Without putting too fine a point on it, we were unpleasantly surprised by Governor Cuomo’s deadpanning that President Trump “better have an army if he thinks he’s gonna walk down the street in New York.” He added, “New Yorkers don’t want to have anything to do with him. He can’t have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City.”
The governor was reacting to President Trump signing a memo that could result in cuts in federal funding to major cities, including New York, that do not clamp down on “lawlessness.” Doubtless sensing his remarks went over a line, Cuomo later in the day explained:
“My comment about the president and bodyguards in New York City – all I’m saying is that he is persona non grata in New York City. And I think he knows that. And he’ll never come back to New York because New Yorkers will never forget how gratuitously mean he has been to New Yorkers and how many times he’s tried to kill the city that gave him his start and birthed him. That’s what I meant about the bodyguards.”
But the damage had already been done. Conceptually, conjuring up the notion that gangs of people could react to the president’s plan with violence suggests that it is a legitimate reaction. Moreover, the governor plainly sought to invoke an image that would easily resonate with his audience. So his choice of a citizenry poised for violence reflected his perception of what was on the public’s mind and ironically underscored the president’s point.
Surely in today’s climate of violence, we would have expected any public official to draw attention away from anything remotely suggesting that dealing with problems through violence is appropriate. One never really knows how public exhortations will be perceived.
What is most damning is that Cuomo could have even come up with the “bodyguard” analogy in the first place. We would have thought that the mind of a governor of New York these days would be preoccupied with thinking about how to protect everyone from violence. How it could have even entered his mind to use it as a political ploy is beyond us, but also revealing.