Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the phone while walking with his dog Captain at the Executive Mansion in Albany, N.Y. on Aug. 7, 2021.
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik wants New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to “resign and immediately be arrested.” The New York Republican is incensed on behalf of the 11 women that, according to evidence in a report from the state attorney general, he sexually harassed. “These brave women deserve swift and definitive justice,” Stefanik says.
How rich is that?
Cuomo absolutely should resign and, if authorities deem it appropriate, he should be charged. This is a mainstream position: A Quinnipiac Poll released Friday found that 70% of New York state voters think he should resign and 55% said he should be charged with a crime.
What’s rich is Stefanik passing judgment on Cuomo when she has sold her political soul to former President Donald Trump and the ethically, morally, legally, constitutionally and sexually compromised mess of a party he leads. She got her leadership job – no. 3 in the GOP House hierarchy – after Rep. Liz Cheney was ousted for insufficient fealty to Trump. She had voted to impeach him over his role in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack by violent Trump supporters.
Shameless defense of a bad actor
“We need to make sure that there is equal justice under the law. And whether you’re the most powerful elected official in New York State, laws apply to you just like they do to every other New Yorker,” Stefanik said of Cuomo Sunday on Fox News. But like most of the GOP, she apparently supports a separate justice system for Trump.
At least 19 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, from harassment to rape. He is on video discussing his penchant for grabbing women by the p—-.” And his onetime lawyer, Michael Cohen, implicated him in a scheme to pay hush money to a porn actress and a former Playboy model to keep them quiet about alleged affairs.
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This history did not stop Trump from going after Cuomo at a New York fundraiser Thursday night. He’s got “real problems,” Trump said, according to a New York Post report. Then he gave shoutouts to three congresswomen who first said Cuomo should resign months ago (Stefanik, Nicole Malliotakis and Claudia Tenney).
Trump sycophants have been shameless in their defense of a president who, beyond the sexual misconduct arena, was investigated for obstruction of justice and many other violations of the law and the Constitution, and who was impeached twice for high crimes and misdemeanors – one of them encouraging the anti-American riot at the Capitol where Congress was about to cement Biden’s 2020 win.
President Donald Trump and Rep. Elise Stefanik at Fort Drum, N.Y., on Aug. 13, 2018.
Stefanik, along with other GOP leaders, has cynically blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the Jan. 6 “tragedy,” and was among the 147 senators and House members who voted to object that night to state-certified 2020 election results. She also voted against a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection and defended Trump’s lies about the election and fraud.
What makes this particularly disconcerting is that Stefanik represents Fort Drum in the rugged Adirondack Mountains. The 10th Mountain Division based there has been the backbone of U.S. combat and training missions in Afghanistan during the 20 years we have tried to impress upon that country the worth of becoming a democracy like ours – you know, with voting rights, free elections and results that can’t be thrown out on the whim of an autocrat.
By the time President Joe Biden announced we were finally leaving Afghanistan, Trump had incited the first non-peaceful transfer of power in American history – less than two weeks after pressuring the Justice Department to label the election corrupt and “leave the rest to me + the R. Congressmen.” But according to Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., it’s Cuomo who abused his powers, disgraced his office and must be held accountable.
Some conservatives cite Bill Clinton, and his affair with a young White House intern, as a parallel example of Democrats protecting their own. He did cling to power in 1999 even as many of us privately wished he’d step down. But that was a painful episode. The Ken Starr investigation was a massive overreach that started with a real estate transaction and ended with sex, lies and pain. In 2016 he praised Clinton’s empathy, philanthropic work and political skills, and seemed regretful that the former president’s legacy was colored by “the unpleasantness.”
Galactic gall on sexual misconduct
The dominoes have continued to fall since that era, by which I mean a series of Republicans have been exposed as rank hypocrites when it comes to sex. It started with House Judiciary chair Henry Hyde, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his designated successor Robert Livingston, all married and having affairs as they worked to impeach Clinton. The man who finally got the position, Dennis Hastert, later pleaded guilty in a hush money case involving a former student he allegedly sexually abused when he was a wrestling coach. Last month came former Republican communications strategist Judi Hershman writing that she had an affair with Starr.
As for Democrats in the post-Clinton era, former senator and two-time presidential candidate John Edwards stunned them with a sensational scandal involving a cancer-stricken wife, a young mistress, a “love child” and a massive coverup attempt. The party later rushed Al Franken out of the Senate before allegations against him were investigated.
This is not a complete list or even a highlights reel of transgressors in either party. But a Washington Post analysis shows Republicans edging Democrats 22-17 in sex scandals from 1974 to 2014, and that was well before #MeToo, Roy Moore and Trump came on the scene.
I wrote in February about seven subjects Republicans are no longer qualified to pontificate on, given their galactic gall. I can’t believe I left out sexual misconduct. Consider it the eighth type of Republican lecture Democrats can completely ignore.
Jill Lawrence is the commentary editor of USA TODAY and author of “The Art of the Political Deal: How Congress Beat the Odds and Broke Through Gridlock.” Follow her on Twitter: @JillDLawrence
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cuomo should resign but Trump supporters are hypocrites to demand that
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