To Fall from a Low Place Is Not “Tragic,” but Sad
With the abrupt resignation of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, second-generation holder of his state’s highest office once held by his late father Mario, the media has reached for high metaphor. Andrew Cuomo’s fall is “tragic,” it is being claimed, a “Shakespearean fall from grace” from a high height (here, here, here, here, and here).
Not! Thugs do not have tragic, Shakespearean falls. Heroes do. Heroes, equipped with characters of substance, who have achieved great heights by achieving great things, may trigger their own fall if a flaw in their own substantive character goes ungoverned, amok. Andrew Cuomo, creator and curator of a hideously toxic workplace for women, was almost all flaw, not much character, and certainly no grace.
While Cuomo did achieve high office — governor, state Attorney General, cabinet secretary in Bill Clinton’s administration — his accomplishments were always overshadowed by his intimidating methods: He is said to have had two operational modes — “Get along, and kill.” He flexed more muscle than a hero ever needed. Rather than hero, Cuomo was, and ends as, a thug.
Cuomo’s history of sexual harassment as governor is contained, with corroborating evidence, in state Attorney General Letitia James’ 165-page report, universally regarded as rock solid, of his harassment of 11 women, now or formerly in his employ. The details are sordid — the groping, the uninvited kissing, the retaliation if a woman resisted. (Forgive me, but as an early adjudicator of sexual harassment cases in the late ’70s and now having a bellyful of #MeToo exhibits, I’ll beg off itemizing the details and refer readers to the comprehensive A.G. report. Thank heaven for hyperlinks.)
The A.G. report was issued only last week. That Cuomo vowed to fight on, then capitulated so abruptly, this week, may have triggered the media’s tragic fall metaphors. But abrupt does not tragic make; heroic does.
More justifiable as tragic are references to the fall of the Cuomo family political dynasty (also here and here). Father Mario was many New Yorkers’ favorite governor — thoughtful, witty, literate (he famously spoke of campaigning in poetry but governing in prose). It was these character traits…