Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cuomo Says Close Race Could Be `Ruinous'

Ex-Governor Cuomo Says Close Democratic Race Could Be `Ruinous'
By Lorraine Woellert

March 14 (Bloomberg) -- Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo said the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could be ``ruinous'' for the Democratic Party if the contest isn't resolved before the August nominating convention.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said the party may be able to avoid a damaging convention fight if Clinton and Obama teamed up on a party ticket, or if the media forced the candidates before then to substantively address big policy issues facing the nation, such as the economy and the war in Iraq.

``It would be ruinous to the Democrats to get to the convention without an arrangement of some kind,'' Cuomo said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's ``Political Capital with Al Hunt,'' scheduled to air today.

A ticket with one of the candidates running as vice president would give the public a chance to elect the first woman president and the first African-American president regardless of who is at the top of the ticket, Cuomo said.

Either Obama, 46, or Clinton, 60, could serve two terms as vice president and then run for president.

``Most people say that's improbable, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be the best solution,'' Cuomo said. ``And it occurs to me that you could make a ticket almost either way, with Hillary on top or Obama on top.''

The second alternative would be to abandon ``phony'' debate formats and instead compel the candidates to answer detailed questions on policy issues, Cuomo said. The approach would allow voters to make a decision based on substance, he said.

`Glibness Contest'

``Right now, it's being done by persona: she's a pain in the neck; she's too this; she's too that,'' Cuomo said. Debates, he said, have become a ``glibness contest.''

``They like that because they're both very, very glib,'' Cuomo said. ``That's what allowed them to make such a big thing about race and a big thing about gender, because that gap could be filled with specific answers to the specific questions.''

Candidates should be grilled on their Iraq war positions and how they would improve the economy, said Cuomo, 75.

The Iraq War, for example, is ``illegal,'' and candidates should be questioned on it in depth as a measure of whether they're ready to be commander-in-chief, Cuomo said.

``The law is that the Congress has to declare war. It didn't in Vietnam and it didn't here,'' he said.

``It's relevant because the next president might feel like starting a war against Iran,'' Cuomo said.

The lack of detailed debate on substantive issues has created an opening for rhetoric on ``incendiary'' subjects such as race and gender, Cuomo said.

``When you don't deal with what I'm asking you to deal with, which is the specifics of these hard issues in an intelligent and understandable way,'' Cuomo said, ``you fill the space with this stupidity about race and gender.''

Cuomo said he disagreed with former New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro's comment that if Obama were white he wouldn't be a serious candidate.

``He is so skilled and so bright that I don't think that's true,'' Cuomo said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at

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