Mario Cuomo (Former Governor, NY)
What’s your sense of the cynical attitude we’re hearing from so many average citizens and the trend of decreasing voter turnout for elections?
It might be inconvenient. Why don’t you let everybody do mail ballots? You let absentees do it. I’ve done it four or five times cause I was gonna be in another part of the world and so you fill out a ballot. Why can’t everybody fill out ballots? Because they don’t want everybody to vote. Why not? Because everybody would mean every black poor guy every middle class guy who’s pissed off because the middle class is sinking. They don’t want everybody to vote.
They want the people they choose to vote. And the people who do vote are the people who are most at ease, the richest people obviously and the corporate people with big interest who tell the people work for them get out the vote, here’s the issues. And that’s a very big part of it. And it’s part of the campaigns for election .
Apart from your buying ads even if you gave me money to buy ads, they don’t do a whole lot with the ads, except skew the truth cause they do twenty eight second ads. What the hell good is a twenty eight second ad when you’re talking about Iraq or abortion or The Inconvenient Truth?
So well what should you have? You should have for the people who I represent the independent directors at Cable Vision OK. So for nine years the independent directors fight with the management that’s what you do as an independent director, you make sure the and especially a family held corporation it would be the same for Time Warner, but it’s Cable Vision’s a good a good illustration.
Cable Vision’s gotten rich by getting the right to put cable in the richest neighborhoods in this part of America so you in Scarsdale, Long Island, etc those are choice places because they’ll pay ya top price for the phone and for the television etc, etc.
Well Cable Vision we gave them the right to use the airspace that belongs to all of us. Why don’t we require them to put television commercials on that allow candidates to give the issues free? As part of the license, you want a license? You gotta’ do this, you don’t want a license the hell with ya’.
But part of what you have to give the government beside money because they buy li they buy space in the air too is give us free time for television on television for the two weeks before the election for debate so for whatever we choose to put on. But make it possible for everybody to hear all the candidates more fully. Now they need to buy it, and to buy it they gotta’ do business with the bums who give them the money.
So you go on and on this way, but all I’m saying is that when you say campaign finance reform. If you say election reform, if ya’ say system reform but because I think the stuff you’ve got to work with and the stuff he’s working with the farmers it just a little piece of the whole scene and the whole big thing is little people get screwed, the truth gets corrupted because there are these big interests that have disproportionate power and use it not for the common good, but for their specific economic good.
And so the whole idea of government is the common good, but their at war with the idea of the common good because their emphasis is the individual good of that specific entity.
Can you talk about the sinking middle class?
First of all you have to describe what the middle class is it sounds like a term we would have made up yesterday or ten years ago. Aristotle made it up twenty five hundred years ago whatever he was just do the arithmetic. And Aristotle said look to have a good nation or community we’re in we’re a community called a nation to have it work there are at least three classes.
There are going to be the people at the top who inherit power or steal power or get it one way or another, but they have the power and the wealth that’s a thin group. That’s gonna’ be a thin group. You’re gonna’ have the people at the very bottom who are struggling and desperate. And they’re a dangerous group because they are desperate and that will be a large group.
But in the stable nation you will have a third group called the middle class that’s much larger than the other two. And that serves as a buffer between them because they’d kill one another the other two. The mass of desperate people would overcome the rich people if they could just by the numbers. And so this middle class people consists of people who are struggling to make their life better through their labors by increasing the compensation they get for their labors and the property they can own.
Now think about this is twenty five hundred. This is before anybody’s seen a democracy and Aristotle has it worked out in his head. Now the first real functioning successful middle class was the United States of America by some by the miraculous existence of founding father’s who some of them were drunks, some of them were whore masters some of them but they all together did a terrific job of writing the Constitution.
And that’s what we are then the middle class. The people in the middle who are trying to make our lives better by increasing our own compensation for our services or selling things whatever we do or whatever we offer as services and that stabilizes us because what it does is it gives the desperate poor a chance to move into a class where their more comfortable.
Without making that impossible leap to rich to richness all at once. And so that satisfies them because it gives them a place to enter an aspiration that’s achievable and that’s the way it should work at its best. What’s happened. Now the middle class, who are the middle class? And how do you define them economically? Well people on television, Lou Dobbs will give ya’ numbers.
But it depends on where you are and the circumstances of where you are and when you’re there for example. If you’re in New York City in Manhattan where we happen to be at the moment. If you’re in Manhattan and you have two children, no husband, and you’re making thirty thousand dollars a year as a secretary you’re going to starve in Manhattan unless somebody gives you a whole lot of money to add to your salary one way or another you’re family or you hit a horse or you do something on the side because it would take you over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year to survive with two kids in any decent way in Manhattan.
On the other hand if you’re from Queens, which is where I was from. You could do it for a lot less. And if it was thirty or forty years ago when I raised five children in a little Cape Cod house with a car every two years and sent them all to school and made only thirty thousand dollars a year you were middle class. So it depends. My definition would be wherever you are and whenever you’re there. But the middle class is the people who work for a living because they have to.
Not because some psychiatrist said this is a convenient way to fill the grim interval between birth and eternity they work because they have to! They’re not rich enough to be economically secure and they’re not poor enough to insist on somebody giving them subsistence money. So that’s the middle class and you can make a lot of money in New York and still be in that middle class.
Now what’s happened in the middle class recently, and it is recent. Is that the cost of everything the middle class needs, health care is number one. That multiplies by ten percent a year ah-additional. Education the cost goes up, colleges wherever you’re trying to go. The cost of transportation, the price of oil, etc etc.
The cost of housing. I bought a house for twenty four thousand dollars, actually I built a house for twenty four thousand dollars, a little Cape Cod house. Years later in public service I was all out of money because to go into public service you have to give up the good money you can make as a lawyer and I did. We sold it for two hundred forty thousand dollars and that was a little teeny Cape Cod. Now it would be worth maybe four hundred thousand.
A medallion for a taxicab in New York. A medallion, a medallion is a license to own a cab OK? Six hundred thousand dollars. Now you don’t think I’m crazy, we finance medallions so I know what they’re worth. You mean just to own the taxicab? Correct. And that. Six hundred thousand dollars but who can afford that? But who can afford that? Well a lot of people can afford it. And why is it worth that? Not important.
All I can tell you is the price of your fare’s gonna go up. So everything is going up except your middle class wages. The middle class wages are not going up enough to keep up with that. The net result is they’re sliding downward. And as they slide downward economically the resentment is growing and right now it’s very strong, but no politician is appealing to it insistently enough and clearly enough to make it a big issue.
If I were running for president I’d be running as the middle class candidate. You got I’m here for all those guys who are working for a living and all those gals who are working only because they have to, and they’re working as hard as they can but they’re not making it. They they’re sliding downward and health care is a big reason, education’s a big reason.
The fact that only one out of four of us workers are high skilled is a big reason. The fact that globalization is taking jobs and putting them in Ireland, I love the Irish. And India, I love the Indians. But they’re taking a lot of our even good jobs and I’m representing all of them. That’s where I would be politically.
What did you say was a joke about the process of running for president?
The presidential process as it’s now operating does not give voters what they need most and what the voters need most is to understand who you are and what you believe about the big issues and how you would deal with them. In this particular presidential cycle, ‘08, we have more big issues than I can remember in any presidential election.
I remember presidential elections like Nixon-Kennedy where the only really big issues were Keemo and Motsu and nobody even remembers those two places. There are big issues in like Watergate OK that was a big issue with Nixon. Very big. And Vietnam and Johnson, OK? But here you have Iraq, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons, the middle class malaise, The Inconvenient Truth, the need for a new energy source.
We have tremendous number of issues. And the question is why are you running, what will you do to help us? One get out of Iraq, two fight the terrorist, etc. A lot of these candidates will give you some suggestions generally like I’m gonna give you universal health care. You now have forty five to forty seven million people who don’t have a health care plan, we’ll take care of that!
And then you say to them how are you going to pay for it? And they say hasy basy bah. We’re. Or they’ll say as one of them says, by the end of my second term we’ll have that figured out. OK? And that’s typical. Now Why? Especially when I think a particularly good example is taxes. In order to do what you have to do in this country.
Another big problem I didn’t mention yet is the deficits. We have huge budget deficits, huge trade deficits. You can’t run budget deficits forever. At one point you have to come up with the cash. Social Security’s gonna be in trouble. We’re getting closer and to the point where the Social Security system just doesn’t pay for the people who need it. So too with Medicare and Medicaid, both those funds are in terrible shape so you’re gonna have to come up with more wealth.
And my question to the candidate is, where do you get the money? Now there are only two ways you get the money. One is you produce new revenues. How do you do that? Usually by raising taxes. The other is you cut expenses you now have. Well what are the big expenses? The entitlements. What are the entitlements? Medicaid, that’s health care for poor people. And the other is Social Security and Medicare. Now Social Security and Medicare offers you a bigger opportunity.
Social Security and Medicare go even to the richest of people. And those richest of people in this country led by people like Warren Buffet, and Gates, and Gates’ father are all saying the same thing. Why are you giving us money for Social Security when you’re busted? When you’re running at a deficit? Why are you giving us money for Medicare when you are?
John Whitehead, God bless him, a wonderful, wonderful Republican who worked in the Nixon administration was head of Goldman Sacs is extremely wealthy and extremely benign and generous and good. Tried writing to the Social Security board and saying don’t send me Social Security because I don’t need it. Use the money somewhere. And because the bureaucracy is incapable of that kind of suppleness that it just be. So they sent him a letter it says, take the money and save us a headache.
So these questions aren’t being answered. Why? The theory of the politician is look I’m a good person, and an honest person and I have an answer to Cuomo’s question. And my answer is I’m gonna’ raise taxes on the rich people. Well then why don’t you say that? Because if I say I’m gonna’ raise taxes on the rich people first of all the rich people are gonna’ get mad at me. And they’ll put up a lot of money for the Republicans to beat me.
And secondly the middle class people are gonna say yeah well when you say tax increase though you’re saying rich but it’s eventually gonna’ be us. And so they won’t believe that I’m not gonna’ tax them. And they’ll misunderstand. Therefore I can’t afford to tell the truth now, I will tell it later after I win.
Well two things about that, even if you do win. It means you have lied to the voters by not in telling them you’re true intention. Secondly when you do win you have no leverage, you have no mandate to take to the Congress. If you win without saying what you were going to do, then you turn to the Congress and say now I want you to do this raise the tax and. They’re gonna say oh no wait a minute we’re not sure the people like that. And you can’t say yes they do! Because I told them and they voted for me.
So those are the two things. Now that makes this system silly. And what we should do and what I’m trying really hard to do along with other people in New York is bring the candidates in one at a time and have people like Tim Russert or one of the other really good inquisitors. Have them there, which we do at Cooper Union a great school in historically great place in New York City.
And we ask them all the tough questions and we get it on record and we refine it we give them forty five minutes to make their speech and then forty five minutes we question them. Nine hundred people and all kinds of media and all kinds of people turning cameras and recording. And we get them to be specific and if they’re not specific, we say so. And we print a big paper that says this guy would not answer the real question.
So we’re not getting the truth from the candidates that we should get. And you see it, how can you? You put eight of them on a stage and give them a total of three minutes each to speak. You want me to speak in thirty seconds about abortion? And when life begins in the human body, and what that means to stem cells? And you want me to tell you my position in thirty seconds or fifty? It’s ridiculous. So the debates are ridiculous.
The commercials. Twenty-eight seconds? Twenty-eight seconds is just enough time to distort a truth. That’s what twenty eight seconds is. So they should be banned, nobody should be allowed to make a twenty eight second commercial. Five minute commercial? Good! Because you can’t get up there and say nothing for five minutes without being laughed at. So the system isn’t working well. You don’t get the truth from the candidates.
Do we have to play to people’s short attention spans and also make debates entertaining?
Yeah, that’s right and it serves and we saw a debate the other night. I think it was CNN, I think it was the Democrats and Anderson Cooper was the host or whatever and he kept cutting people off. And Gravel, who is my favorite of all the Democratic candidates, I’m not endorsing anybody, but Gravel is just so direct, so blunt so.
And he has a lot to say, Gravel, and he had just started getting into a very interesting part. He says I’m sorry we’re out of time. Now that, that’s absurd. I mean that’s really absurd because it takes an intelligent answer and makes it unintelligent because we only gave you a portion of it then you don’t know what the whole idea is.
Anyhow. It’s entertaining? Sure. What they hope for, what today’s political debates are is the adventure a short adventure what dumb thing can you get somebody to say or what really smart thing can you get somebody to say that’s memorable. There you go again Reagan, one great line everybody remembers it. Or poor President Ford, may he rest in peace saying that the Poland is not behind there or whatever he said that was dumb.
So if you can get somebody to make a big mistake, or somebody to get off a single great line then they win or they lose. Or they look good or they were and Hillary Clinton was terrific in the first debate the guy tells me I said really? And she looked wonderful I said what do you mean she looked wonderful? She said I think she had face work done. I said she didn’t have any face work done I said what difference does it make.
And John Edwards is a better example. He’s being punished because he just looks so good. And when he told people he spent four hundred dollars for a hair-do that did it. And everybody says I knew there was something wrong with this guy. And that four hundred dollars for a hair-do he’s just too good lookin’ he’s not from my neighborhood.
And meanwhile he was specific. He is the most specific of the candidates so far in this campaign on health care on poverty on he is the most specific and the most forthcoming in writing etc. but the external appearances and that hair cut thing has thrown voters off track with him.
OK, I think it doesn’t. The media is not doing a good job of it I don’t think it’s the media’s fault necessarily because the media is required to make money. And that is not only their desire, it’s their legal obligation because the media is big corporations and the big corporations have a legal and moral obligation to make money for the shareholders because that’s how they represent themselves.
We’re here ta’ make money, we’re not here to give you a good candidate, to tell the whole truth about government. That’s not our job, our job is to make money to entertain you for a price, you watch us, you pay us. And you shareholders we’d like you to buy our shares because we promise to do everything we can to make profits for you.
Now that’s the market system. It’s honorable it’s real and it’s essential to us. OK. So that’s the media’s problem. If the media were able to do it free and they should be able to do it free. Why? Because the government should say you won’t be electronic media unless you do it free to some extent because that’s the price we’re going to put on your buying the airwaves.
And so when you got into this business in television or cable or whatever, and who knows what’s next with the internet. But you’re gonna’ have to provide this service to the people. If they did that it would be easy to deal with this problem. How could you do it?
Let’s take the debates. Now twenty-eight second commercials are terrible, they don’t mean anything, we should get rid of them. The debates at thirty seconds, forty seconds in their current form are ridiculous. First of all you can’t have debates with eight people so make it one on one. Let’s say we get down to the finals where it really counts. In the general election, has to be one on one OK. Now with today’s debates, we don’t tell you what the questions are. Why? Cause we wanna’ surprise you. Why? We wanna’ see how good your memory is. Who cares how good his memory is!
You want to know where she is on Iraq. Will she bring the troops out? How many will she leave behind? What do you do about the bases that are there? What do you do about the people who need protection, the Americans you have there and the workers who are there? What force will replace you when you leave? Will the other Arabs get together once the provocation that you provide by being there is gone all those good questions you should tell them those questions in advance.
Because we want their answer. We don’t wanna’ test their glibness, we don’t wanna test their theatricality. How are you when you’re caught by surprise? Are you cute or. We wanna know where you are. Let them bring cards let them bring an assistant, let them consult on the stage before the American people and give them plenty of time to each to answer each question.
Well we don’t have that kind of time. Well that’s a money problem, I dealt with that this is going to be free. You’re gonna have to find time. And let’s do it two weeks before the election. Two weeks before the election when everybody’s paying attention. And let’s have instead of just these silly conventions, which you put on television. The conventions are a joke! Why? Because their exercises in narcissism.
The Democrats get up and they lie about themselves and say make themselves much bigger than they are and they make the other guys smaller than they are and they distort and etc and it’s an emotional thing and that’s good but we’re not learning a whole lot. Then the Republicans do it and they do it as well or better, but we haven’t learned anything really from them. So if they wanna’ have those conventions great. Don’t cover the darn things.
Let’s have an unconventional convention. Let’s have two weeks before, a weekend in which it’s nothing but debates but the debates are long debates. And it will be a debate between my idea of a secretary of defense and your idea of a secretary of defense. And they will debate defense type issues homeland, this, the size of the army etc.
My secretary of state against your secretary of state. My secretary of the treasury against your secretary of the treasury. Deficit what does it mean? All these complicated problems and then my lieutenant governor, your lieutenant governor. Then me against the two candidates up top. With time and with the questions in advance and you take the ten biggest questions and say these are the ones we’re going to ask we want specific answers we want you to be ready to do it.
And then let the American people and do it all free. Let’s figure out how to do it free and then let the American people watch. Now just imagine what that would do. An unconventional convention in a weekend with all the media of the United States and the rest of the world watching. And you have each of these thing which they’re going to have to cover and which they’re going to repeat in in places and which they’re going to have to write up in the newspapers. Just the information that came out of that weekend would be more than anybody has ever had in any presidential election anywhere.
Now why can’t you do that? All well that that sounds great, but the practicalities. What are the practicalities? The money. Well the money’s what its all about, let’s do something about that. Let’s ask the president and the FCC and the Congress. Why do you make it free to these guys? Why don’t you say that the media has to give us this free time? You’re talking now about a fairness doctrine, which is not my favorite thing because of the First Amendment implications.
Forcing the media if they do one story that’s political to put the opposing that’s political. Really? Who’s going to judge what to put on? But apart from that why not tell them when they go into this business they’re going to have to provide free time on that weekend for these.
And everybody will be doing that so you’re competition can’t be hurting you while you’re doing the campaigns. So there are ways to do it and it all comes down to money in in that case.
Is money the reason media misinforms people?
It’s more a non-information than misinformation not so much that they lie to you overtly it’s that they mislead you by not giving you all the truth. They don’t give you all the truth of their own position because they’re afraid you might not understand or it might hurt me so I don’t wanna’ say to much here because I don’t wanna’ tell you.
Yeah, I really do wanna’ sit down with Chavez and those other people, because somebody will say you’re crazy for sitting down! And I don’t wanna’ say, no I don’t wanna’ sit down with them because then Obama will say see that’s why we have wars because you don’t sit down with people like that! So I don’t wanna’ say either of those things. So that’s the kind of corruption of the truth that you get. It’s not all deliberate lying. Or very little of it is deliberate lying because nobody wants to get caught in deliberate lie.
How much do big corporate donations influence politics?
A lot of the good things we want. A lot of the good things that should be obtainable in this nation, which is after all the richest the world has ever seen. We complain about deficits and costs and prices and budgets but we are richer than anybody’s ever been and luckier than anybody’s ever been.
It is just an absurdity, really literally an absurdity to say you can’t afford health care. France can, Italy can, Germany can but you can’t. You can’t afford to have everybody covered, it’s too expensive. That’s ridiculous. Course it’s not too expensive, you don’t want to spend the money on it. It’s…
Why isn’t everybody entitled a free college education? For the same reason that a hundred and fifty years ago or so years ago we said everybody’s entitled to go to school until they’re seventeen or so. And as a matter of fact we’re gonna’ insist on it as a matter of law. Why? Well because we need a certain educated level in the work force. Adam Smith knew that, everybody’s known that.
And so we the government, the collectivity will put money in the pot and have public schools even if you’re rich you can go to the public school. Why? We need education at least until you’re seventeen, high school roughly. Well that was a judgment that we made that was correct. But then came the Industrial Revolution and came all the techonogin and now the world’s level of expertise has risen so high that seventy-five years ago that was a ridiculous thing. Seventeen.
You need a college education. Well the same logic that created the public school in the first place, should create public colleges for four years or at least two years. I mean there’s a lot of skill you can get in two years too. And we should be able to afford that, and that should come from the federal government. Now well, federal government doesn’t do education, we the states do education. What are you talking about? Why why why don’t you tell me federal government doesn’t do armies you can do militias. When we were states we did militias, but now we’re a country for God’s sake!
Look this is going to make a lot of people in Mississippi unhappy and I did this in Congress once and got into a lot of trouble. I said New York state gives to the your state much much more than we get back from the government. We spend billions of dollars on putting money, it’s called federalism. We give billions of dollars more than we have gotten back over the last twenty-five years.
It’s true of California it’s true of Connecticut it’s true of a lot of the big states. Now you people won’t recog you’re you’re poorer states, not your fault, you’re poorer states. And because you’re poorer states, not your fault, and because you’re poorer states you don’t put as much money into the pot as we do. We approve of that. That’s the way it should work. And we as a state say that and I said that as a governor for twelve years.
I said I’m not asking that ya’ know I break even. Thank God we have the money to put in. If that’s the case you should all understand that the commonality is the thing we should be supporting here. We should be putting money into the federal government to do the basic things we all need. Basic things. That’s education! Everybody should get a college education, who wants one. Everybody.
Everybody should get health care. Everybody should have affordable living housing. Affordable decent housing. You should that should be in the Constitution. When it said free speech it should also say and health care and education and housing. Why not? I mean why would you leave that to chance? Well if you’re lucky you’ll have a house, if not you’ll be in the street. Doesn’t make any sense and so and I think that should be our mentality. And it is achievable. It is achieve.
Who stops it? Big forces stop it. Why stops the health care? Insurance companies. Why? HMO’s. Why? They’re making a ton of money if you. Who stops us from coming off of oil to something else. The oil companies. Why? They’re getting rich, just take a look. I mean you don’t have to be a magician, you don’t have to be a genius, you don’t even have to go to school, you don’t even have to be able to count. Just bring a guy with you who can count and take a look at the numbers and say tell me how are they doing.
And they’re all making money by doing their thing. The oil company says oh we don’t want those other things they’re bad. Nuclear energy? Forget about it the thing’ll blow up. Oil? Oil is terrific. So we’ll lose a few trees here and there but. Oil is terrific. And health care? Oh you can’t do it! What are you a communist? You want health care for everybody? This is an insurance company, we’re Americans and then they do a flag and then they do a guy with a three cornered hat on it.
And it’s the big forces that are beating us. And they have the money they have they elect people with their money. They help them in office with their lobbying and therefore they get advantages that the rest of the people don’t get. It’s big corporations. They’re not all evil. They’re necessary, they’re good, they’re necessary for our economy. They put us to work, they give us good wages in some cases.
They make lawyers like my law firm very wealthy for representing them. They’re good things, but they also when in in many times prevent us from doing for the commonality what we should be doing because it’s not good enough for them in their judgment.
Are the size of coffers the most meaningful public opinion poll?
When elections elections let let’s stay with elections for president. Presidential elections vary depending on where you are in the cycle. So the beginning of the cycle presidential elections are an army of candidates. There must be over a hundred who are running for example for president now. We don’t see over a hundred, but there there must be.
All sorts of parties. You should you should try it on the internet some day, just put parties and see how many you get. And some of them are have really fun names. So that’s that’s the early stage. And we’re still in the early stage. We’re eleven or so democrats, eight or so republicans. And we’re trying to accommodate all of them by giving them all time and that’s what leads to to the problems. But as you as you get closer it’ll get down to one on one situations eventually.
And there I think there you can do a lot a lot more with the with the election cycles. I mean you can it’s much easier to have an intelligent election if you have only two candidates. Now this presidential candidate campaign is not there yet. We will be by February. By February you’ll have only.
You’ll have a democrat and you’ll have a republican. And it looks like it could be Hillary Clinton and Rudy Gulliani. Could be right now. If you if you had to say if you had to bet right now you’d say these are the two leaders, and I don’t see anybody overtaking them. Maybe Obama has a shot. Yeah maybe, but in all likelihood, Hillary Clinton and maybe a third candidate. Why?
Well because it’s already clear in this cycle that there are more independents at work than there ever have been in certainly in recent times. What’s an independent? Independent is a person who is not ideologically committed or politically committed by to the democrats or the republicans or anybody else and says I don’t do it that way. I choose my candidates in the end when I see what they are I’ll take a republican or a democrat depending upon on whether I like her or him, etc.
Forty percent of the people now in the polls now are saying they’re out and out independents. Forty percent. That is a lot. Because now you have democrats and republicans and let’s say they had the whole sixty percent, which they don’t that’s left. Well if they had the whole sixty percent that’s thirty percent apiece roughly.
But among those democrats and republicans who insist they are democrats and republicans they are independents. There I’m a democrat, I don’t wanna’ tell my mother I vote for republicans, she would have a heart attack. Or my wife or at work we’re all republicans, I don’t wanna tell them I’m I’m really a democrat so I’ll I’m a republican I’ll go in and I’ll.
Now the number of those people who will cross lines is getting higher and higher. So what you will have in this next campaign cycle is a very good chance that the independent vote will make the difference. It often does, but there’s a very very good chance that it’ll do it here. That’s why they’re talking about people like Mike Bloomberg as a possibility of going between a democrat and a republican.
One of the things that that changes with all of this. Is what is the effect of the money? Well the money is for advertising basically. That’s where the money goes, goes for television advertising and at the early stage before the primary in February, there’s not a whole lot of money being spent by the candidates on national television which is what cost the money. The the stuff that goes to the world.
Now they’re spending it locally in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, or the South Carolina. Wherever the early races are, because we have another imperfection in this system. You can you can make yourself a candidate just by winning Iowa and New Hampshire. John Kerry was out of it until Iowa and New Hampshire and then boomp he won those two and all of the sudden he was your candidate.
John Edwards is counting on that. So the important thing is to spend in Iowa. John Edwards is spending a lot of money in Iowa. So is Romney on the republican side. Gulliani and McCain dropped out. Why? They didn’t they didn’t think they could win, they didn’t want to spend money there. So so money will be spent at this stage in Iowa etc.
Now money has another role however. When you have a race like Obama’s race with Hillary Clinton it became very important especially important because Obama was new with no background and very little real experience in terms presidential elections.
It became very interesting for people to to guess at whether or not he’d be able to get money. And most people said well he’ll never be able to keep up with the Clinton’s because everybody knows how good they are at raising money. Beside their own personal wealth, which is considerable now.
So the fact that Obama has not only raised as much as he has, which is at least comparable to Hillary Clinton’s which was a shocker. He has raised it in a different way. He has gotten a lot of it if not most of it and I think it’s most of it from the internet for from people, under a hundred dollars. Now that’s incredible he’s got something like let’s say two hundred and seventy five thousand people, Hillary’s nowhere near that.
That has become a factor in the race. How? Well here’s an interesting thing about polls and numbers like this. I hate them, the polls. Why? Because as soon as you announce them they change the reality. Well what does that mean? Well it means this, if you have a new poll between Obama and Hillary and you say wow Obama is now at only he was eighteen points behind, he’s now only nine points behind. That does two things. Number one for people who want a winner they will say, I like Obama.
For the Hillary people who some Hillary people wanna see her challenged because they don’t want it to be too easy, so this is good for Hillary. In other time when it gets near the end it gets like this. You got two people and they’re close OK? And you like them both.
That could happen with Obama and Hillary. I like Obama, but he doesn’t have the experience Hillary. And then you see boom Hillary pulls ahead for seven points. I like the underdog. I’m gonna’ have to help Obama cause now he’s an underdog. And and it works the other way too. Oh Hillary pulled ahead! I didn’t know she could beat em’. I like Hillary!
See and and as soon as you announce the poll it changes the reality, to some extent. And beside all of it’s other deficiencies in in. My first election and I’m not terribly relevant at this, but but there was one occasion where polls meant a lot. And my first big race was against Ed Koch, who was absolutely unbeatable. Supported by Rupert Murdoch, the New York Times, and everybody else in America including my son I think who helped me, but figured on Koch was going to win.
And because I was forty-eight points behind they couldn’t spell my name. And it diminishes the one’s ego when they call you Cukomo and your name is Cuomo. So and and but the and so the polls said forty eight percent behind. At one point in August after a couple of debates with Koch. Three debates as a matter of fact.
I appeared to be doing well and in mid-August a fellow from the New York Times came to me and said hey did you hear what happened? Koch took a shot at you today. Koch would never criticize me he was too far ahead to criti you don’t criticize. And I said he did really? Was it a good tough shot? He says yeah he hit you with a mean shot like you have no qualifications at all and everybody knows it and they’re laughing at you.
I said that’s great. He said why? I said because you only shoot and somebody behind you in a cowboy movie not in a race. You don’t shoot at somebody, so it must mean that I’m movin’ ahead. And it did. From the moment he took a shot at me. That could happen recently, overnight, just last night and today there’s a story about Obama and Hillary. And the question is did Hillary overreact to a difference of opinion with Obama in a debate.
Obama said in the debate in answer to the question would you answer like Chavez and Iran and my Dejad and all the rest. And he says yes of course you should. Hillary on the other hand was more discreet. She says I will, but not in advance I wanna know the time and place etc etc, which I thought was reasonable. Ah but Obama came back and took a shot at her. And the question became in the New York Times, does her differing from him so sharply mean that she thinks he’s catching up?
See so all of the sudden, all of the sudden the attitudes of people are are affected by what are basically irrelevancies logically. And a lot of that a lot of that is happening now. So money, if you raise a lot of money and you get it from a lot of people the way Obama did. If you have a lot of money to begin with the way Romney did.
A lot of people are saying Romney’s gonna’ win. Why? He’s good looking and he’s got a lot of money. Terrific. That’s what you need? Is you need let’s get a movie actor and and and five big corporate leaders and. Or Bloomberg. That makes Bloomberg who has said he will spend five or six hundred million dollars if he goes into the race. Where will he get it? Well he has it.
How much has the cost to run changed since you ran?
Yeah well in since I ran in nineteen eighty-two the landscapes altogether different. Nineteen eighty-two, I was outspent in the primary something like four million to one million and I won. And then I was outspent in the general something like thirteen million to five million, and I won. But that won’t happen again.
And as a matter of fact in my own time I wound up losing in the end to somebody who spent something like thirty three million dollars and I was only able to spend something like twenty. So with the difference and I lost by two and a half points. And there’s no question that money can account for two and a half points. So it changed very rapidly even over the twenty years I was in in public life.
And now money because it’s television. The biggest expenditure is television. And television has gotten more and more expensive. And television companies have made more and more money I mean some have not, but a lot of it. And that’s that’s where the demand for money campaign money has.
That’s what swells it the way it does. You need money for campaign advertising. That’s why if you could take that one thing. If you could do that free, it would change the face of politics for the better dramatically. Just make that commercial opportunity today, make it a free opportunity for people who qualify at the end of the race. That would change things dramatically all by itself.
So it doesn’t matter where the money comes from, but how it’s spent?
That’s exactly right. How it’s spent, sure. And it’s spent on on television. And nobody has street campaigns anymore I mean when I started it was so much fun. You’d have a parade and you’d have people organize the night before. You’d get kids from everywhere and you’d go all the way to Syracuse to get two thousand tomato plant sticks. That where do you get sticks that you can nail a cardboard sign to?
Ya’ know where do you to get where do you get two thousand of them in Queens? You don’t. You get in the truck and you go to Syracuse and you buy them from the farmers, really. And so you come back with two thousand sticks and there are people up all night stapling and nailing signs and then you show up for the Columbus Day Parade or whatever it was. And there’s a big story in the Times the next day, Cuomo people everywhere! Because they’ve got these sticks and they’re running up and down the sides behind the crowds and the it looks like you’ve overwhelmed the place.
Now and that was fun. And that was a good way to campaign and there are people on the street and you’re shaking their hands and some of them are spitting at you. And some of them are may have been making every bad signal they can with fingers and there are a lot of things you can do with fingers and arms that send messages to the politicians. And there was something lovely and fun and useful about that kind of campaigning because you got a sense of the humanity in the thing.
And the kind of people you were dealing with and they got a sense of you. I mean they they can tell phonies and they can tell people who are not so phony and and they can tell shakin’ your hands and slappin’ you on the back. And they they can get a feel for you. That doesn’t happen anymore. I mean that is not real anymore. It happens in Iowa, happens in New Hampshire it will happen in those little places up there because they’re spending a disproportionate amount of time there because there’s a disproportionate of value, another unreasonable situation it shouldn’t be that way. But it is.
But then after that, forget about it. They’re not even gonna’ come to New York. See the the democratic campaign won’t come to New York. What for? New York is going to be for Hillary on the democratic side, and it’s going to be for Rudy if he runs on the republican side. So they that eliminates New York. And if you have somebody’s who’s gonna get the California vote for sure that’ll eliminate California. Why why campaign in California if I know I’m gonna’ win?
And so it comes out very very uneven and I won’t spend money in in California, I won’t spend money in New York that’ll send me. That’ll save me a lot of money for Ohio, which is gonna’ be a big state. And it’s done in that discreet way which denies you a kind of national reaction and national experience in the election. It’s not a national election, it’s a state election but discreetly. And that’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is.
Is Obama’s netroots campaign a good sign?
I think the internet is to to say it’s one of the great forces in our modern history I mean that’s that’s that’s banal. I mean it’s so clear how important how important the internet has been. And it it continues to grow in in importance because it’s a it’s a harmonizing thing it brings the whole world together. I mean it’s there was never this sense of being able to reach the rest of world that you have now. No matter who you are.
It’s impossible to be the kind of chauvinist that we used to be able to raise in the United States. Where you could close you eyes to Europe and never travel anywhere and never care about them. That’s that’s not possible anymore so it’s a great great device in terms of giving out political information so if you can get everybody now to look at the internet and get off the PlayStations and just look for the arguments and where the candidates are you can educate yourself better than anybody has ever educated themselves on politics.
I mean I do a lot of speaking and I do a lot of I write my own stuff and always used to need somebody to do research. And whoever it was, some bright college kid. And I’d call them up and I’d say I’m gonna go to a group of people who are in this business and here are ten questions and get me go to the library and get me answers. Now I do it myself and I just get the internet, Google, bing. You can put into Google who has the right to declare war? The President or the Congress.
And get back the wonderful wonderful set of answers and papers and documents that makes you a Constitutional expert immediately. So it’s a good thing. It’s a wonderful thing that Obama’s been able to raise as much money as he did there. What that says is that there are a lot of people who are not rich who are not big corporate people who want to participate and who feel enough about it that they’ll give you fifty dollars or seventy five dollars just from having seen you and heard you.
That is a very good sign politically. Very good. That’s a lot better than getting the same amount of money from ten corporate interests. Those ten CEO’s can only vote ten times. That’s ten votes that’s all it is. You can buy a lot of votes maybe with their money but it’s it’s only assured ten votes.
Everybody who gave you that contribution you can count as a guy who’s going to vote for you, or a gal. So that that’s extremely significant and unless it tails off the more you talk about it the more it will grow. Because the more suggest to people that you can do it on the internet. If you like this guy why not just go oh hell of an idea.
So very big. And everybody now campaigns on the internet the democratic debate the other night was followed by an internet series of interviews where people went on the internet to answer questions. And stayed till’ midnight in some cases.