Democracy Now! co-host and award-winning columnist with the New York Daily News.
The late three-term Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo of New York was laid to rest on Tuesday following his death on January 1. Cuomo was known for supporting abortion rights, despite his Catholic faith, and opposing the death penalty, among other causes, although he also expanded the state’s prison system. Cuomo is the father of the current New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, who delivered the eulogy at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola. Mario Cuomo is often remembered for his speeches, including his 1984 address at the Democratic National Convention, when he challenged President Ronald Reagan’s description of the United States as a "shining city on a hill." Democracy Now! co-host and New York Daily News columnist Juan González discusses Cuomo’s life and legacy.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In New York City on Tuesday, hundreds attended the funeral for former three-term Democratic New York Governor Mario Cuomo, including President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Cuomo died New Year’s Day at the age of 82. He was known for supporting abortion rights, despite his Catholic faith, and opposing the death penalty, among other things, although he also expanded the state’s prison system. Mario Cuomo is the father of the current New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, who delivered the eulogy at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO: At his core, at his best, he was a philosopher, and he was a poet, and he was an advocate, and he was a crusader. Mario Cuomo was the keynote speaker for our better angels. By any measure, Mario Cuomo’s voice inspired generations. His government initiatives helped millions live better lives. He left the world a better place than he found it. His list of accomplishments goes on and on—leading opponent of the death penalty, appointing the first African-American and Hispanic judge to the court of appeals, the first two females, his Liberty Scholarship programs, his pioneering child health insurance program, leader in AIDS treatment and research. New York is a better state, thanks to Mario Cuomo.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. His father, Mario Cuomo, is often remembered for his speeches, including his 1984 address at the Democratic National Convention, when he challenged President Ronald Reagan’s description of the United States as a "shining city on a hill." This is a clip.
GOV. MARIO CUOMO: Mr. President, you ought to know that this nation is more a "Tale of Two Cities" than it is just a "shining city on a hill." ... Maybe—maybe, Mr. President, if you stopped in at a shelter in Chicago and spoke to the homeless there; maybe, Mr. President, if you asked a woman who had been denied the help she needed to feed her children because you said you needed the money for a tax break for a millionaire or for a missile we couldn’t afford to use.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Governor Mario Cuomo giving his 1984 address at the Democratic National Convention. Juan, you attended his wake. I went to the end of the funeral. You wrote your column on him, and we’ll link to it, at the New York Daily News. But in a nutshell, what people were saying?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, you know, Cuomo was not only a silver-tongued orator and a philosopher, really, in many ways, as a government leader, he was also very much a friend of the working class and of the labor movement. And, of course, 25 years ago, I was fired as a columnist at the Daily News when 2,500 of us went out on strike against the Tribune Company, and we were all permanently replaced by the Tribune Company, but Mario Cuomo, to his credit, as governor, spoke at a rally, defended the striking Daily News workers, along with Cardinal O’Connor, and really turned the tide in the public sentiment to eventually allow us to be able to win that strike and for the Tribune Company to sell the paper to another owner. So he always wasn’t afraid to stand up and stand up for his principles, whether it was against the death penalty or in favor of a woman’s right to choose or to stand up for the striking workers at the Daily News. And so, I think that’s part of his legacy that has to be remembered—along with building more prisons than any governor in the history of the state.
AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, I believe he appointed a special prosecutor in a very racially charged case, the Howard Beach case, in the death of Michael [Griffith]. Interestingly, his son, Governor Cuomo, had that opportunity in the case of Eric Garner but did not take it.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But did not do it, yes, and there are obviously marked differences between the father and the son, although they share a lot of the same combative approaches to government. But I think Cuomo was more of a statesman, I think, than his son is.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to turn right now—and, by the way, we will link to Juan’s column in the New York Daily News, but we’ve got to return to the top story of the day.