As successful as Lee is—and she presides over a mini-empire, including a Food Network show—she does not contest Andrew for the distinction of crusader. (Once, when one of Kerry and Andrew’s children said Daddy would fight for civil rights, Kerry corrected her: Daddy and Mommy.) “I leave politics to Andrew,” Lee has said. Lately she mostly talks to the press about StarKist tuna, for which she is a spokesperson. “She is fun and smart and nice. Fundamentally nice and good,” Andrew tells me, a compliment that mostly highlights what she isn’t. She isn’t interested in marriage, and she isn’t prone to nasty personal battles, which Andrew has pledged to avoid. “Nice and good is important,” he says.
And then there is his father. Several years ago, a colleague of mine asked Andrew what play or opera best represented his relationship with his father. Andrew replied, “The story where the father chains the little boy to a chair. In the basement. And leaves him without food. And then beats him.” Andrew was joking, of course, but it’s a telling joke. Father and son are still at friendly loggerheads. “I like people. [Staff] would try to drag me away from people,” Mario insists, despite what Andrew thinks. When I wonder if he operationalized, he first says, “I don’t understand the word”—Andrew made it up, after all. Then he adds, “You can’t be the governor without operationalizing.” But these days the father-son relationship is mostly “sweet,” Andrew says.
“Andrew has long wanted to assert and affirm himself and be affirmed,” says a Cuomo-family friend. Lately Mario affirms: “Andrew could accomplish anything he wants.” As the friend says, “Mario hates being pushed off the stage.” But both acknowledge the new order of things. “My father wants to do whatever I want him to do,” says Andrew. “It’s come full circle. He now helps me the way I helped him.” Mario will even admit that Andrew is the better politician—though he quickly affixes an asterisk to the scorecard: If Mario had come after Andrew and benefited from his tutelage, then he’d be the better politician.