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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Inauguration's the easy part in Cuomo's term

Andrew Cuomo during a campaign rally in front

Andrew Cuomo during a campaign rally in front of the Westchester County Center. (Oct. 8, 2010) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Televised coverage of an inauguration always generates a blizzard of platitudes about how the new leader plans to "hit the ground running."

Maybe it is reassuring to hear that a public servant does not intend to land with a "splat" once sworn in.

But as new Gov. Andrew Cuomo surely knows, this occasion marks the easy part. It calls for such a broad statement of civic piety and vision; it would be tough to screw up completely.

Artfully or awkwardly, a new executive works on this day with material most obvious. One way or another he essentially declares this a new day in a new year, which of course it is.

Everyone in this position tries to send a message of positive change, in a political-speech-as-New Year's card. Every governor, freshly elected, has his points of pride to play up.

For Cuomo, there's also patrimony to deal with. Mario Cuomo, first inaugurated in 1983 as the state's 52nd governor, linked the challenges faced then to the story of his immigrant parents. His older son has, of course, walked a different path to power.

If both Cuomo (52) and Cuomo (56) have a way of positioning themselves at the center of New York's political spectrum, the perceived location of that center has changed over 28 years.

These days, cries for fiscal conservatism may have more resonance - even as the social center has shifted in favor, say, of same-sex marriage, and away from past thinking on racial and gender roles.

A new governor usually takes this time to tell us, one way or another, that we are all New Yorkers. He thanks and acknowledges those with whom he was, or may soon be, at odds.

For the insiders, there are thematic messages in these speeches, blatant or subtle.

The buzz was big from Eliot Spitzer's "Rip Van Winkle" remark. That was when he said, "New York has slept through much of the past decade while the rest of the world has passed us by."

But even Spitzer felt obligated at the outset of the same speech to thank predecessor George Pataki for help in the transition and for his 12 years of service.

Accepted practice calls for a light moment or two, perhaps a joke. Departing Gov. David A. Paterson, at his abruptly arranged March 2008 swearing-in, went above and beyond, with self-deprecating lines about his visual impairment and satirical sendups of the legislative leaders.

As the regulars in the room Saturday know, the presentations get harder from here on in. Next Wednesday comes the "State of the State" address, which offers legislators a turn to posture, possibly to counter some of Cuomo's proposals or cast doubt on their chances of success. Later in the month, Cuomo releases his first budget proposal, launching a high-level negotiation that promises to make any ceremony like Saturday's look easy.

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