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Center on the American Governor > Center on the American Governor Blog > NJ Governors > A Conversation with former Governors Tom Kean (NJ) and Mario Cuomo (NY)

A Conversation with former Governors Tom Kean (NJ) and Mario Cuomo (NY)

Posted at 3:43 pm September 24, 2019, in NJ Governors, U.S. Governors

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As former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie prepares to welcome New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for the inaugural event at the new Christie Institute for Public Policy at Seton Hall University (September 26th at 7:00 pm), the Eagleton Center on the American Governor at Rutgers is revisting a conversation it hosted on December 14, 2010 with Andrew’s father and predecessor Governor Mario Cuomo and one of Christie’s predecessor’s Governor Tom Kean.

Click here to view the video of the 90 minute conversation moderated by Eagleton Director Ruth Mandel, or read the full transcript.

Here are a few interesting excerpts:


“Governing is often done in the middle. And if it doesn’t get done in the middle, it often doesn’t get done at all. And if there aren’t people who can see two sides of an issue, who can understand the person on the other side is not a bad person, but simply one with another point of view to be considered and talked, then the system doesn’t work.” –Tom Kean

“The answer is it’s the rigidity of the ideology that’s at fault. If your theory is you can take 10 solid ideas and tie them up and say, ‘Here it is. Here are all the answers. And I’m not going to vary from it. Here’s how I feel on this issue. Here’s how I feel on that issue, and that’s that.’ Well, that’s foolish. That’s silly, and it’s not necessary. It doesn’t work that way.” –Mario Cuomo

“I never minded, frankly, when a candidate gets up there and somebody’s up in the audience and says, “But you said you’d do this and that.”, for the candidate to say, ‘You know, I changed my mind.’ It’s not an awful thing. We all change our minds on things. If we’re listening we can get convinced to change our position sometimes, but superior logic, I hope.” –Tom Kean

“Well, compromise cannot be a dirty word, because that’s how things get done. I mean, if you come up with a program, you never get a hundred percent of it, even when you have your own party. There’s going to be something around the edge. If you say, ‘I won’t compromise,’ then you get nothing. Most of the things, I think, both of us are proud of, our governorships, were done through compromise.” –Tom Kean


Mario Cuomo on Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo: “I think we [Kean and I] got together a lot more then, and I don’t know that I could do the research to support this, but I suspect we talked more together than most governors of New York and New Jersey. And I hope in the future that Christie, for example, and my son will get together frequently. And I wish them the kind of relationship I had with Governor Kean.” –Mario Cuomo


Ruth Mandel: So the first name I’d like you to respond to is Donald Trump. Did he make your life easier or harder as governor? And how did he affect your relationship, if at all, with one another?
Governor Kean: I don’t think he affected our relationship at all. He was very nice to me because he wanted to build casinos in New Jersey. And when Donald Trump needs something from somebody, he’s very nice to them. And so, I got along fine with him. But he had a very definite agenda, and that was it.
Governor Cuomo: Presumably, he got the casinos?
Governor Kean: Yes.
Governor Cuomo: He came to me for something too, which he didn’t get and he wasn’t nice to me.
Ruth Mandel: Enough said?
Governor Cuomo: Yes.