By Jesse Robert Lovejoy
For a starting pitcher, the most dangerous inning is the first. He isn’t really warmed up, and he doesn’t know what’s working that day. If his fastball has life and his command is good, he can settle in, begin to mix in the curve, and cruise the first two times through the order. But the third time through looms ominously. Batters have seen the fastball and the curve a few times. A starter needs a third and even fourth pitch. He’s going to have to throw sinkers, cutters and changeups. Andrew Cuomo is starting his third time through right now. We are going to learn a lot.
Cuomo’s first time through the order was all fastballs. He shut down schools and businesses, found ventilators and PPE, expanded hospitals by 50 percent, reorganized the state hospital system, and sparred with Washington about most of it. He spoke on TV for an hour every day to report progress. It was all cheese and strong command.
The second time through the order Cuomo mixed in the curve. He negotiated with Trump and got a lot of federal help, effectively and without partisanship. It was surprising, and it worked great. Cuomo asked, Trump delivered, Cuomo said thank you. Refreshing. A plus curveball.
But it is rare for a leader to make no mistakes, and Cuomo certainly made a few, including the brutal error of requiring nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients, with tragic results.
The early surge was flattened, but now shutdown orders have crushed the national economy. Forty million Americans—including two million New Yorkers—are out of work. U.S. joblessness approaches 25 percent. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses are bankrupt, the owners’ life-savings are gone. The drop in second quarter GDP will be like a bottomless elevator shaft. This virus will be out there until we have a vaccine, but the American people have to get back to work fast or everybody is going to be busted and starving.
This—right now—is Cuomo’s third time through the order. Is he just another strong-armed kid, or does he really know how to pitch?
With all due respect, the governor needs some perspective. He must recognize that he does not understand the suffering inflicted by the shutdown and the pain of being jobless and hungry. He has to stop talking about lives versus the economy. That is a phony issue, and the talk is disrespectful. The governor’s only job is to restart the economy as fast as possible with as little damage to health as possible.
There are tons of details to get right—like the criteria for reopening. The CDC has been wrong a lot. Their dictates for reopening need to be analyzed, not blindly adopted. Be incisive; throw a cutter. Does it make sense to set the same hurdles for reopening in the sparsely populated North Country as in the densest-packed city in America? How can people trace all contacts in a city where millions have already been infected? Can parents go back to work before the schools open? These issues need more analysis.
The governor will also have to work his way out of trouble. The virus is tough, and he will make mistakes. The State must keep moving forward when infections increase, because they will. Several states and nations have already seen it happen. Cuomo likes to quote Churchill: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” Take that to heart.
Cuomo also has to get funding from Washington to fill the hole in the state budget. This is going to call for a changeup. You can’t sneak a fastball past Mitch McConnell. Put aside your party’s wish list of programs and its platform for November. Just ask for the actual costs and the actual lost revenues. That’s all.
Maybe the governor’s battle against COVID can even begin to reinvent an honorable role in public service—the guy who reaches across the aisle and gets things done. There was a time when eminent people did that. It could turn out to be important once again, and there’s zero competition for the job. If he does it all, that’s four plus pitches. Cooperstown? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but he gets the start next Tuesday.
Jesse Robert Lovejoy, a lifelong New Yorker, worked in Manhattan for over 50 years in law and finance. He now operates a personal consulting business. Edited by: Felix von Moschzisker