Saturday, July 16, 2011

Connecticut’s Moderates, Weicker Surfaces

The idea behind the “Comeback America Initiative” (CAI) and “No Labels” (NL) is commendable. Social and political problems, to the extent they are not considerably worsened by partisan bickering, cannot rightly be characterized as Republican or Democratic, which may mean that men of good will can come together to settle seemingly intractable issues while leaving at home their partisan slings and arrows.

Such is the theory.

In the real world, politicians, in whose hands lay the fate of nations, are partisans, and solutions to problems are various. For instance, the Republican Party solution to debt control is to cut back on spending, while Democrats prefer to increase taxes. A “moderate” solution to debt build-up would seem to involve a bit of both. This calculus works fine so long as the solution admits of compromise. The wise King Solomon reminds us that in the matter of splitting babies in half, all compromise solutions would be both immoderate and murderous.

At the Hartford Club on July 15, a group of politicians, mostly Democrats and one Republican, were invited by CAI and NL to share a dais and discuss various federal and state issues. It may be a measure of the success of the No Labels group that the Democrats present did not boil in oil and cannibalize the sole Republican office holder present, former U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson. Former U.S. Rep Barbara Kennelly, gently disagreed with Mrs. Johnson on several points, but there were no fisticuffs.

The real secret to bipartisanship among politicians is to retreat when under fire into meaningless jabber, while affecting moderation.

U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, former U.S. Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker’s bete noir, was selected as the principal speaker during the first half of the proceedings devoted to national issues, after which Mr. Lieberman took his leave. There were problems to be settled in Washington. Before Mr. Lieberman became an independent in the congress, he was a reliable Democratic partisan vote.

The invited audience then dined briefly, after which the second part of the festivities commenced, a discussion of state issues featuring, among others, the combustible Mr. Weicker. Perhaps some in the audience familiar with the decidedly immoderate history of the two U.S. congressmen -- Mr. Weicker has nursed a long simmering grudge against Mr. Lieberman after having lost his senate seat to him years earlier -- may have been disappointed that CAI-NL had not brought the two together at the same time, so the spectators might witness a refreshing pummeling or perhaps a robust mud wrestling fight.

But it was not to be. Mr. Lieberman, who followed in Mr. Weicker’s footsteps when he became an Independent, no doubt wanted to get back to Washington post haste to strangle the partisan hydra threatening sensible solutions to a budget debt of some $14 trillion. The debt and pension liability of the United States, federal, state and municipal, is much larger, some placing it somewhere in the vicinity of $80-$140 trillion. During the panel discussion in which Mr. Weicker participated, some technological imp left showing on a screen slightly out of view of the panel a graph used in the previous discussion illustrating states with the most crippling tax burden, Connecticut rating 50th, dead last in the roll of states.

Mr. Weicker said that the Republican Party in Connecticut is a non-entity, which is true enough. Mr. Weicker said that, for the time being, he supported Governor Dannel Malloy. He encouraged others to do so as well, though Mr. Weicker declined to say which Mr. Malloy – the architect of Plan A, scuttled by unions, or the architect of the non-union friendly Plan B – he would choose to support.

The father of Connecticut’s state income tax also declined, for obvious reasons, to criticize a governor who had just instituted the largest tax increase in state history which, along with Mr. Weicker’s income tax contribution, is largely responsible for Connecticut’s placement on the chart not five feet from him showing his state as the worst in the nation in the tax burden it places on its long suffering, jobless citizens.

Mr. Weicker’s problem is wearily the same, year after year, day after day, minute after minute: He is so far sunk in the past that he cannot see the future, not to mention the bloody present. And so, pulling a trick from a bag of tricks that had served him well when as a U.S. senator he was struggling, along with his pals Senators Chris Dodd and Edward Kennedy, both partisan Democrats, against the conservative administration of President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Weicker used the occasion to strike at an imaginary piñata. Should Connecticut voters turn towards conservative solutions to settle its dire economic problems – or, worse, turn to mythical conservative legislators – the state would be lost; the Republican Party would rumble to ruin.

And never mind that Mr. Weicker had said, numerous times, that his former party was a non-entity. And never mind that there has not been within Mr. Weicker’s living memory ONE conservative governor in Connecticut; that there are but two recently elected conservative legislators in the state senate; that the General Assembly has been top heavy with liberals during Mr. Weicker’s tenure in the U.S senate and during his time as governor and that all moderate Republican U.S. Reps. were voted out of office everywhere in New England before the Tea Party, also a non entity in Connecticut, began huffing and puffing.

THEREFORE, it is reasonable to conclude that whatever problems Connecticut is suffering from, these agonizing problems cannot be attributed to in-state conservative non-actors. They can only be attributed to moderate Republicans who for the past three decades have worked hand in glove with liberal Democrats, Mr. Weicker among them.

That is the plain truth of the matter. But Mr. Weicker would rather put the truth in mothballs than own the problems for which he, Democratic liberals and Republican moderates alone are responsible.

Not a few in Connecticut would rather put Mr. Weicker in mothballs and get on with the business of cutting spending.
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