Monday, November 29, 2010

The Moody-Bannon

With the departure of the Jodi Rell administration – all good things must end – Lisa Moody, a punching bag for people who did not want, for whatever reason, to punch Mrs. Rell, will also leave the stage, to be replaced by Tim Bannon, Gov. Elect-Dan Malloy’s Chief of Staff.

Mr. Bannon, among other accomplishments, is the very first gubernatorial chief of staff in Connecticut to have appeared as a character in a comic strip. T.F. Bannon, of the firm Torts, Tarts & Torque, an early character in Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury,” was patterned after Mr. Bannon, a school chum of Trudeau’s when the two were terrorizing Yale together, Mr Bannon as chairman and Mr. Trudeau as Editor in Chief of the Yale Record, America's oldest humor magazine.

The use of a major domo to deflect criticism from the chief is considerably older than the friendship between Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trudeau, who likely will not reinsert Mr. Bannon into his strip any time soon.

Though she was perfectly capable of thinking for herself, Queen Victoria had Disraeli to serve as a buffer protecting the Queen from the slings and arrows deployed against her administration from Fleet Street. George Bush’s straw man was Vice President Dick Cheney, said to be his brain mostly because the president, like Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Bannon a graduate of Yale, was thought to have none. That is how Mr. Bush, wandering through Mr. Trudeau’s panels as an empty-headed Roman warrior’s helmet, was depicted in Mr. Trudeau’s strip. One looks in vain to Mr. Trudeau’s for a similar comic treatment of President Barack Obama, whose vices do not include the bogeyman of Yale graduates -- stupidity.

It is obvious that Mr. Trudeau likes Mr. Bannon, whom he describes as “brilliant, competent and integrity itself.” Affection is a wet blanket that stifles the burning embers of comedy. Most political cartoonists are unapologetically fierce. What is the point of having absolute power if you are not willing to abuse it, a famous caricaturist once asked?

No, given Mr. Trudeau’s obvious tilt to the left, it will not do to poke fun at the Malloy regime, which promises to be, on the state level, a repeat in a minor key of the national script rolling out of Mr. Obama’s administration: Get the economy moving again with large-scale capital spending projects; turn the millionaires, hereafter defined as anyone making more than $250,000 per annum, upside down and shake the money from their pockets into the state treasury; spend more money on education -- there can never be too many failing urban public schools; phone Washington and beg for handouts; phone businesses elsewhere in the nation and try to sell them on a state that has a crushing debt, two fiscal years out, of upwards of $6 billion; and prepare to mount a sturdy defense of the Malloy administration by riffing on the theme – it was my predecessors fault; I’m just trying to administer the mess left me by Rell-Moody.

To some extent, Ms. Moody played the same straw man part for Mrs. Rell, a governor who, as a creature of the legislature, was for that reason too willing to arrange collapsing compromises with Democratic leaders fixated on spending tax money lavishly and swelling the ranks of their union supporters.

The lamb that has survived the slaughter is bound to have a cousinly regard for the lamb led to the slaughter. "I think he's one of the smartest people I've ever met,'' Moody said of Bannon.” He's a man of uncommon intellect. He has very high integrity, is very much a hard worker, and he will thrive as chief of staff. He's going to learn to become a juggler, a confidant, a task-master on occasion, a buffer, and a constant multi-tasker.''

At this point, the skies are empty and blue. But major unaddressed problems do not disappear when administrations change. If Mr. Malloy is serious about cutting spending, as his campaign rhetoric indicated, his struggle in office will be similar to that of Rell-Moody, and there is every reason to believe that Mr. Malloy, whose cranial matter appears to be in good order, will sometimes stumble, possibly over the feet of Speaker of the House Chris Dovovan.

No administration is entirely transparent or fault free. When the pratfalls occur, Mr. Bannon, taskmaster and buffer, will be on hand to upright his boss and even, should the occasion warrant, take a media bullet for him. It will be very interesting to see at that point whether Connecticut's left of center media will applaud him for his self sacrificial bravery.
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