Cuomo and McCall: A Pair of Yo-Yos

Andrew Cuomo has trouble disguising his world-class ambition. Carl McCall has trouble disguising his lack of world-class ambition. Together, they make a sorry spectacle as New York’s Democrats prepare for what promises to be a bloody, disheartening primary campaign for the party’s gubernatorial nomination.

Mr. Cuomo’s recent behavior suggests that he regards New York voters as rubes, naïfs and just plain dopes. On the eve of the party’s state convention, he announced with well-practiced seriousness that he would not compete for the delegates’ affections because, he said, their approval amounts to a “kiss of death.” Nice words for his party’s rank-and-file workers, eh? No wonder Mr. Cuomo is so unpopular with many of the party’s front-line troops. They remember how he treated them when he was his father’s chief political operative, and they now realize that time and experience have equipped him with neither finesse nor humility. He still is the same old Andrew, relentlessly focused on himself and his obsession with power. Those who stand in his way must be ridiculed or crushed.

Mr. Cuomo pulled out of the state convention because he knew he would lose to Mr. McCall. Does he really expect us to believe that he would have disdained the process if he were the front-runner? Apparently he does.

Had he taken his fight to the floor, Mr. Cuomo probably would have won the support of at least 25 percent of the delegates-meaning that he would have an automatic place on the primary ballot. Instead, he made a great show of remaining outside the process, preferring to earn his spot on the ballot by gathering petition signatures. Through this tiresome process, he will prove to us that he truly is a man of the people, a lonely outsider with no connections to those awful political insiders-except, of course, for those awful political insiders who worked with him when his father was Governor and who are now helping to manage his campaign.

How stupid does he think we are?

As for Mr. McCall, it’s hard to know exactly what, if anything, is driving him to challenge Governor George Pataki. At least it can be said of Mr. Cuomo that he desperately wants the job. Mr. McCall, it seems, would be content to win a place in history as the state’s first major-party African-American gubernatorial candidate, lose graciously to Mr. Pataki, and then fade from the scene. There is a sense, too, that Mr. McCall feels he shouldn’t have to fight for the nomination, that his years of service to the party and to New York entitle him to the nomination.

New York shouldn’t have to suffer through another go-through-the-motions gubernatorial campaign. But that’s what Mr. McCall appears to be offering.

These two flawed candidates have yet to demonstrate why New York should turn Mr. Pataki out of office in November. Mr. Cuomo offers only his ferocious personal ambition, and Mr. McCall thinks it’s his turn to be Governor. What a dismal state of affairs.

Another Term For Harold Levy

Mayor Bloomberg says he isn’t sure whether Schools Chancellor Harold Levy is the right leader to, in the Mayor’s words, “go forward.” Members of the Board of Education seem similarly skeptical.

They ought to think a little harder. They ought to consider what yet another change in the chancellor’s office will mean to a school system that hasn’t had stable leadership in years. They ought to reflect on the advances the school system has made since Mr. Levy was hired in 2000. And they ought to extend Mr. Levy’s contract, which expires on June 30.

The incumbent chancellor gave up a career in the private sector to take on the thankless chore of rebuilding the city’s public schools. He brought with him a fresh approach, a business-like method of problem-solving and a passionate belief in public education. He has had only a couple of years to change one of the nation’s most cumbersome bureaucracies, and he should be given a chance to see his reforms through.

The board will meet on May 30 to decide Mr. Levy’s fate. Some members are waiting for cues from Mr. Bloomberg, who has made the schools his first priority. The Mayor, another refugee from the private sector, should signal his support for Mr. Levy, and the board should act accordingly.

The job of schools chancellor is too important and too enormous to be filled by a series of one-term, interchangeable bureaucrats. Mr. Levy needs more time to get the job done, and he should be given the chance.

New York’s Stephen Jay Gould

The obituaries for Stephen Jay Gould placed him at Harvard University, his place of employment and research since he earned his doctorate in paleontology in 1967. But Gould, who died of cancer on May 20, would have been quick to point out that his Cambridge environs did not taint him. This son of Queens and graduate of Jamaica High School remained passionate about his Yankees and, in fact, never permanently settled up in Red Sox land. He lived in a loft in Soho and was the Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University-a campus with remarkably convenient access to stadium-bound No. 4 and D trains.

Gould not only was one of the foremost evolutionary biologists of his time, he was a prolific public intellectual who delighted in ideas and debate. And he had a personality and writing style that made science accessible to interested lay people.

It is a tribute to him and to New York that he finally returned to the city of his birth.