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The Mario Scenario

Mario Cuomo

By Brian R. Hecht, Of PORT Washington, and New York

When a politician says he has no plans to run for president, we say he is "sitting this one out." When a politician says he has no plans to make plans to run for president, we label him a "non-candidate."

Mario Cuomo says he has no plans to make plans to run for president. But somehow, he seems to be a front-runner.

It's not that Cuomo's a liar. It's just that we New Yorkers have learned that what Mario says and does has very little to do with our perception of him.

That, you see, is why Mario can slip past criticism of his nine-year tenure in Albany relatively unscathed. Although it is clear that New York has budget woes, racial tensions and failing social programs (just like the rest of the Northeast), it is difficult to know whether things would be better or worse without Mario.

One thing, however, is very easy to know. Mario is one of the most eloquent--and intelligent--politicians in recent history. His political ideas are sophisticated, yet easily communicated. His published memoirs are considered a fine specimen of political literature. He is a brilliant orator, leaving spectacular crescendos and deafening pauses to resonate through the audience. He has no trouble using the words capisce and chutzpah in the same sentence, and he comes out sounding like a mensch every time. He is, in a word, inspiring.

What does this all have to do with Mario's ability to govern? Very little, unless he can turn the public's excitement about Mario into excitement about democracy. Not an easy task.

It seems that the best thing Mario has going for him is just being Mario. So even if Cuomo does botch a few budgets, or indulge in a strange political staging of a postmodern Hamlet, he still screams out as the perfect presidential candidate.

And until Mario declares that he has no plans to make plans to run, I certainly wouldn't rule anything out.

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