Thursday, August 28, 2014

Foley s Reticence

Some Malloy Democrats are convinced that Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley has his foot caught in a bear trap. On Mr. Malloy’s gun control bill, for instance, Mr. Foley has been deemed reticent on the question of adjustments to the bill that had criminalized the ownership by non-criminals of certain kinds of weapons that had been legal before its passage. Other Malloy Democrats have asserted as hotly that Mr. Foley is sadly side-stepping the bear trap because he has refused to say exactly what in the bill he would repeal or change.

At least one “national GOP strategist,” unnamed in a CTMirror report, thinks vagueness on some issues in a campaign may be a plus. Registered Republicans in Connecticut represent only 21 percent of the electorate. They are outnumbered by Democrats (37 percent) and Independents or unaffiliateds (42 percent). In order to reach beyond Republican precincts into unaffiliated territory, a Republican candidate must retain his base and soften its contours so as to appeal to the larger 42 percent.

“You have to be vague,” said the unnamed GOP strategist who, we are told, has studied Connecticut. “Otherwise, it’s over before it starts.” The unexamined buried axiom in that supposition is that unaffiliateds in Connecticut are either mostly liberal and must be placated by Republicans or they are mostly non-ideological and so may be offended by any politician clear minded enough to stake out a lucid conservative position on touchy issues.

The theory propounded by the unnamed  GOP strategist easily might have been adduced from Mr. Malloy's first run as governor. The vagueness held out during Mr. Malloy’s first campaign was an amorphous “shared sacrifice.” Although Mr. Malloy’ first budget very likely had been assembled in broad outline before he hit the hustings, no one could have deduced from Mr. Malloy’s vagaries on the campaign trail that he would, once in office, impose upon Connecticut citizens still reeling from the Weicker income tax the largest tax increase in Connecticut history.

Mr. Malloy was vague – probably because he did not wish his campaign to be over before it started. Similarly and for much the same reason, former Senator Lowell Weicker was vague when he gave Connecticut voters to understand during his run for governor that an income tax was not in consideration. Mr. Weicker said at the time that instituting an income tax during the then current recession would be “like pouring gas on a fire.” The arsonist who imposed on his state the second highest tax increase in its history then went on to appoint Bill Cibes, who had run for governor on an income tax platform, to head his Office of Policy Management.  Mr. Cibes’ income tax proposal was rejected by Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliateds by an embarrassingly large margin. But Mr. Cibes got his income tax in the end. The retired chancellor of the Connecticut State University System, after spending a good many years luxuriating in a position made for him by Mr. Weicker,  now serves on the board of CTMirror.

To judge from all the huffing and puffing on the Democratic side, Mr. Malloy’s gun bill will play an important part in his upcoming campaign – provided Mr. Foley can be lured into the bear trap.  So far, he has not obliged.

It is Mr. Malloy’s position on gun manufacturers in Connecticut that appears to be both demagogic and “extreme,” a devil word often used by progressive Democrats to vilify straw men in political campaigns. Throw enough mud at straw men and some of it may brush off on your political opponents.

Visiting CNN almost immediately after Connecticut’s final draft on gun restriction was rushed through the General Assembly without the benefit of a public hearing, Mr. Malloy said about HIS gun manufacturers in Connecticut, “What this [any objection to his hastily written gun bill] is about is the ability of the gun industry to sell as many guns to as many people as possible—even if they are deranged, even if they are mentally ill, even if they have a criminal background. They don’t care. They want to sell guns.”

Back at home in Connecticut, Joe Bartozzi – the Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the oldest family-owned and operated firearms manufacturer in America, O.F. Mossberg & Sons, located in North Haven, Connecticut – noticed the change in rhetorical temperature and dashed off a letter to Mr. Malloy:

“In a recent letter to us, you stated that you hoped our company would stay here in Connecticut and that we can have an open and honest dialogue’ over issues where we may disagree. Your letter went on to say that there is in Connecticut ‘an administration that has been consistently dedicated to supporting the kind of precision manufacturing that takes place at your company.’ I would submit that your recent public (emphasis original) comments about our industry are not at all consistent with your private (emphasis original) letter to us. With all due respect, your comments came across as insulting and slanderous to our employees and to our industry, and appear to be politically motivated as opposed to constructive or meaningful.”

Mr. Bartozzi pointed out to Mr. Malloy that his company had gone on the record, both in public hearings and in private consultations with legislators, to support real world solutions to mass murders in public schools. His company, Mr. Bartozzi wrote, supported measures to prevent access to firearms prohibited to criminals and other at-risk people, repairing and updating the National Instant Check System (NICS), making available to the NICS data base system relevant mental health records and restraining order status and enforcing current laws against the illegal possession of weapons. He reminded Mr. Malloy that his company had already distributed, free of charge, “over nine and a half million firearm locking devices to help gun owners keep their firearms securely stored and inaccessible to children or at risk individuals in their homes.”

The assurances in Mr. Malloy’s private correspondence with Bartozzi conflicted with his public ambition, which remains the same today as when, moments after offering Mr. Bartozzi a friendly olive branch, he publicly vilified HIS Connecticut gun manufacturers as occupying a spot on the social latter only a rung higher than that of drug dealers and slavers. The implication, rightly resented by Mr. Bartozzi, is that Connecticut gun manufacturers sell their products to the mentally deranged Adam Lanzas of the world for the same reason slavers sold Africans to plantation owners: they want to make money, and “they don’t care" about slain school children. Mr. Malloy, it goes without saying, has cornered the market on caring.

People less ambitious than Mr. Malloy normally would regard such fanciful and extreme rhetoric as overheated. And it is a great pity that people in the media consider such wild exaggerations as harmless entertainment. Who in his right mind would not prefer reticence to such desperate and  unbounded ambition?

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