"IT'S INEVITABLE that when defeated Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York speaks at the National Press Club here on Friday, he'll be asked whether he's going to run for president in 1996." -- Jack Germond & Jules Witcover, The Sun, Dec. 13.
Earth to National Press Club, Earth to National Press Club, we're losing you. Over. Over? Oh, no! It's finally happened! The Washington punditocracy has left orbit and is lost in space!
How can anybody ask Mario Cuomo, with a straight face, if he is thinking of running for president in 1996? Thinking of Mario Cuomo as a presidential prospect is 10 times more preposterous than thinking of Bob Dole as one. Dole, at least, gets re-elected in his home state.
Even had Cuomo been re-elected as governor last month, I wouldn't take him seriously. Why? If you don't know my answer to that, you haven't been paying attention. One more time: He's a New Yorker.
New York hasn't produced a bona fide Democratic presidential contender since 1944 (Franklin D. Roosevelt). It hasn't produced a bona fide Republican contender since 1948, when Gov. Thomas Dewey was the Republican nominee (and lost what everyone then regarded as an un-losable general election).
Some consider Nelson Rockefeller bona fide. I don't. He was an on-again, off-again candidate in the Republican primaries in 1964, and ended up with less than 10 percent of the ballots at the national convention. He got 24 percent four years later. But he never made the eventual nominees, Barry Goldwater in 1964 or Richard Nixon (1968), work up a sweat.
Why are New Yorkers such poor performers? Because they tend to be far more liberal than their national parties. They're out of the mainstream. The new guv, George Pataki, may be an exception, but I would still make this prediction: No New Yorker will be nominated for president ever again.
It is not just Washington's National Press Club types who are ga-ga over Cuomo. Roger Rosenblatt of New York City, editor in chief of the Columbia Journalism Review, writes in the current (Dec. 26) New Republic:
"No one but he knows why he did not run for president. He probably could have won the nomination over Mondale [in 1984] and Dukakis , and Clinton, too. [It] is likely he would have beaten George Bush."
And he deserved to become president. Why? Here is Rosenblatt's tribute to Cuomo:
"I like him -- not just as a man but as a political leader. Any politician who can keep New York State from explosion and collapse for twelve years is all right by me."
He kept a state from explosion and collapse? What kind of presidential credential is that? The nation isn't in danger of either explosion or collapse. (And if New York is, whose fault is it?)
Rosenblatt's Cuomo sounds more like the best man to become president of Russia. Or Chechnya.