Skip links

Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man


Among all the fifty-six men who have served as New York’s governor, none was more complicated, self-righteous, pugilistic, and exasperating than Mario Cuomo.

As governor, Mario Cuomo is remembered most for his advocacy of the “personally-opposed-but” position on abortion that led to confrontations with Catholic Church hierarchy, and for dithering about his presidential ambitions, that led the media to dub him the “Hamlet on the Hudson.” His political style reminded many of Machiavelli; Cuomo styled himself a successor to St. Thomas More.

In this political profile, George J. Marlin sets the record straight on Mario Cuomo.

Marlin traces Cuomo’s political rise and documents how and why he abandoned his public opposition to abortion to be elected New York’s chief executive.

In great detail, Marlin describes the protracted conflict between Cuomo and his church on abortion and refutes the governor’s claim that his “position on abortion is absolutely theologically sound.”

Marlin critiques Cuomo’s famous 1984 Democratic convention speech as nothing more than the usual high-toned partisan liberal bromides that offered little, if anything, that hadn’t been touted by his party for half a century.

The book also uncovers New York State’s fiscal, economic, and social decline during Cuomo’s 12 years as governor. It explains why voters repudiated Cuomo’s version of a welfare state when he sought a fourth term in 1994 and why, in the words of his son, Governor Andrew Cuomo, his father was “more accomplished as a speech-giver than as a governor.”

Marlin skillfully separates the Cuomo “Public Intellectual” myth from the political man.

Mario Cuomo, three times Governor of New York, an eloquent hard edged Catholic from Queens, dominated not only his home state but national liberal politics in the age of Reagan. Whether the subject was police or theology, Cuomo rhetorically overpowered the reporters who covered him.  But he’s finally met his match in George Marlin’s Mario Cuomo The Myth and the Man. Marlin’s extraordinary equipment; a former candidate for Mayor of N.Y.C., former executive director of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, author of books on Catholic voters and the Archbishops of New York, has made him the ideal author of what’s sure to be seen as the definitive political biography of Mario Cuomo.  Fred Siegel, Author, The Prince of the City:  Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life and The Future Once Happened Here:  New York, D.C., L.A., and the Fate of America’s Big Cities.

“It’s easy to forget what an important and fascinating figure Mario Cuomo was during New York’s raucous political heyday of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, when the likes of Hugh Carey, Ed Koch, Al D’Amato, and Rudy Giuliani strode the political stage. Thankfully, George Marlin’s wonderful new Cuomo biography will help everyone remember both the good and bad of the remarkable man who served three terms as governor, turned down a seat on the Supreme Court and rejected the chance to run for President. Here are both Cuomo’s successes and failures — and of the latter there were many.  An important work that helps restore our collective memory. — Fredric U. Dicker, the New York Post’s longtime state editor and a TV and radio commentator, covered six governors during 40 years at the state Capitol in Albany.

George Marlin is virtually peerless in blending high principle with knowledge of street-level politics and the nuts-and-bolts of otherwise mundane governance to produce readable, yet deeply insightful, social and political portraits. Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man, examines in fine detail one of one of New York state’s most consequential, if also deeply flawed, 20th-century gubernatorial incumbencies. Plus, readers get a bonus: Insight into what shaped the career of Mario Cuomo’s Democratic superstar son, Andrew. Marlin has been in the trenches himself and thus can separate blarney from beefsteak – which this fine volume once again demonstrates. Bob McManus, Contributing Editor, The City Journal, was the New York Post’s Editorial Page Editor (2000-2013), and The Albany Times Union’s Executive City Editor (1975-1981).

“George Marlin not only captures the political life and journey of Mario Cuomo, but details his policy approach that led to the near demise of the Empire State. Fortunately, the Conservative Party of New York was there to carry the torch and provide the margin of victory for George Pataki ending the senior Cuomo’s reign.” Michael Long, State Chairman, Conservative Party of New York (1988-2019)

“For both better and worse, Mario Cuomo was the quintessential American Catholic politician of an entire postwar generation: ambitious, brilliant, articulate, serious about his faith, and flexible in how and where he applied it. George Marlin is a writer of considerable skill, and he uses here it to produce a provocative, absorbing portrait of the man and his career. Francis X. Maier, Senior Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center

Share with Friends:

Additional information

Weight 2.6 lbs
Dimensions 6 × 1.5 × 9 in

George Marlin