Publisher’s Corner: In the game of politics, you’ve got to make friends and then keep them

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
Gov. Kathy Hochul meets with former President Bill Clinton and New York City Mayor Eric Adams at the Empire State Building on April 21, 2022 to discuss carbon neutrality in high rise buildings.

Governor Kathy Hochul was kind enough to join me on my syndicated radio program recently and she showed me another side of her that many people have yet to see. First of all, she has a sense of humor. Who knew? I had written a column urging her to come on to the show and the first words out of her mouth were to say that she “…owed me one” for not having shown up previously. Her choice of staff is illustrative of her character. Once she agreed to participate on the show, they followed up with courtesy and friendliness.

Hochul, the first woman to serve as governor of New York, seems determined not to make any mistakes. Unlike Andrew Cuomo who some think is the prince of darkness, Hochul is determined to make friends, not enemies. If you looked sideways at Cuomo, or even if you didn’t, you might well have had a fight on your hands.

Hochul is one smart human being. Her first instinct is to make you a friend. One instructive instance is how she had carried on with New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Adams is also smart and tough and continues his relationship with former Governor Cuomo. He is equally attentive to Hochul. If things were reversed, you can bet that Andrew would have taken offense at the mayor’s emerging relationship with a political rival. Not Hochul, who seems determined to get along with most political players. After all, she faces a tough primary in which several people are attempting to take her down. When she first emerged as frontrunner, she seemed untouchable. But, as things go in politics, “…that was then, and this is now.” (With thanks to Alfonse D’Amato.)

Why make an enemy when you don’t have to? Unlike his father, Andrew never learned that particular lesson. If Mario saw you as a potential problem, he would reach out to you and try to put you in his circle. He certainly did that with me.

Hochul should know that once you have achieved power, it is not easy to keep it. Politics is a tough game. It isn’t for sissies. There are winners and losers. You’ve got to make friends and then keep them. She seems to be able to do that whereas up to now, Andrew has lacked that particular skill.

As a woman from the far west of the state, Kathy Hochul lucked into her job. Andrew took her in but then turned on her. He wanted someone else. That’s when we saw the other side of Hochul. She told him that she would not go silently into the night. She made it clear that she would run in a primary to keep her lieutenant governor job and Cuomo stepped aside. Good move. She had nothing to lose so she took him on. She kept her job and when lightning struck, she was sitting strong.

By and large, the “inside” political community liked what they saw in Hochul. They made it clear to me and others who might have been on the fence that she was their representative to the old politics, the one where making and keeping friends was important. She really didn’t have to come on to the radio show with me. She might have thought it was sort of a contest of wills in which I had issued a “dare.” She took a chance, despite a few tentatively critical columns that I wrote, and did it. Andrew would not have done that.

I tested her as much as I could. I asked her about the new Buffalo stadium (a boondoggle) and about the arrest of her lieutenant governor. She did better in the first than the second. Obviously, the jury is still out, and it should be interesting to see how she develops.