National Commentary

Andrew Cuomo’s Moral Leadership

As the regrettable President Trump continues his push on states to reopen their economies even as the number of deaths from the Covid-19 virus climbs, the leader who has arisen as the most sane and moral in this pandemic crisis is raising some fundamental and critical questions about the consequences of opening too soon.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has emerged with his nationally-televised daily updates on the crisis to capture the respect and admiration of a vast section of Americans for demonstrating qualities of leadership that are totally and completely lacking in Trump.

Even as the pandemic wears on, Cuomo is only getting stronger in his leadership and it is producing concrete results. He is not normally a showman and hardly considered charismatic, but there has been a compelling quality to his relentless commitment to facts, data and scientific method demonstrated around midday daily that has been like a “balm in Gilead” countering the incredibly stress-inducing, Lysol-laced cascade of lies and ego-centered fixations of America’s sociopathic president.

Cuomo has literally carried the nation, and not just New York, with him up the death-strewn hill of accelerated casualties that were devastating New York City just a few weeks past, onto a plateau and now starting down the other side as numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been declining.

At the peak, in New York alone, there were almost 1,000 deaths daily, and the most recent number is down to the 230 range, not out of the woods, but trending much better.

His passionate appeals have been unrelenting to engage citizens in social distancing, masks and the other measures of personal responsibility, to mobilize his state and even the federal government to supply enough equipment and hospital beds to meet the projected numbers when they were rising so fast, to consolidate resources, to step up testing, to devise new modes of reacting to hotspots, to shut down the vast New York subway system for a nightly deep clean and now to develop a novel analysis of where new infections are actually coming from.

He’s acted in a way that were the White House to have acted in a similar manner, the whole nation might have begun on a downward trending trajectory long before now.

But while New York, just weeks ago considered the worst case scenario for the spread of the virus, is now on a distinct downward trend, the rest of the nation is continuing to face growing numbers of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

Now, Trump is touting policies of too-early easings that are guaranteed to accelerate the spread of the pandemic and send the death toll through the roof. It will be a double challenge for Cuomo to hold onto his declining numbers under these circumstances.

Now, Trump is acknowledging the explosion of deaths likely to arise from his policies and saying Americans must accept them as if they were casualties suffered by warriors in a war. This is the latest and worst yet insufferable move by this president lacking, as with a classic sociopath, any capacity for empathy.

Cuomo has taken up this issue by asking the moral question of this tragic time, “How much is a human life worth?” He, in his disposition toward the crisis all along, has said, plainly, “It is priceless.”

Unlike Trump’s callous acceptance of the avoidable deaths of hundreds of thousands of the people he swore to protect, Cuomo has taken the opposite approach, insisting that any policy to modulate reopening steps has to have in place a means to measure any upticks in the infection rate, and that once such is detected, then a “circuit breaker” has to be triggered to step back.

How many live and how many die will be determined by this, he said, and for him, one death is too many.

The contrast between the declining rate of new Covid-19 cases in New York and ongoing rise in cases in the U.S. as a whole owes to one thing and one thing only: quality of leadership. As Cuomo has said, his appeals and initiatives have worked only because people have been willing to respond to them.