Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nader Hearts Curry, Harpoons Dodd, Lieberman

A bit like the batty uncle in the attic with a shotgun, Ralph Nader is unsafe in any conversation.

No politician in Connecticut has been Naderish enough for the consumer protection scold; not Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose liberal rating in the congress has been respectable, and not Sen. Chris Dodd, the author of the small business-crippling Dodd-Frank bill. That bill may not impede Big Business, which has time and lawyers enough to cut deals with obliging senators. From the point of view of companies too large to fail, one of the purposes of Byzantine legislation – the Dodd-Frank Bill is a prolix 2,319 pages long -- is to squeeze out smaller competition though costly regulation while at the same time allowing preferments from legislators whose campaigns are financed by Big Business lobbyists.

Nader, naturally, was happy to see the end of Mr. Lieberman’s career in the senate, nor did he cry crocodile tears when Mr. Dodd threw in the towel.

“He couldn't leave the Senate fast enough as far as I'm concerned,” Mr. Nader said of Lieberman. “He's not only driving Democrats nuts down here, but he's become a right-wing extremist on everything except the environment and gay rights.'' Mr. Lieberman’s exit from public life is not the end of an era, Mr. Nader told Courant reporter Chris Keating. “It’s the end of a nightmare.”

Mr. Nader wants Bill Curry, who ran for governor but lost to John Rowland in 2002, to run for Mr. Lieberman’s vacant congressional seat in 2012.

Nader on Curry: “I've got a favorite in the race: Bill Curry. He was six months too early on Rowland when he ran against him. He's got enormously good insight. He's a strong political talent. He's enormously knowledgeable on a lot of subjects.''

Unlike Mr. Curry, “who’s been through it all,” U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, a lightweight, is “not seasoned enough,” said Mr. Nader.

In a 2002 letter addressed to both Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Dodd that Mr. Nader shared at the time with the Hartford Courant, Mr. Nader claimed that neither senator helped to raise money for the chronically under funded Curry campaign.

“For years,” Mr. Nader charged in his letter to the two senators, “you have had a publicly unspoken arrangement with John Rowland to avoid competition. The Republicans put up nominal candidates against each of you, and you lay off criticizing the incumbent governor or having a strong challenger to him.”

On the day Mr. Nader released his letter, Mr. Keating reported on his blog, “Curry and Lieberman stood together outside a Newington diner, saying they had been friends since they sat next to each other in the state Senate nearly 25 years ago. When Lieberman was asked whether he had not helped Curry's campaign enough, Curry interrupted, and said, ‘I reject it. Joe Lieberman is my friend. I am grateful, and I know what he has been doing.’”

Most lawyers would consider such avowals coming from a party alleged to have been injured by Mr. Lieberman exculpatory.

Mr. Nader still charges that Mr. Dodd “didn’t lift a finger” to help his friend Mr. Curry in his race against Mr. Rowland.

Mr. Rowland defeated Mr. Curry by 12 percentage points, hardly a photo finish, in a campaign in which Mr. Rowland claimed to be a “moderate” Republican, an experienced governor dedicated to improving the state’s schools and an able negotiator who could work with the Democratic dominated legislature to “hold the line on spending.”

Whether Mr. Rowland has kept such pledges is a matter of ardent dispute. Connecticut’s schools have miserably failed urban children, and if Mr. Rowland’s negotiations with Democrats were successful in holding the line on spending, the state budget likely would not have more than doubled by the end of his final term, cut short by the year Mr. Rowland spent in jail for having conspired to steal honest service from citizens of the state. Whether Mr. Curry, had he prevailed against Mr. Rowland, would have so acted as governor to enforce the admirable pledges made by Mr. Rowland also is a matter of ardent dispute.

Mr. Nader, generally bored by massive spending, has not always been quick to notice the damage done by the legislative-industrial compact made possible by excessive federal regulation. And while Mr. Nader, whose hometown is Winsted, has been rich in complaints, he has not deigned to run for public office in his native state, because he could not do so without claiming responsibility for the solutions he has so often pressed upon others.

What the pope of the day said of Cardinal Richelieu upon his death may apply equally well to politicians and batty uncles in the attic: “If there is no God, the cardinal will have lived a good life; and if there is a God, he will have much to answer for.”
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