CHRIS POWELL: Who covered for Cuomo? And is choice no good now?

Published on Friday, 20 August 2021 21:12

Good for New York that it's getting a new governor as Andrew Cuomo resigns amid a sexual harassment scandal and is succeeded by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Cuomo was vastly overrated, presiding over years of the state's decline. He was lionized by news organizations even as he sent virus-infected patients into nursing homes where they infected more of the most vulnerable people, causing many deaths, and then he tried to conceal the casualties.

Cuomo was a bully and, as it turned out, a sexual predator as well.

Hochul is qualified by long experience in government and pledges that the notoriously oppressive environment in the governor's office will end when she gets there.

But where was she as that environment seethed with abuse?

It seems that nearly everyone in politics, government, and journalism in Albany long knew about it but said nothing or even helped keep it quiet. The governor was exposed only because a few brave women finally came forward, after long keeping quiet about it themselves.

Hochul has not yet been inaugurated but already has declared herself a candidate for election to a full term as governor. Since New York is an overwhelmingly Democratic state, she is expected to have much competition for the Democratic nomination.

Maybe her Democratic challengers will ask what she knew about Cuomo's conduct and when she knew it, or how she could have been so ignorant.

* * *

Why isn't the liberal argument for abortion rights – sometimes summarized as "My body, my choice" – being made in defense of people who don't want to take one of the COVID-19 vaccines?

Yes, a woman's decision on whether to get an abortion doesn't pose a threat to anyone else, except, of course, to her unborn child, while it may be argued that someone's refusal to be vaccinated makes him a threat for contagion.

Yet research suggests that vaccinated people can be without symptoms but carry the virus and infect others just as unvaccinated people can. And the list of serious side-effects linked to the vaccines is growing, even if those risks may be worth taking, especially for people more at risk of becoming seriously ill with the virus, like the elderly.

The General Assembly recently rejected "My body, my choice" in regard to vaccination of students against childhood diseases, repealing the religious exemption to such vaccinations. But those vaccines are long established and their side-effects are known and rare. The COVID-19 vaccines are new and not fully tested, with side-effects still being discovered.

That's why COVID-19 vaccination should be left to individual choice, while requiring weekly testing of unvaccinated people in environments where the risk of contagion seems greatest.

Besides, it's hard to blame people for being skeptical of vaccines being pushed by a government that gave them the Vietnam War, the war in Iraq in pursuit of imaginary "weapons of mass destruction," 20 years of war and nation building in Afghanistan, the Tuskegee syphilis study, constant market rigging and secret bailouts of investment banks, and a lot of contradictory talk about COVID-19 itself.

Indeed, the most remarkable thing about the virus epidemic may be the failure of journalism to put critical questions to government and medical authorities. Journalistic skepticism seems to have departed with Donald Trump when he left the White House.

* * *

POSING ON PRECEDENT: Now that conservatives are in charge of the U.S. Supreme Court, liberals are vigorous defenders of protecting legal precedents, especially in regard to abortion and Roe v. Wade.

Of course liberals didn't always strike this pose. Liberals concur that the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott vs. Sandford, which held that a former slave could never be a citizen, had to be overturned, though it took a civil war. Liberals agree that Plessy v. Ferguson, which legitimized racial segregation, had to be overturned too, along with Lochner v. New York, which prevented government regulation of the economy.

The reverence for precedent is largely political opportunism. If you like the way things are, you make a principle of precedent. If you don't like the way things are, you dismiss precedent. There's little principle involved.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Friday, 20 August 2021 21:12. Updated: Friday, 20 August 2021 21:15.