Richard Nixon Resigned on August 9: Why Doesn't Andrew Cuomo Celebrate By Resigning Today?
Although the troubles that brought both men to the brink of impeachment are very different, the two men have a lot in common
The question of the day is: will New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo resign this week, following the release of a damning investigative report detailing his behavior towards female staffers? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
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Although he has until Friday to submit materials demanded by the New York State Assembly’s “wide-ranging impeachment inquiry,” today is an excellent day for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to give up his ludicrous defenses of indefensible behavior and resign.
Why today? Because it’s a special anniversary for political junkies! On August 9, 1974, Richard M. Nixon became the first President of the United States to resign from office, a direct result of a Congressional investigation into the Republican campaign malfeasance known as Watergate. So we could even rethink August 9 as a national holiday. Instead, we could call it Resignation Day, a day of thanksgiving and picnics that celebrates political right triumphing over political might.
These two politicians, although their troubles are very different, have similarities. The chief one is their assertion that facts, supported by evidence, are not facts but the work of enemies trying to fool the public. Thus, for example, Cuomo claims to have been universally misunderstood about two things for which there are corroborated, sworn testimony: his invasive questions about female staffers’ private lives and why his hands were regularly on women’s necks, breasts, and buttocks.
Nixon also proposed that he was misunderstood. A little more than three months before the walls finally closed in, James D. St. Clair, the President’s special counsel, argued that what Nixon had said to his staffers had no relationship to the laws they broke. As The New York Times reported on April 30, 1974, St. Claire singled out what he himself said were “ambiguous and unclear moments” and re-interpreted them as unambiguously legal. Thus, according to St. Clair, Nixon was not “criminally involved” in the Watergate cover-up.
This was the kind of flimflammery St. Claire hoped the public, and Congress, would believe:
“The way you have handled all this seems to me has been very skillful,” [Nixon] told Mr. Dean, “putting your finger in the leaks that have sprung here and sprung there.”
The White House interpretation of the President's remark was: “This was said in the context not of a criminal plot to obstruct justice as Dean alIeged but rather in the context of the politics of the matter, such as civil suits, countersuits, Democratic efforts to exploit Watergate as a political issue and the like. The reference to putting your finger in the leaks’ was clearly related to the handling of the political and public relations aspects of the matter.”
It didn’t work.
Fast forward 47 years to Andrew Cuomo’s defense against the 165-page report issued by New York Attorney General Letitia James, a report that sustains sexual harassment complaints by 11 women and widespread assertions of a hostile work environment in the governor’s office. According to a summary by New York Magazine’s Danielle Campoamor (August 5, 2021), Cuomo claims that the report itself was “utterly biased,” reinterpreted innocent gestures of affection as harmful, and “willfully ignored evidence inconsistent with the narrative of his accusers.”
As Campoamor writes,
In addition, Cuomo tweeted a video response, saying “the facts are much different than what has been portrayed” before sharing that he has a family member who is a sexual-assault survivor and touting how difficult it is, for him, to hear victim’s stories. And after feigning his empathy for one such survivor, Charlotte Bennett, he went on to blame her for her “interpretation” of his well-intentioned actions. Cuomo also added that he’d watched his family member “live and suffer with the trauma,” before evoking victimlike rhetoric, claiming Bennett “brought it all back.” Cuomo claimed that the uncomfortable, detailed questions he asked Bennett about her assault were simply a demonstration of his desire to help her — then, he turned around and claimed that Bennet “heard things that I just didn’t say” before offering a de-facto non-apology, claiming the whole thing was all a misunderstanding borne out of Cuomo’s “bringing his personal life into the workplace.”
Nixon, too, would continue to portray himself as the victim of an array of enemies. This campaign to restore his reputation by gaslighting the public would continue into his post-presidency and even after Nixon’s death in 1994. In 2014, on the 40th anniversary of the President’s resignation, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum and the Richard Nixon Foundation released a series of tapes that, while they did not change the facts of the investigation that had brought Nixon to the brink of impeachment, were intended to demonstrate “the former president’s more emotional, candid and reflective side,” as Maeve Reston wrote for the Los Angeles Times.
But it backfired. “They are at varying times maudlin, craven, emotional,” Reston noted; “even in 1983, Nixon appears to see himself as a man wronged, saying that he had resisted resigning because it would be an ‘admission of guilt’ that would have set a bad example for future presidents.”
The further he drifted from reality, the more Nixon sought to cast his struggle with Congress in an institutional, rather than a personal, light: the phrase “an `admission of guilt’ that would have set a bad example for future presidents” says it all. In fact, since Nixon is the only president to have resigned, and two subsequent presidents were impeached without resigning—one twice—he was clearly wrong about that too.
Cuomo has also vowed not to resign for an institutional reason: he cares too much about the people of New York to stop being their governor. “My job is not about me; my job is about you,” Cuomo explained as part of the rebuttal video released on August 5. In a bizarre appeal to feminists somewhere, he also claimed that female staffers who were complicit in, and covered up, his harassment were victims of a “sexual double standard” since “strong male supervisors would never face accusations of bullying over behavior that was simply demanding.”
“What matters to me at the end of the day,” Cuomo emphasized, ignoring the fact that provoking an impeachment rather than resigning would consume a month of the legislature’s time, “is getting the most done I can for you. I will not be distracted from that job.”
But like Nixon, Cuomo will soon have no choice in the matter if he does not act voluntarily. Out of 150 legislators in the State Assembly, 86 will vote for impeachment. In addition, every member of the New York Congressional delegation has asked Cuomo to resign, as has President Joe Biden. This is the most damning similarity to Nixon’s situation in early August 1974: Cuomo has lost the confidence of his own party, and his only defenders are in the conspiracist circles surrounding Donald Trump.
The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart said it perfectly on the PBS NewsHour last Friday: “He's a man with no friends,” Capehart emphasized. “Andrew Cuomo hasn't had friends in Albany in a very long time before this happened.”
And he’s not making any new ones now. No amount of gaslighting his accusers and the public will change that.
“Son, you are on a ventilator because we exercise our God-given right to live free AND die.” As Joe Henderson of Florida Politics reports, school districts that believe in science will nevertheless allow parents to opt their children out of local mask mandates. This conforms to Governor Ron DeathSantis’s recent EO that makes any mask mandate illegal in Florida. School districts are trying to thread the needle between a threatened loss of funds and a Delta strain hospitalizing young, unvaccinated people. But how many people have to die in Florida before someone grows a pair? Why doesn’t one of these school districts sue him? (August 8, 2020)
The July national jobs report is great unless you live in a Republican state and don’t have a job. Laura Clawson at The Daily Kos reminds us that “Republican state unemployment cut-offs have left 1.6 million people without unemployment benefits, with another 7.5 million set to lose aid that expires on September 6. And no, the unemployment cut-offs have not produced any quick rise in hiring in those states relative to others.” (August 7, 2021)
Why not just get rid of the draft and its $24.6M budget? In 1981, when the Reagan administration re-instituted a law that all men between 18 and 23 had to register for the draft, women were excluded from combat roles and thus from conscription. However, women now serve in combat (a change that occurred under the two Bush presidencies), and as a result, in 2016, a congressional commission was convened to study the issue. Last year, under Trump, that commission recommended that the gender burden for national defense become equal. Last week, five other GOP Senators—James Lankford (R-OK), Steve Daines (R-MT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Marco Rubio (R-FL)—signed on to Utah Senator Mike Lee’s “Don’t Draft Our Daughters Act.” Their reason? Women are the weaker sex! Arguing that the possibility of equalizing the draft “unduly harms women more than advancing any notion of equality,” Lee stated: “While American women should be empowered to serve in our Armed Forces, they should not be forced to fight.” (Utah Policy, August 6, 2021)