Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rowland Rising, Two

The response to Rowland’s re-entry into the political sphere has been both predictable and uninspiring.

Bill Curry, a Hartford Courant columnist and gubernatorial wannabe who was bested by Rowland, seized the occasion to engage in some ego-stroking chest thumping.

“In 2002,” Curry began his column, “I held a press conference to show how John Rowland broke the law to award no-bid building contracts to his pals… The story didn’t make the front page of any newspaper, nor did any bother to editorialize on it.”

There are reasons for this. Curry’s press conferences were sparsely attended because only his mother and his fast friend Colin McEnroe thought he had a good chance to beat Rowland. Newspapers generally are not in the habit of bathing prospective losers in ink, a policy that rightfully should be and has been abhorred by others – for example, me -- in below the salt newspapers that Curry would not likely notice. Then too, it was not obvious at the time that anyone in politics – except angelic types like Curry – would very much object to politicians dividing the spoils among their political acquaintances. In the past, such upright politicians as Ella Grasso and Abe Ribbicoff did the same, which is why they ended their careers up to their eyeballs in friends and plaudits. Though I’ve been writing columns for more than a quarter of a century, I don’t recall many complaints from the purists when the spoils were being distributed to their bums. Ethical probity is a late arrival on the political scene.

But all this palaver is a lead to Curry’s explosive and stirring last paragraph: “In this life we withhold forgiveness at our peril; someday, everybody needs a second chance. But this isn't rehabilitation, it's recidivism — and I mean us, not him. To break every rule of hiring and management to do a politician a favor sends a clear signal: This is still a state where membership in the club means everything and ethics nothing at all.”

But the truth is: We extend forgiveness at our peril, if we are political columnists, editorial writers and political reporters. No one in Curry’s profession is in the forgiveness business. And in any case, there is no question here of forgiveness. Rowland has not been forgiven his offenses: He has been punished for them.

He went to Jarjura as a penitent ex-felon, a tag he will never shed. The open question is: Should he be permitted to redeem himself?

Curry, puffed up with the milk of human kindness, says no. Waterbury – the whole damned city, pretty much – said yes.

It is an open question which, of the two, is more humane.

Curry should ask himself the question: What would Buddha do?
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