Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Who Had the Better Week—Cuomo or Christie?
Friday, April 13, 2012
Both rock stars in their own right, both trying to right their states' ships, and both building serious momentum for a potential presidential run. Every Friday, we'll look at whose week will look better on a résumé come 2016.
Check out last week's results here.
'Caged animal' to pen Cuomo bio
The New York Post reports that Albany Bureau Chief Fred Dicker just scored a six-figure deal to write a biography of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Frequently dubbed a Cuomo "cheerleader", Dicker hosts the Governor frequently on his weekday morning radio program on 1300 AM. The New York Times notes that Dicker has been "gentle" with Cuomo, compared with the "bipartisan brutality" he's levied against other governors like Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson, and George Pataki. In the Times report, a source said that Cuomo's preferred way of dealing with Dicker was "as if feeding a caged animal."
Does this mean we're in for a good 300 pages of swooning? Having secured the Governor's cooperation, Dicker's book may cast Cuomo in a better light than another biography in the works, to be written by Vanity Fair's Michael Shnayerson. Regardless, that's at least two bios in progress less than two years in to Cuomo's first term—and at least one opportunity for Cuomo's team to shape the narrative, which they so love to do.
- Verdict: +1
Health insurance exchange
In order to avoid having the federal government step in and set up a health insurance exchange, per requirements of the Affordable Care Act — or "Obamacare" if you must — Governor Cuomo this week issued an executive order establishing New York's very own state-run, federally-funded online insurance marketplace.
"Creating this health exchange will lower the cost of health insurance for small businesses, local governments, and individual New Yorkers across the state," Cuomo said in a statement.
Cuomo's been trying to get the Legislature to set up this exchange for the better part of the past year, but Republican lawmakers stymied his efforts repeatedly. Issuing an executive order this week amounts to a full-throated endorsement of the health care law, while also allowing Cuomo to say that he took the lead on implementing reforms rather than relinquishing control to the feds entirely.
If the law remains intact and actually manages to bring down costs by 2016, this will be something for Cuomo to campaign on. And if the law gets struck down by the Supreme Court? Oh well. Cuomo can say he was just doing his job.
- Verdict: +1
About that ARC tunnel...
Last week we noted that while Cuomo was investing heavily in infrastructure projects in New York, one of Chris Christie's claims to fame is killing the ARC tunnel, which would have connected New York and New Jersey. At the time he cancelled the project in 2010, citing exorbitant costs to his state, ARC was the largest public works project in the nation.
This week, however, the Government Accountability Office is out with a report saying that the costs to New Jersey were likely to be lower than the price tag lamented by Christie. Christie had said the project could cost more than $14 billion, with the state footing 70 percent of the bill; the GAO now says the costs wouldn't have exceeded $12.4 billion, and the state would only be on the hook for 14.4 percent.
Who's lying? In a sense, it wouldn't matter. Whatever the true cost of the project (it seems we'll never really know), Christie previewed his defense script this week during a speech at the George W. Bush Institute. "No matter how much the administration yells and screams, you have to say no," Christie said. "You have to look them right in the eye, no matter how much they try and vilify you for it, and you have to say no."
Saying no to new spending, standing up to the federal government — that's what Republican primary voters will hear.
- Verdict: +1
Hot for Booker
Cuomo can say he's saving his state from high insurance premiums; Christie can say he saved his state from a big bill; but neither sounds as sexy as saving a woman from a burning building, which is exactly what Newark Mayor Corey Booker did on Thursday night.
Seriously? Dude "dashed through flames with the woman over his shoulder"? Here I was feeling good about myself and what I've accomplished over the course of my life thus far; right on cue, Mayor Batman comes along and makes everyone else look like a schlub. What was I doing on Thursday night while Booker was saving a life? Two words: Instant burritos.
I know it's supposed to be a two-man race here, but this week we gotta give it up to Booker.