney, who is running against several younger candidates, including Suraj Patel, who challenged Maloney in 2018 and managed a surprising 41 percent of the vote.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of voters mailing in absentee ballots has risen steeply from typical elections, which could result in a fairly lengthy delay between voting and finding out who won. Here’s more from the New York Times on that possibility:

In New York, absentee ballots are not fully counted until a week after the election. And those ballots could represent about half of all votes cast in the primary.

In Kentucky, absentee ballot requests have soared in the state’s two largest cities, Louisville and Lexington. Yet a number of jurisdictions have indicated that on Tuesday, they will only tabulate votes cast that day, or those cast that day combined with those cast during in-person early voting.

That would mean that potentially hundreds of thousands of absentee votes would not be counted until after Tuesday evening.

Whenever those results roll in, they’re worth paying attention to, especially in New York. The outcome of efforts to unseat longtime Democratic establishment leaders in favor of younger, more vocally progressive politicians will say a lot about the policy platform the Left will embrace in coming years.

University of Michigan to Cancel Its 2020 Debate 

According to reporting from the Detroit Free Press, and confirmed by the New York Times, the University of Michigan plans to formally announce today that it will pull out of its agreement to host the second presidential debate between President Trump and presumed Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The event had been slated for October 15, but school officials are concerned about bringing huge amounts of media and campaign traffic to campus amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Times reports that the October 15 debate instead will be held at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, which hosted the first two of last summer’s Democratic primary debates.

The other two presidential debates are still scheduled to take place at universities, first on September 29 at the University of Notre Dame and then on October 22 at Belmont University. While I hope both schools make the best decision for the health and safety of their campus communities, I have to admit I’m also hoping Notre Dame can find a way to beat Michigan at hosting a presidential debate.

ADDENDUM: I wrote yesterday about the moral panic tearing across the country, resulting in mobs defacing and ripping down statues. NR’s editors have an excellent editorial on the subject. The instance of San Francisco rioters targeting a monument to Ulysses S. Grant seems as good an occasion as any to recommend to you Ron Chernow’s 2017 biography, which I’ve been working my way through for about a week. I’ve only read about 20 percent of it so far, but I already know any “anti-racist” effort to target Grant has nothing to do with principle and everything to do with misplaced rage.


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