Andrew Cuomo Channels Al Pacino

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It’s a script straight out of Hollywood:  a leading New York politician whose administration is under fire following an accidental shooting “totally redeems himself” with his “rousing oratory” in a “sermon at a black church.”

In the original 1996 movie City Hall, it’s Al Pacino playing the Mayor of New York struggling to recover from a police shooting of an unarmed boy. As the late Roger Ebert recounts:

One scene handled with subtlety involves the mayor’s decision to speak at the funeral of the slain child, in a Harlem church. His advisers tell him he won’t be welcome there. But he goes anyway, and cranks himself up for an oration of unashamed rhetoric.

It gets a good response from the congregation, but the mayor knows, and his deputy knows, that it was phony, and the way they carefully avoid discussing it, in the limousine taking them away, is a delicate use of silence and evasion.

In the August 19, 2018 remake, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo struggles to recover from a wound that’s entirely self-inflicted with “a searing speech from the pulpit of a black church.” The new version adds a twist:  Cuomo is trying to rehabilitate himself after saying America “was never that great,” whereas even the fictional Al Pacino character from the original movie knows better than that, as he declares:

The first and perhaps only great mayor, was Greek. He was Pericles of Athens and lived some 2,500 years ago and he said:

“All good things of this earth … flow into the city … because the city’s greatness.”

Well, we were great once. Can we not be great again?