Sunday, July 04, 2010

Will Foley Survive Rennie?

The skinny on Republican Party nominee for governor Tom Foley – he was arrested twice more than 20 years ago, charges having been dropped – probably will end in the usual piffle.

The first arrest was for a fender-bender. The driver of the car Foley bumped had an argument with the householder who was throwing a party, and when Foley bumped him, he supposed Foley had done so at the behest of the householder. The charges were dropped.

In the second instance, Foley got into an argument with his wife when their divorce was in process. The divorce was non-amicable. The argument centered on their son, a ping pong ball in the litigation. Foley’s wife was under a court order to tell Foley where she was taking their son when he was in her custody. She refused to do this; he blocked her car in a driveway, then relented and let her go; and he followed her up the street, remonstrating with her along the way. Both Foleys were arrested. The charges were dropped.

A scurrilous charge having been made by Republican primary opponent Oz Griebel that Foley was an abusive husband, the media battered Foley released a letter from his ex-wife that said he had never abused her.

The arrest charges gave birth to exhaustively detailed stories in the Hartford Courant by top investigative reporter Jon Lender, followed by an editorial praising Foley for his response to the story. It seems that every last drop has been rung from this lemon, though Kevin Rennie, a columnist for the paper, is still manfully squeezing the pulp.

Rennie says the two incidents show that Foley has a temper. It is more than possible that Foley’s temper, certainly no more tempestuous than that of ex.-President Bill Clinton, has been tempered after 20 years. Divorce certainly does not bring out the best in people. Struggles over status, particularly when the contest involves the welfare of a child, usually are messy.

And a temper shown in so few cases should not in itself be considered a bar to public office. There was a point, during World War II, when Winston Churchill lost his temper with Hitler, while others were holding out to him the allure of sweet reason. We don’t want placid dummies to lead us through perilous times. Soft-tempered as he was, even malice-towards-none Abe Lincoln got fed up with his laggard generals, especially General George McClellan, whose unreasonable demands would be enough to make a saint explode in righteous wrath.

McClellan failed to maintain Lincoln’s trust and was aggressively insubordinate. The Lincoln-McClellan divorce, when it came, was bitter. McClellan left the battle field and ran against Lincoln for president on the Democratic ticket on a platform of appeasement. Lincoln won because, at long last, he had found a business like warrior in General Grant, whose temper was tempered by gallons of hooch. When Grant won an important battle just before the election, Lincoln was in. And later, when rumors concerning Grant’s tippling were brought to Lincoln, he said he would be glad to know what whiskey he was drinking so that he could send a few barrels to his other generals.

In today’s media environment, it would be unlikely that either Grant or Lincoln would have made it to the White House. One liked whiskey, and the other was a yarn spinning state representative operating in a corrupt political environment in Illinois who had no executive experience before he became president -- like President Barrack Obama.
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