EDITORIAL

We can't impeach Cuomo, and maybe we shouldn't

Posted

Can the Assembly still impeach Gov. Andrew Cuomo even though he’s already announced his resignation?

“Probably not.”

Those words from Assembly judiciary committee chair Charles Lavine aren’t exactly brimming with confidence. But as disappointed as some lawmakers might be about Lavine’s conclusion — including our very own state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi — the Assembly has some tricky state constitutional language, and plenty of precedent, to back it up:

“Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, or removal from office and disqualification.”

That last “and” is what ultimately dashes hopes for a post-resignation impeachment of Cuomo, who steps down in the midst of a sexual harassment and toxic work environment scandal. Impeachment is designed to remove someone the people elected from office, or to not only remove that person, but bar them from seeking office again.

The way Lavine and lawyers working for the Assembly interpret that provision, lawmakers can’t try Cuomo after he’s left office with the hopes of simply barring him from running again.

And maybe that’s for the best. Not that what Cuomo is accused of isn’t heinous. Instead we’re asking the legislature to make a decision addressing not just the here and now, but also the future. To have each and every lawmaker look into a crystal ball and determine what may come later, while tying the hands of voters to pass their own judgment at the ballot box if Cuomo indeed intends to seek public office again somewhere down the road.

When he announced his resignation last week, Cuomo took no responsibility for his actions. Instead, he blamed shifting social norms that he hadn’t caught up with rather than acknowledging the claims of several women brave enough to step forward, and the need to not only make amends, but change himself from within.

That should inspire confidence in no one. Yet, that doesn’t mean Cuomo couldn’t someday indeed see the error of his ways, and deliver a significant and meaningful mea culpa.

We’re not holding our breath. But at the same time, we must leave room for people to rehabilitate. Otherwise, what’s the point of it all?

It’s likely even if Cuomo did everything humanly possible to fix all that he broke in the executive chamber, voters may never choose him to lead again. And that’s fine — but it must be voters who decide. And if in 2022 or even 2026 Cuomo seeks his old job again without changing his current denials, those same voters should be trusted to send the former governor packing.

But if we don’t open the door to change, then it will never come. Even opening it may never bring change, but at least we tried.

For New York, Cuomo simply can’t leave fast enough. And if he refuses to change, New York won’t want him back. Voters know how to express such rejection, and we must have faith those voters — us — will exercise it.

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