Andrew Cuomo: ‘Choked With Ambition of the Meaner Sort’

Andrew Cuomo has pulled the plug on his troubled candidacy for Governor. By doing so, he has committed one last mistake in a season of unforced errors. Having entered the race, he was obliged-to his supporters, to his financial backers, to tradition-to finish the course, even though (as was becoming clear) he was destined to lose. If he were running on principle, and not merely to satisfy his ravenous ambition, he would have remained in the race and fought for those principles.

It appears that Mr. Cuomo couldn’t bear the prospect of delivering a concession speech on Sept. 10, the date of the primary. He dropped out to save face, to spare himself humiliation, and-you can be sure-to preserve his political viability, to paraphrase the words of his former boss, Bill Clinton. But by dropping out, he has likely done permanent damage to that viability.

Mr. Cuomo’s withdrawal speaks to his character-indeed, it is the culmination of his character problems. He dropped out on the very day that The New York Times reviewed his record as Mr. Clinton’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The account demolished Mr. Cuomo’s absurd insistence that he represented a change from politics as usual, that he was somehow more pure than those political hacks in Albany who seem interested in little except self-promotion and self-congratulation.

In the waning months of his tenure at H.U.D., Mr. Cuomo spent $688,000 in taxpayer money-funds that would have been better spent building homes for homeless children-to print and distribute a glossy piece of self-promotion that summarized his supposed accomplishments at H.U.D. In fact, the piece-which came with a CD-ROM and featured pictures of Mr. Cuomo with celebrities and world leaders-was political propaganda. It was released in late 2000, long before Mr. Cuomo was an announced candidate for Governor, but few doubted that this opportunistic young man was looking for a chance to run for office. The H.U.D. piece was a campaign document and nothing more; that Mr. Cuomo found a way to stick taxpayers with the bill tells us a great deal about his character.

Mr. Cuomo has a habit of taking credit for things he did not do himself. He told voters he created an organization called Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged, or HELP. While there’s little question that HELP has assisted homeless individuals and families, it is outrageous for Mr. Cuomo to assert that the initiative was his. In fact, a genuine philanthropist, Leonard Stern, originated the idea several years earlier with his Homes for the Homeless program. Needless to say, Mr. Stern’s efforts never received the publicity that HELP received. It’s not hard to figure out why.

The Times article further noted that under Mr. Cuomo’s watch, H.U.D. sold 500 buildings in poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Harlem to buyers who never followed through on promises to repair them. Instead, they turned around and resold them to unsuspecting homeowners.

Such inattention to detail, while traveling throughout the country in search of appealing photo ops, suggests that Mr. Cuomo was primarily interested in building an image.

He succeeded greatly. But the image isn’t flattering.

Shanah Tovah

Each year, the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer an opportunity for those of the Jewish faith to offer heartfelt prayers, reflect deeply and take stock of their lives. This year, the anniversary of Sept. 11 falls within that 10-day span, and it seems likely that New Yorkers of all faiths will be in a particularly elegiac and pensive frame of mind.

The Jewish community in the United States will especially take time to consider the plight of Israel today, where terrorist attacks have disrupted normal life. No corner of the earth remains free from the threat of heartless suicide bombers, and those living in the Middle East have barely healed from one attack when another follows in its terrible wake. Americans have a profound connection to Israel, not least because it is the only democratic government in the entire Middle East. While it has become distressingly difficult to imagine a true and genuine peace at the moment, such a failure of the imagination would indicate that the terrorists and those bent on violence had won.

This period, which begins with the celebration this Friday night of the Jewish New Year, heralded by the call of the shofar, and leads up to the emotional, mournful and beautiful Kol Nidre service on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a time of faith and family, penance and forgiveness. It culminates in prayers on Yom Kippur, when one asks that he or she be written into the Book of Life, based upon who has been righteous and who has not.

As families gather in New York to celebrate new beginnings and symbolically cast sins into the water, may all New Yorkers join in the spirit of renewal.

Women Pass the Stress Test

New Yorkers are famous for their stress-they love to talk about it, complain about it, and secretly embrace it as the mark of a true New Yorker. But it turns out that the popular model of stress, and how it results in a “fight or flight” response, may have been based on only half the population-namely, the male of the species. New research indicates that women have an entirely different response to stress than men do. Instead of “fight or flight,” women respond to an influx of stress with something researchers are calling “tend and befriend.”

As reported in the Harvard Women’s Health Watch , when women are “under attack,” their first instinct may not be to fight back or flee, but rather to protect their children (if they have any) and to seek help from others, most likely females. Two psychologists at UCLA concluded that evolution plays a big part: If a woman is pregnant, nursing or caring for young children, a response of fighting or fleeing would put the children in great danger. The smarter evolutionary investment is in befriending others, so that a social network protects the mother and kids from male violence. That women seek safety in connectedness was also shown in studies the UCLA psychologists conducted with animals: They found that crowding made male rats more stressed, while it actually calmed female rats. Which may be one reason, the researchers posit, that men who have had a bad day at work often isolate themselves when they get home, whereas women coming home from a tough day often find relief in connecting with and nurturing their children.

The body’s chemistry is also at work. The pituitary hormone oxytocin, which has a calming effect and lowers anxiety, is released by both men and women under stress. But while female hormones increase oxytocin’s effectiveness, male hormones chip away at its power. And men have the added problem of stress causing a release of testosterone, which often causes aggression.

All of which is to say that women would seem to be better adapted to handle stress than men are-whether the men are humans or rats.