On August 12, 2004, a caller to a Westchester radio show was speaking at length about politics with the two guest hosts, when the caller wondered aloud: When will America have an Italian-American president?
“Soon as Rick runs,” said one of the hosts, referring to the other host, Rick Lazio.
The other host? Andrew Cuomo.
The show lasted one hour and 12 minutes and aired on WVOX in New Rochelle, where the two fielded half a dozen phone calls about local and national politics. The event was the brainchild of Ian Rae, a former Fox News employee who now works on Lazio’s gubernatorial campaign.
Introducing the two as guests at the beginning of the show, WVOX’s Bill O’Shaughnessy (the real host), said it all started when Rae brought Lazio and Cuomo to lunch.
“Someone leaned over as these two were conversing and said, ‘Is somebody taping this? They should do a radio show,'” O’Shaughnessy said to the radio audience.
Then he gave the microphone over to Cuomo and Lazio. At the time, both had recent high-profile failed political campaigns under their belt–Cuomo for governor, Lazio for Senate–and were working in the private sector.
Hardly anyone at the time could have predicted both would be running for governor in 2010, Cuomo as a Democrat (almost surely the nominee) and Lazio as a Republican (in a three-way primary, facing Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and upstate businessman Carl Paladino).
On the show that day, both expressed a desire to see politics shift away from ideological extremes and to rise above the sound bite culture fostered by the 24-hour news cycle.
About 26 minutes into the show, Lazio and Cuomo waded into the 2004 presidential race between George Bush and John Kerry.
Cuomo predicted Kerry would win (so much for that), in part because Bush’s tax cuts weren’t working, he said. Cuomo also said tax cuts aren’t the way to grow the economy.
“A tax cut is like a sugar infusion to the body,” Cuomo said. “It gets you a quick jump and, best case scenario, maybe the recession could have been worse, but for the tax cut. But the tax cut was not the way to grow the economy. It didn’t get you good jobs, it didn’t get you better wages. It was a sugar pill, and now the sugar high has worn off and the economy is slowing.”
When New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy called the show (he was the one who asked about an Italian-American president), he asked Cuomo why his father, Mario, didn’t run for president in the early 1980s, when many predicted he would.
The younger Cuomo said he would have liked to see his father run because the country would have been better off. But he also said his father would have had to deal with anti-Italian stereotypes that the younger Cuomo said still existed in the “middle part” of the country.
After talking about his familiarity with New York and California, Cuomo said, “You get to the middle part of the country, the predominance of stereotypes is still real. Is it less? Sure it is. Is it getting better over time? Sure it is. But as a nation, do I believe we still have to deal with stereotyping–be [they] African-American, Latino, or Italian or Jewish? I do. I do. Mario Cuomo running for president–being Italian is still an issue.”
At the end of the show, O’Shaughnessy returned to the microphone and gushed that Cuomo and Lazio had made a “fantastic maiden voyage.”
“You two are magic. Will you do it again?,” O’Shaughnessy asked. “I’m going to put you on the spot.”
“You know, the last time I put someone one the spot, you know what happened?” Lazio asked. “Will you sign this thing,” he said, a reference to a debate he had with Senate opponent Hillary Clinton, during which he walked across the stage and demanded she sign a pledge to ban soft money from her campaign.
The pair did not do another show.