Roy Occhiogrosso, now back in the fold as a top adviser to Governor Dannel Malloy, has taken a bullet for the boss.
Mr. Occhiogrosso was plucked from Global Strategy Group (GSG) to work as a flack catcher during Mr. Malloy’s first term, left the administration after a few years and returned to his roost, was rewarded for his tireless work in the Malloy vineyards with a Managing Director’s post at the Hartford office of GSG, and now is making his second official tour as a Malloy “top adviser,” according to a Connecticut Post story.
Way back in the day when Mr. Malloy seemed to be anxious to reform public school education in the state, most especially in Connecticut’s consistently failing urban schools, Mr. Malloy turned upon teachers resisting his reforms. The newly ensconced governor told the General Assembly on the opening day of their session that “… to earn that tenure -- that job security -- in today's system basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours."
This intemperate remark, a prelude to Mr. Malloy’s pedagogical reforms, opened wide a breech between Mr. Malloy, whose relationship with unions in his state remains tight as a drum, and teachers nervous about holding onto their jobs. Indeed, everyone in Connecticut is nervous about holding onto their jobs. While the rest of the nation has turned the page on Great Recession about five years ago, Connecticut has recovered only about half the jobs lost during the doleful Obama years. Job production has remained flat in Connecticut ever since maverick Governor Lowell Weicker, the father of the second highest tax increase in state history, forced an income tax through a mildly resistant Democratic dominated General Assembly. The honor of imposing upon the state the highest tax increase in its history belongs to Mr. Malloy.
Teacher tenure is, of course, the third rail of Democratic politics in Connecticut. Jon Pelto noticed the breech and opened a campaign against Mr. Malloy. For months on his own blog site, “Wait, What,” Mr. Pelto dragged Mr. Malloy’s limp body around the walls of every union hall in the state. It was a bumpy ride for Mr. Malloy. In the course of time, Mr. Pelto withdrew from the race. And now Mr. Occhiogrosso once again has appeared on the campaign trail playing Tonto to Mr. Malloy’s Lone Ranger.
Faithful Tonto takes the bullet. Here is Mr. Occhiogrosso’s confession: "It was totally my fault. I think about it all the time… If we erred on the side of being too aggressive or too neutral, well, the results bear that out. To the extent that people want to blame me for that, it's fine. You have to have a thick skin in this business."
Yes, a think skin and a testa dura. The Post reports, “Occhiogrosso said recently, it was he who inserted the ‘tenure’ remark that was so insulting to some state teachers that it practically cost Malloy the endorsement of the state's largest teachers union.” We are invited to believe that Mr. Malloy, an overachiever quite capable of counting the feathers of every Democratic bird in the legislature, did not notice the remark smuggled into his first and most important address to the General Assembly. Is there any reporter in the whole state of Connecticut credulous enough to believe this?
And if Mr. Occhiogrosso has admitted to the disastrous error, why has the governor hired him once again to direct his campaign propaganda unit? The gubernatorial campaign in Connecticut will conclude on the first Tuesday in November – plenty of time to fire Mr. Occhiogrosso for gross incompetence.
The Malloy make-over is underway, and Mr. Occhiogrosso has come prepared with pots of rhetorical rouge. The Post tells us, “Malloy, speaking with reporters Thursday after a fiery debate with challenger Foley, acknowledged he is sometimes aggressive.
"’I have had to overcome some challenges and maybe that gives rise to a prickly personality, I don't know,’ Malloy said. ‘But I do know that every single day I do the best I can. The state is moving forward.’"
Rivers move forward, the sun appears to move forward across the sky, time in its relentless pursuit of eternity moves forward, my foot moves forward into my sock in the morning – everything in due course “moves forward.” There is no other direction to move in, the past being a door bolted against intrusion. The decisive question is this: Has the forward movement under Mr. Malloy brought progress – he is, after all, a progressive – or not? Does the Malloy makeover present us with a true picture of his real character? Is the chief executive of Connecticut Dannel the prosecutorial monomaniac, or Dan, everyman’s placid and kindly next door neighbor?