Nixon and Cuomo: An Unlikely Duo
A never-before-seen memo from former President Richard Nixon addressed to Governor Mario Cuomo of New York uncovers an unlikely relationship between two political heavyweights on opposing ends of the political spectrum.
Governor Cuomo, a staunch and old-school Democrat who passed away on January 1 of 2015, formed a surprisingly amicable relationship with the former President—a camaraderie that facilitated some animated intellectual and political exchange.
In an article that highlights the late Governor’s relationship with her and President Nixon, Washington Times editor Monica Crowley sheds light on their relationship.
“Nixon and Cuomo often shared copies of books they found interesting. They’d leave Nixon’s hands dog-eared and underlined, only to come back after Cuomo had read them, even more beaten up. After both men had read each book, a long conversation would ensue,” Crowley recalls when she worked as President Nixon’s foreign policy assistant from 1990 until his death in 1994.
“They may not have agreed on much, but they admired each other’s wide-ranging minds and scope of impact.”
Much like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, RN admired the colorful Governor whom he considered a man “refreshing and stimulating.” The men respected each others’ intellectual desire, nor did they refrain from sharing their ardent views with one another.
On September 19, 1987, Governor Cuomo began a much anticipated trip to the Soviet Union for what was deemed a mission of peace. Tapped as a possible presidential candidate for the 1988 presidential elections despite having already announced his decision not to run, Cuomo’s trip attracted ample media attention. Among his traveling party were 12 reporters.
Two days prior, in understanding of the gravity of Cuomo’s trip, RN wrote a letter to the Governor offering advice on how he should handle his trek to Moscow. RN listed four suggestions taken from his prior experiences: advice on handling the media, on talking points in the case of a conversation with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, on Afghanistan and on how Cuomo should address the prospect of annual summits on arms control and trade.
“The media will have an enormous interest in what you say,” RN suggested, warning Cuomo that those in the press corps will want him to criticize President Reagan openly. “I would suggest that you should parry their queries by saying that you have some differences with the Reagan Administration’s foreign policy but that you will always follow the practice of never criticizing your own country’s policies while travelling abroad and will make such criticisms only when you are in the United States.”
Evidently, Cuomo took RN’s advice in this regard. In his public statements before his departure, Cuomo stated that he would not criticize his president or his country.
“I go there as an American, not a Democrat,” stated Cuomo to the press. “I will not say anything that criticizes my president or my country.”
Later, Cuomo would publicly praise the former President’s advice.
“Nixon was very, very helpful.”
Read the memo below: