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Cuomo/Bowles ’20!


Is Politico taking Cuomo seriously as a national candidate? I think you know the answer!

New Yorkers love to assume that their politicians are national figures by default, even as one by one they flame out on the big stage. For much of his career, Cuomo has looked like another in this long line: someone too nakedly ambitious, too pushy, with too messy of a personal life—too, well, New Yorky—to play much beyond Buffalo and the Battery. But suddenly it seems that Americans are willing to pull the lever for a muscular, messy, rough-edged leader shouting for the common man, and suddenly the governor is starting to show up on a lot of people’s lists.

Projection is a hell of a drug! Anyway, Cuomo is Not Happening. He may be dumb enough to run, but if he does he’ll humiliate himself worse than Lieberman did in 2004. That he’ll have no support from the left of the party is a serious but far from the only problem. The guy is actively working to keep the state Senate in Republican hands! The idea that this is going to play in a primary where every serious contender is positioning themselves to capture the leftward movement of the party’s base is just absurd.

Between this and the less-than-astonishing return of Mark Penn, I was reminded of the 2012 Politico primary. Remember that? Looking at it again, it’s an even more remarkable window into the VandeHei/Allen era than I remembered. There’s plenty of instructive stuff — for example, it’s a reminder of the fact the mainstream pundits love Hillary until she’s actually running for office, when she becomes a cross between Johnny Sack and Rod Blagojevich. But the case for Erskine Bowles as a presidential nominee is entirely indistinguishable from a mean parody of the VandeHei/Allen view of the world:

The most depressing reality of modern governance is this: The current system seems incapable of dealing with our debt addiction before it becomes a crippling crisis. Few have the courage to propose specific cuts to entitlements, gut military spending, raise taxes or take away government goodies. Instead, most politicians play it safe and dabble around the edges or propose ambiguous ideas, all in the name of political self-protection.

But there is a decent chance conventional politicians playing by conventional rules are playing it all wrong. Many voters seem open to, if not hungry for, a real discussion about tough changes. Ask Republicans and Democrats alike to name a serious and responsible thinker who could lead this discussion and the name Erskine Bowles often tops the list.

DEBT ADDICTION! GOVERNMENT GOODIES! Everyone in both parties agrees that only Erskine Bowles can save us from the government implementing programs that improve people’s lives! Voters really want to hear about how the government will stop helping them!

Bowles, 66, is far from an inspirational figure. In fact, he can be as dull as a butter knife in public settings. But he knows budgets, and numbers, and tough choices (he’s the man who asked Dick Morris to resign in the Clinton years) [LOL — ed.] and, unlike most, has slapped his name on ideas that upset leaders of both parties but excite deficit hawks on both sides.

There are no Republican deficit hawks, and in practice essentially no voters who are deficit hawks. There are, alas, Democratic elected officials who are deficit hawks, although their ranks are diminishing. The only people excited by Erskine Bowles’s ideas is a narrow slice of the Beltway elite.

The options outlined by Bowles and former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson were not the usual nips, tucks and other plastic surgery but, instead, clear and often painful cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. The Simpson-Bowles plan uses a mix of spending cuts ($3 trillion) and tax increases ($1 trillion) to do what many of members of both parties, if given truth serum, would say Washington needs to do: save at least $4 trillion over the next decade.

If given TRUTH SERUM, everyone would just admit that we’re right that critical social programs for the middle class need to be slashed to meet an arbitrary spending reduction figure! As Paul says, everyone affluent guy with a sinecure as a pundit who makes this argument should be required to spend a summer tarring roofs in Phoenix first.

Bowles lost two U.S. Senate races in his native North Carolina but might have more appeal with his new chops on deficit-cutting.

He has no actual political talent, but surely embracing unpopular ideas will help turn the tide! And that’s not all:

He’s a former banker who would find financial and political support in the business community. In September, he joined the board of Facebook, giving him a tech halo.

Almost eerily prescient about the direction of the electorate. It’s just amazing how these guys simply assume against all evidence that everyone loves their ideas.

In a sense, the doomed attempt of the post-V/A Politico to make Cuomo a thing is an improvement — at least it falsely assumes that Cuomo could be a credible populist figure rather than assuming that Everyone Agrees we need to cut Social Security, Medicare, and the top marginal tax rate.

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