Saturday, May 22, 2010

Eddie, Dick And The Etiquette Of Misspeak

On June 27, 2007, Inspector Michael Sullivan received a report that Mayor Eddie Perez had some work done in his house by a contractor appointed to do a major job for the city of Hartford. The information supplied to him tickled his worry wart, and Sullivan arranged a meeting with Perez the following day.

A record of the meeting was made. Sullivan asked Perez whether people who were doing work for the city also had done work on his house.

Perez answered yes.

Did the mayor pay for the work, and did he receive a cost reduction?

Perez said he paid the market price for the housework done by Carlos Costa in the amount of $20,000 a year and a half earlier. There was no contract involved; the work was done by verbal agreement. Sullivan asked for a copy of Perez’s cancelled check. Perez said he would be happy to furnish a copy of the check. There was no check. Payment on the work – minus a 50% discount, according to the contractor -- was made a year and a half after the work had been completed.

After this stressful meeting, Perez suddenly felt the need of a lawyer and betook himself to Huber Santos, who requested and was permitted a meeting with Perez’s prosecutor, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane.

Santos corrected the record, telling Kane that the mayor had earlier “misspoke.” In fact, he had not paid the bill. However, an invoice existed, and the mayor would be paying the bill shortly. According to Santos, he told Kane that Perez “misspoke” because John Rose, the city’s lawyer, was present at the meeting and Rose was unaware of the home renovation work.

Following the second day of the Perez corruption trial, a Hartford paper summarized these events under a blaring first page caption -- “PEREZ OFFERS REASON HE LIED.” It was a pull no punches title, forthright and unsubtle, that quickly brushed aside any notion of misspeaking.

Below three paragraphs of the front page story, the paper printed a useful index of single line teasers under the title – “CAUGHT ON TAPE.”

Hope springing eternal, one may hope in the near future to read in a Connecticut paper some such caption as this – “BLUMENTHAL OFFERS REASON HE LIED.

Before Blumenthal had been chosen by acclamation at the Democratic Party’s nominating convention for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat, the attorney general had been exposed to an unremitting barrage of criticism from all quarters by people, not all of then reliable Democrats, who did not hesitate to use the “L” word in connection with Blumenthal’s serpentine evasions concerning his non-service in Vietnam.

The joke most often told by Blumenthal’s Republican opponents following a press conference in the course of which Blumenthal claimed to have misspoken was that Hanoi Jane Fonda had spent more time in Vietnam than the attorney general, now the choice of his party as U.S. Senator.

At the convention, his harshest Democratic critic, Merrick Alpert, was rolled over by reality and endorsed Blumenthal’s nomination as inevitable, after which he disappeared into the political woodwork. But before the convention, the “L” word was almost as ubiquitous in print as the attorney general himself, possibly the most often quoted Connecticut politician in the last twenty years.

The forbidding Chris Mathews, host of “Hardball” and certainly not a reflexive Republican kept pet, called Blumenthal a liar several times in two separate broadcasts. Democratic operative Paul Begala nuzzled up to the word in one interview and was dismayed by the attorney general’s inability to offer an honest apology to Vietnam vets Blumenthal dishonored by flitching their glory. Having attacked the initial New York Times story probing Blumenthal’s misspeakings, Colin McEnroe, a leftist columnist for the Hartford Courant and the host of his own program on Connecticut Public Broadcasting appeared, in a subsequent posting on his blog site “To Wit,” to slip-slide away from the possibility that Blumenthal was not lying about his non-service in Vietnam; this after the Hearst newspapers in Connecticut, scouring their archives, produced other fatal Blumenthal quotes falsely proclaiming that he had served in Vietnam.

Blumenthal has not fully and frankly apologized for his LIES. His method when faced with searing public criticism, both as attorney general and now as the nominee of his party of the U.S. Congress, has been to hunker down and wait for the war to pass over his placid head, barely denting his halo.

After Blumenthal’s coronation, his supporters were regaled by the Tom Petty song “I won’t back down:”

“Well, I won’t back down. No, I won’t back down
You could stand me up at the Gates of Hell
And I won’t back down.”

The convention itself seemed to be unaware that the song, in the Johnny Cash version below, is a tribute to men who have seen action in battle, an unexpectedly ironic commentary on Blumenthal’s several LIES.




With the indispensable righteous wind of Connecticut politics at his back, an adulatory media, Blumenthal may not have to worry overmuch about the kind of headlines bearing the “L” word that are rasping Perez, who will quietly – very quietly, one may be sure – support Blumenthal’s candidacy. Ned Lamont, who wants to govern both the state and its national guard, is already on board.
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