Even Kevin Rennie, widely regarded as a moderate Republican, took a hatchet to Gov. Rell following her budget address.
“But Rell now worships in the Capitol village,” Rennie wrote from his berth at the Hartford Courant, “She's gone native. The harder fight would have been to enforce discipline on the state behemoth. That would have required some hard slogging and backbone, and that's no longer Rell's way."
Both Rell and Rennie were Republicans together at the Capitol when former Governor Lowell Weicker jammed the income tax through a legislature that resisted the imposition -- to a point. Conservative talk show host Brad Davis recalls both Rell and Rennie ringing him up on the phone during those tumultuous days and telling him they thought they had the votes necessary to axe the tax. The Republicans hadn't counted on the defectors.
“‘Trust me,’ the governor said on Wednesday. But why would anyone be so foolish as to do that? She insulted the public by calling her historic proposal for billions in more taxes "a fractional increase in the income tax." She accompanies her assault on the public with an attack on clear and honest language.
“The rest of her rhetoric was no better. ‘Connecticut will never be about standing still.’ True enough, but don't send the economy into reverse at a time when even New York City and New Jersey are cutting taxes. The flight of jobs and workers went virtually unnoticed in Rell's address.
“’We are in a state of transition,’ she insists. Indeed we are. Stunted Michigan holds itself out in advertisements as a better place to do business.
“’It is long past the time that we become fiscally responsible,’ she declared, and then went on to crown herself the duchess of irresponsibility. She paid homage to the state's constitutional spending cap, a device for controlling what she once saw as a plague and now dresses as a virtue. She supports smashing through it because the blinkered and tiny group of people she listens to believe they can get away with it if it's wrapped in aid to moppets.
“One party controls Connecticut: the Establishment Party. Rell has assumed leadership of that conniving group. Whether other Republicans in public office debase themselves and join in disbanding their party will be a crucial question.”
A gathering of the Connecticut Conservative Congress in West Hartford, two days after Rell in her budget address canoodled with far left progressives, was a somewhat awkward affair. Present as a speaker at the gathering was newly appointed Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy who, in his brief remarks, outlined his impressive conservative credentials.
Healy lived near Bill Buckley when the conservative movement was but a gleam in his eye, worked on both Bill's and his brother Jim Buckly's New York campaigns and cut his political teeth on the Goldwater campaign, a precursor to Ronald Reagan's successful presidential run. Much later, Healy hitched up with former Sen. Rob Simmons and was laboring in the conservative vinyards when Rell eased his way into the chairmanship of the Republican Party. Apparently he was chosen to make straight to conservatives the rather crooked ways of the present governor, a tough row to hoe.
In deference to Healy, whose conservativism is deep and abiding, the other speakers were careful not to mention the pink elephant in the room; Rell’s name never crossed the lips of any of the speakers, among whom were Alan Schlesinger, Dr. Miriam Masullo, Paul Streitz and Mike McGarry, but in the audience there were murmurs of rebellion that did not reach the dais.
The pleasant and unexpected surprise of the afternoon meeting was African American Hartford Republican mayoralty candidate Reverend Stanley McCauley, the Executive Director of Hartford Public Access Television, who was called to the dais in the absence of another speaker; the Hartford minister regaled the conservatives with an improvised talk that was both captivating and effortlessly delivered. Barack Obama move over.
While the clarion call from the dais was “Don’t give up the ship,” conservatives sitting in the audience were already bailing, and Schlesinger hit a hot button when he mentioned the great failing of the Connecticut Republican Party. The party has become unmoored from its traditional principles: limited government, personal responsibility and rule from the roots up. If it does not stand for something, the Republican Party will stand for anything and, sadly, disappear as an effective alternative to Democrats in what is fast becoming a one party state.
That theme was roundly applauded by an audience that packed the Elmwood Community Center, but then conservatives have always known that if the product is non-sellable, the packaging is unimportant, and many of them are anxiously looking forward to Rell’s mock battle with the Democrat dominated legislature; it will be like watching an anaconda swallowing a mouse.