Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

Little Evidence of Charm

Brooklyn’s own Janos Marton, writing for Salon, reviews Michael Shnayerson’s new book about the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. The book is critical enough of Cuomo that Cuomo’s team hustled to preempt it with a competing biography, but Marton finds the Shnayerson account lacking:

At times it feels as if Shnayerson is trying to shine up his subject a little too hard. Shnayerson claims, “No one was immune from Andrew’s charm when he turned it on,” and credits him with a “charm offensive few could resist,” even though “The Contender” presents little evidence of charm.

More significantly, Shnayerson portrays a hardscrabble kid from Holliswood, Queens: the car mechanic who is never comfortable rubbing shoulders with New York’s elite. This psychoanalysis feels misplaced. First, even Cuomo’s early upbringing was at least middle class: His father was a prominent lawyer tangling with Robert Moses when Andrew was a small child, and Andrew was a teenager when Mario began his campaigns for citywide and statewide office.

Second, ascribing his enmity of Eliot Spitzer and Eric Schneiderman to their blue bloodedness feels simplistic; after all, he was similarly antagonistic with Shelley Silver and Bill de Blasio. Maybe he just doesn’t play well with others? Besides, distaste for opulence didn’t prevent him from marrying a Kennedy.

Marton’s review points out plenty of other shortcomings and omissions. The controversial dismantling of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Corruption, the Democratic primary against Zephyer Teachout, and other truly interesting events of Governor Cuomo’s tenure are nowhere to be found.

According to Marton, anyone interested enough in New York politics to read Shnayerson’s book won’t find it terribly educational.