H. Carl McCall was among the chorus of critics who rapped Andrew Cuomo, his Democratic gubernatorial rival, for Cuomo’s criticism of Gov. George Pataki’s post-Sept. 11 leadership. But barely three months after the terror attack, the state comptroller was blasting Pataki’s "lack of leadership and blunders" in seeking federal aid.
Cuomo had caused an uproar last week by saying Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was the only leader following the catastrophe and that Pataki "held the leader’s coat."
"The tragedy of Sept. 11 should not be used to score political points," McCall said in a statement. "The collective leadership of all elected officials in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 has been appropriately and universally praised."
McCall campaign aides told The Associated Press the comptroller had never criticized Pataki’s immediate post 9-11 leadership, as Cuomo did.
But in December, when asked about the governor’s popularity, McCall told The Jewish Week that Pataki’s "lack of leadership and blunders in Washington [are] responsible for a reduction in [federal] aid. … The governor didn’t do his homework, didn’t call anybody before he went to Washington, and didn’t get any advice about what to ask for."
McCall continued that the governor "didn’t take advantage of this moment of sympathy to go to Washington and really provide the leadership to get us substantial aid during this moment of sympathy."
Pataki had requested more than $50 billion in aid for New York. At the time of the interview, it appeared that New York would receive only about $8 billion. Ultimately the White House agreed on a $20 billion package.
McCall campaign consultant Hank Sheinkopf said those comments and Cuomo’s were "apples and oranges."
"The governor’s trip to Washington was roundly criticized by public officials and newspaper editorials [because] he included pork-barrel items that had little to do with rebuilding downtown Manhattan," Sheinkopf said. He said Cuomo’s statement referred to Sept. 11 and the days immediately following.
McCall also referred to Pataki as "the tall guy standing behind" Giuliani in an April 3 interview on CNN.
The comments indicate that the taboo apparently has been shattered on partisanship over the nation’s worst-ever civilian death toll. This week, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver chimed in with an attack on Giuliani, telling an Albany radio station that the venerated mayor deserves no more credit than other leaders at the time, presumably including himself.
Lincoln Mitchell, a Democratic political consultant, said Sept. 11 was "one of those things that was eventually going to be fair game, and it’s probably good that it has. In general our state, city and country was well served, but that doesn’t mean you can’t comment critically. People criticized FDR during World War II."