Under pressure to resign over a series of mounting scandals, a prominent Democratic governor is making promises that critics think should have been delivered on in the past and suspect are only coming now in an effort to generate some positive press while grasping to stay in office.
That unfortunate description above fits more than just one person, underscoring the lengths some politicians will go to save face for their missteps and alleged malfeasance.
But this article also applies to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is apparently using the topic of making marijuana legal for recreational use as a smokescreen to deflect attention from not just the accusation that he rigged COVID-19 deaths in the state’s nursing homes but also a series of damning allegations of sexual harassment.
More on Cuomo later.
But first, back to Newsom, who is facing a Republican-led effort to recall him as governor stemming — at least partially — from his decision to dine out that contradicted his office’s COVID-19 guidance for residents to avoid eating in restaurants. It was in that context that he said on MSNBC he would appoint a Black woman to fill a U.S. Senate seat — but only if Sen. Diane Feinstein resigns before her current term ends in 2024.
“I have multiple names in mind,” Newsom said.
That’s a big if considering that Newsome, himself, may not even be in office by that time if the effort to bring a recall election is successful. It’s also, of course, contingent on Feinstein stepping down. The 87-year-old who has been a Senator for 28 years has given no sign that she is planning to retire before her term ends.
To be sure, Newsom had a chance to appoint a Black woman to the Senate after Vice President Kamala Harris won the 2020 election with Joe Biden. The victory officially left her Senate seat vacant and there was a movement for Newsom to appoint a Black woman to fill it. Newsom ignored those calls and instead appointed now-former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to make him the first Latino senator from the Golden State.
Some of Newsom’s critics are likely to see his vow on Monday night as being both too little, too late as well as a desperate attempt to increase his popularity in the face of the real possibility of the end of his gubernatorial career.
Speaking of which, there is a similar attempt at political redemption following a scandal with Newsom’s counterpart in New York, where Cuomo is ramping up his efforts to fully legalize marijuana for recreational use. The likely working logic is that expediting enacting such legislation would put him back in the favor of his pro-weed Democratic colleagues who have increasingly called for his resignation.
At least seven women have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment, and at least one of those accusations includes an assault when the governor allegedly groped a former staffer. Cuomo, like Newsom, has remained defiant and refused to resign. Only in New York, there is no effort to recall him. Instead, an impeachment seems more likely.
But in the meantime, Cuomo is making moves to ingratiate himself with lawmakers and constituents alike by trying to make marijuana fully legal for adults in the Empire State.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with appointing a Black woman as a U.S. Senator or fully legalizing marijuana. There is, however, an inescapable asterisk hovering over both cases since the obvious elephant in each political room is that the governors are trying to save face — and their careers — with promises that they could have made good on a while ago.
The devil, however, is in the timing of their apparent self-serving political maneuverings.