Su·per·erog·a·to·ry (adj): 1: observed or performed to an extent not enjoined or required.
3: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
I confess, that last definition wasn’t given by the lexicographers at Merriam-Webster. I helpfully added it for them. But few individuals in government officialdom have done so many supererogatory things during the coronavirus crisis as the Empire State’s Cuomo.
I thought that President Trump was supposed to be the one delivering the over-the-top showmanship, but Cuomo has proven that the first family of New York can do anything.
Securing an affordable stream of hand sanitizer for the state? Important. Cuomo holding a news conference where he falsely claimed that prisoners were making hand sanitizer (with a “very nice floral bouquet” scent, to boot) when, in fact, they were only repackaging another product? Supererogatory.
Securing ventilators for the state? Important. Blaming the Trump administration for a lack of ventilators when Cuomo, in fact, resisted ordering them for his state in the case of a pandemic after a 2015 report? Supererogatory.
This was always a strain in Cuomo’s behavioral pattern, however. There’s no doubt that a governor needs to make sure truckers stay off the road during a blizzard, for instance. Threatening them with criminal charges and then personally confronting a trucker who violated the ban on camera? Supererogatory.
Now, granted, the January 2019 blizzard was a particularly bad one, but Cuomo threatening criminal charges against truckers who violated the state’s ban on trucks being on the road — which affected not just the supply chain in the state of New York but in other states, as well — was very much superfluous.
Yet that’s exactly what the New York governor did in February of 2019.
“We are one 100 percent serious,” Cuomo said at the time, according to WBEN-AM.
He was speaking after a 21-vehicle accident in which a tractor-trailer jacknifed, leading to a state trooper being seriously injured.
“We’ve asked for it a number of times. We’ve asked for it nicely. We’ve given them prior notice. Now we have seen what happens when that ban is violated again, again, and again.”
Upgrading penalties to criminal charges wasn’t just a matter of semantics; it could end with truckers losing their licenses.
It could also end like this:
Making this even more supererogatory? The fact that this wasn’t just some local news organization that had this video and released it. This is from the governor’s verified YouTube account. This would have seemed a bit damaging if it were posted by his worst enemy, but he thought we all needed to see this side of him. I need to know my governor can scold a truck driver. There’s nothing like a politician who can go out among the common people … and tell them what’s what.
Now, the official line everywhere is that critical infrastructure workers like truck drivers are our heroes. The sentiment is especially probably true when it comes to Cuomo. His state’s most populous city (and the epicenter of the crisis) is having some trouble getting truckers who want to go there.
“Some truckers are refusing to carry orders into [New York City] and surrounding suburbs like New Rochelle that have been hard hit by the coronavirus, even as demand for groceries is double or triple normal levels as shoppers stockpile soup and other everyday goods,” Bloomberg reported on Friday.
“There is no evidence that food is growing scarce in the city. But one index, which measures loads of all types of goods destined for Brooklyn that were rejected by shippers, has tripled compared with the same time last year, reflecting carriers’ inability or unwillingness to haul loads into the epicenter of the outbreak.”
Part of this was the White House’s request that those who had been in New York City self-quarantine for 14 days if they left. There are also delivery curfews and potential registration for “essential employees.”
“A March 25 report from the Supply Chain Analysis Network, a state of the industry report compiled by experts in the field, noted a ‘particular concern related to the grocery supply chain serving the City of New York,'” the report read.
“While the report said ‘the grocery supply chain should be able to sustain and enhance flows,’ it found that truckers ‘have been much more likely to reject offers to deliver’ to the New York metropolitan area.
“To be sure, truckers could reject loads bound for New York not out of fear but simply because they got a better paying job elsewhere, and freight rates have increased with demand spiking. Also, Manhattan’s tight confines and myriad parking regulations mean that the city is never an easy place to get into and out of for a truck, compared with a spacious Walmart parking lot.”
If Cuomo slathers on some supererogatory praise for truckers in the next few weeks, however, one should remember that his problematic approach to truckers didn’t start in 2019 and his office’s decision to post footage of the governor upbraiding a recalcitrant driver in a storm.
Instead, remember Cuomo’s curious 2016 attempt to convince Long Islanders to support a no-truck policy at a rest stop there. During a speech, he described a few hours he spent at a truck stop on Long Island as “a nightmare from hell.”
“It was like being in some movie of ‘Land of The Lost,’ where you saw things that you were not supposed to see in life,” Cuomo said, according to the Long Island Press.
“I mean, you would have liked to have lived your whole life and not had seen these things or experienced them, because then you can’t get them out of your mind once you’ve seen them. I mean it was terrible.
“The criminal activity that went on in the open,” he added. “The total lack of services. The truckers who are staying there wind up being very creative in their finding uses for the functions that they need to fulfill. I’m telling you there was prostitution there. There were drug sales there, because I saw it, and I mean I was there.”
If you think that’s supererogatory, consider this: A third of his 2,600-word speech was spent on that anecdote. Do you maybe think this is a bit of an obsession with him?
Truckers are a vital part of not only our economy but our way of life. There’s a reason why Whole Foods in Manhattan is able to have three varieties of kale when there’s not a serious farming operation in the five boroughs.
Yet, to hear the state’s controversial governor tell it, the men and women who keep the shelves stocked are dissolute hellions engaged in the drug and skin trade, besmirching the fine rest stops of New York where, rest assured, nothing bad ever happens among the decent car-driving folk. They’re blizzard-drivers straight out of “Land of the Lost” who need to be lectured and bossed around on camera by the guv.
Cuomo, in other words, has exempted himself from praising the men and women who work at keeping our supply chains up. There would be another word for that — a few, actually, that I can think of, but none that could be uttered in polite company.
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