LONSBERRY: Tom Reed Must Resign

I like Tom Reed. I’ve been pushing him for governor for almost a year.

               He and I are sons of the Southern Tier and Steuben County, he from Corning and I from Canisteo.

               Before he ran for Congress he came up to Rochester to see me, to make his pitch, and I didn’t think he had any chance. He was decidedly moderate, and I didn’t think a middle-of-the-road guy was such a great fit for some of the most conservative people in the state.

               But I was, thankfully, wrong.

               And Tom Reed has straddled the philosophical fence successfully and usefully for a good decade now.

               Over those 10 years, he has reliably, ably and kindly served, and he and I have repeatedly crossed paths. We’ve spoken on the same platform a few times, he’s usually at the park in Corning manning a water station for the Wineglass Marathon, one time at Bob and Ruth’s in Naples he stepped away from an anniversary lunch with his wife to say a few words to my son-in-law, who had just come home from the war.

               I like Tom Reed, and I admire what he has accomplished with his life.

               And I love his story.

               His grandfather, a teen-ager come over from Ireland, became a servant in the wealthy Houghton household in Corning, and Tom Reed ended up sitting in Amo Houghton’s seat in the House of Representatives. He’s a small-town lawyer who became mayor who became congressman who became a truly useful and powerful man in Washington.

               And I had hoped for governor.

               I noticed his name was usually left off the list of maybes. The commentator folks like Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, but she has no chance and he has little chance – progressive states usually don’t elect conservative governors – but Tom Reed, the congressional poster boy for reaching across the aisle – had a chance.

               And he had those Southern Tier roots, and a non-partisan appeal, and a decency that could dial down Albany’s reign-of-terror politics.

               I was hopeful.

               And then Friday came, and the tale of a 25-year-old lobbyist whose bra strap Tom Reed allegedly unfastened in an Irish dive in Minnesota. It was shocking, and credible, and a thunder clap. Tom Reed responded, at first, by saying that the claim was “inaccurate.” But by Sunday, he was apologizing and accepting responsibility.

               Maybe. Sort of.

               He talked about being in recovery, implying that he struggles with alcoholism, and he said that he was, as the result of all this, not going to run for re-election to Congress in 2022. Neither, he said, would he run for any other office – meaning governor.

               And that was it.

               And that’s not enough.

               Because it’s not really anything.

               Tom Reed, as he pointed out in his statement, was going to leave Congress at the end of this term anyway – at least that is the promise he made when elected. And while taking a pass on a gubernatorial run might be an ego hit, he probably wasn’t going to get the nomination anyway – Lee Zeldin and Marc Molinaro are probably the frontrunners there.

               Which means that, in 2023, Tom Reed will probably hang out his shingle as a lobbyist and – with his bipartisan reputation and years on Ways and Means – become a very wealthy man.

               This is the sort of “taking responsibility” that pays off like the lottery.

               But doesn’t address the issue of workplace sexual harassment. Or hold Tom Reed to the same standard to which he has called for Andrew Cuomo to be held.

               Over the weeks of unfolding accusations of workplace sexual creepiness by the governor, Tom Reed – like many others, including myself – have said that Andy Cuomo should resign, that the offenses against female state employees were intolerable.

               And those calls have been right. And they are consistent with how others should, and usually would, be dealt with.

               And if, in the words of Tom Reed, that sort of conduct demands resignation of Andrew Cuomo, it only stands to reason and fairness that that sort of conduct would also demand resignation of Tom Reed.

               But this is an area of double standards. Cuomo demanded a lie detector test when a Supreme Court nominee was the target of sexual misconduct allegations, yet has steadfastly avoided such a lie detector test himself. That, however, is no defense. In this matter, the conduct of Andrew Cuomo is the wrong way to do things, not the right way.

               And the calls for Cuomo’s resignation were not founded in politics, they were founded in principle – the principle that sexual advances based upon power in the workplace – especially governmental and political power – are unacceptable. The victims of this – mostly women – are entitled to go to work and advance their careers as employees and professionals, not as sexual baubles and playthings.

               Subordinate employees are not to be kissed and propositioned if you’re the governor; and lobbyists are not to be pawed upon and disrobed if you’re the congressman.

               Both situations are an abuse of power, taking place without consent, in an environment of impropriety.

               And both would get you fired in the civilian world, or if you were an unelected government employee.

               And both are addressed best by resignation.

               That’s true for Andrew Cuomo, and it’s also true for Tom Reed.

               This isn’t about who you like, and it’s not about how you vote, it’s about right and wrong.

               Tom Reed’s statement is a dodge. It means nothing.

               He was right when he said Cuomo had to go. And justice decrees that the standard he applied to others is the standard to which he must be held.

               I like Tom Reed. I admire Tom Reed. I consider him a friend.

               But that doesn’t change anything.

               He must resign.