Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Grumpi Interviews, November 9, 2014

Girolamo Grumpi, obviously not his real name, is a retired journalist who lives north of Hartford and who wishes to remain anonymous -- November 9, 2014

Q: By Sunday November 9, most journalist morticians in Connecticut and others had turned in their reports. Among them was Lowell Weicker, who left the Republican Party to run as an Independent for Governor in 1990.

GG: The Weicker response to the current elections was a reprise of a column written by him and printed in the (Hartford) Courant last May. Even then, there were serious problems with the Weicker analysis. Weicker argued that the Republican Party has declined since he left it to run as governor. A careful historian may want to pause here to note that Weicker did not leave the parry of his own accord when he lost his seat to then Connecticut Attorney General Joe Lieberman. He was not able to garner a sufficient number of votes to win re-election, possibly because the Republican Party in his own state had grown tired of his destructive hectoring. He is hectoring still; his analysis, as applied to the National Republican Party is all wet.

The decline of the Republican Party nationally, Weicker wrote in May,“for many, and for me personally, started with the hijacking of the party by Ronald Reagan conservatives in 1980 and has continued unabated up to now with a political battlefield strewn with Republican bodies at every level of government.”

Well now, it may be true that the Republican Party has declined in Connecticut, but you would have some difficulty supporting the notion that IN THE CURRENT ELECTION The National Republican Party is in decline. Even the New York Times, hardly a Reaganite paper, has noted the recent precipitous decline of the progressive Democratic Party. In Connecticut and in most of the Northeast, state parties did not succumb to the allure of the Reaganite political narrative that Weicker considers toxic, which is why Barry Goldwater said “If you lop-off New England and California, you’ve got a pretty good country. Weicker appears to like Goldwater for some inexplicable reason. Yet, Goldwater, the subject of “The Conscience of a Conservative,” was, unsurprisingly, a conservative.

In his May column, Weicker wrote, “It's not just liberal Republicans who have been tossed overboard but even moderates and Goldwater conservatives. Nationally, Republicans have come to understand the poison that is the tea party, but it will take a long time to re-establish a balance that relates to America.” What? The Reaganites have tossed overboard not just liberal Republicans – read: Weicker – but even “Goldwater conservatives?”

Come again? “The Conscience of a Conservative” was ghostwritten in large part by Brent Bozell, and Bill Buckley added his two cents to it. Buckley also energetically supported both the unsuccessful presidential run of Goldwater and the successful presidential run of Ronald Reagan, who mentioned Weicker but once in his diaries: Reagan said that Weicker was “a no good fathead.” Connecticut Republicans appeared to agree with that assessment when they tossed him out of the Senate and the state party nearly 24 years before Weicker wrote in the Courant:

“Now, the reader might think that I have enjoyed watching this unfolding travesty as it was the same ultra-right that engineered my downfall. Not so. I made the choice of becoming independent rather than climbing into any more Republican foxholes. Life is tough enough contesting Democrats.

“Then, after 1994, I chose to retire and remain semi-quiet on the sidelines. But today, as a citizen of Connecticut and for 38 years a Republican, I feel constrained to speak out before the election cycle begins. My purpose is not to endorse any candidates but to awaken the Republican constituency to the fact that your irrelevancy is killing all of us.”

In Weicker’s weepy May apologia, everything is wonderfully and purposefully confused. Weicker seriously believes that the Republican Party IN CONNECTICUT took a turn for the worst and became conservative after the party booted him out, which is absolute nonsense. He cannot and has not named a single Reagan conservative who has won high office in Connecticut since 1962, when he served in the state House of Representatives. There are none. Since Weicker “left” his state party, the two Republicans who held the governorship, John Rowland and Jodi Rell, governed as moderate Republicans. All the Republicans who had been members in Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional delegation were moderate Republicans. We now have a progressive governor, a progressive General Assembly, and all the constitutional officers in Connecticut are progressive. It is as plain as the nose on Speaker of the State House Martin Looney’s face that progressives in Connecticut had dished moderate Republicans. In the post Weicker years, Connecticut moderates have lost, progressives have won. Nationally, in the current off year election, conservatives won, progressives lost. This is the hard truth that Weicker and those in Connecticut’s media who approve his analysis cannot bear to acknowledge. Once acknowledged, the false narrative crumbles like brittle lace.

In his most recent retort, Weicker answers the question posed by the Courant “Why Tom Foley Lost?”

Insanity, Weicker writes, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The Connecticut Republican Party is clearly insane because:

“The ‘same thing” in your case is losing elections by trying to duplicate the GOP of the Reagan years. Moderate Republicanism was successful until William F. Buckley and the tea party conservatives staged their Trojan horse (sic) coup. It’s time to broaden the tent by changing party rules permitting unaffiliated voters to vote in Republican primaries. Republicans had that rule once, sanctioned by the Supreme Court, only to have conservatives toss it and attain greater exclusivity resulting in greater vulnerability.”

This is not the first time Weicker has suggested opening his party to non-Republicans. One wonders in what sense inviting non-Republicans to vote in Republican nominating conventions and primaries is NOT a Trojan Horse cleverly introduced by the opposition into a walled fortress with a view to destroying the Republican Party?

Q: It’s probably a safe bet that Weicker, at his point, has little influence over the state Republican Party.

GG: Weicker has in the past referred to himself accurately as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl.” The Republicans who defected to (Democrat Joe) Lieberman in the 1988 election were not Tea Party Republicans. The Tea Party movement dates from the post-Ron Paul 2008 election, 20 years after Republicans and Moderate Democrats had booted Weicker out of the Senate. (Rick) Santelli’s rant against government facilitators of the mortgage crisis occurred in 2009. Connecticut Republicans just got tired of Weicker’s self-serving whips and scorns and finally cleaned their punchbowl.

Q: If an editorial were a vote, might it not be said that the Courant and many other papers in Connecticut “voted” the straight Democratic Party line?

GG: Yes indeed. The papers in Connecticut seem comfortable with the state’s current political cast of characters, mostly progressive Democrats. It should be noted that the Democrat Party in Connecticut has moved very far left since the days of (Ella) Grasso and (Bill) O’Neill, the last Democratic governor before (Dannel) Malloy. Weicker refrains from mentioning the opposition to the income tax of the two Democratic governors who preceded him. The income tax was first introduced by (Governor Tom) Meskill, the Republican governor who preceded Grasso in office. That measure, which passed the legislature, was quickly repealed. It was Weicker’s obduracy – he vetoed six non-income tax budgets – that pushed finally through the income tax and made Meskill dance an approving gig in his grave. Meskill aide (Tom) D’Amore later became Weicker’s chief aide, both as Senator and Governor, and it was D’Amore who first proposed to the Connecticut’s Republican State Central Committee that party rules should be changed to allow unaffiliateds to vote in both nominating conventions and Republican primaries – a change in procedure that could only benefit the turd in the punchbowl. The Central Committee politely declined to commit suicide. The Courant has nodded yes to Weicker during his entire career. They’ve been nodding yes to progressive measures – the income tax, the abolition of the death penalty, Malloy’s crony capitalism schemes – ever since Weicker first mounted the political stage. So, what Albert Camus said of writers is true of political writers as well: Every word they write is a commitment. The best that can be said of the Courant is that its editorial writers have been faithful to their commitments.

Q: You’ve said that endorsements are not decisive.

A: They could be important in close races. The Courant’s endorsement of (Elizabeth) Esty in the 5th District the first time she ran for office might have turned the trick for her, and that endorsement was shameless.

Q: Why?

A: Because if we accept the Courant’s criteria for endorsements, the paper should have endorsed (Republican) Andrew Roraback.

Q: What are the paper’s editorial endorsement criteria?

A: The most important appears to be experience. And in this regard, Roraback ran rings around Esty. She had minimal political experience; she was, however, the wife of Dan Esty, Malloy’s environmental commissar. Roraback, still a young man when he ran against Esty, was for four years a state Representative. He served five terms in the state senate, never during his entire tenure having missed a vote in the General Assembly, the only person who could make such a claim. Moveover, Roraback was, from the Courant’s point of view, the perfect Republican, social liberal and fiscally conservative. Roraback's cousin, Catherine Roraback, successfully prosecuted the Griswold v. Connecticu case that legalized contraceptives throughout the United States; it was a precursor to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion.  A few months ago (July 2014), Catherine’s old law office in North Canaan was reopened as a historical research center in honor of her memory. Experience is not the only criteria. Roraback met all the paper’s criteria. And coming off an FBI sting operation in the course of which a number of Chris Donovan’s staff were packed off to prison on charges of political corruption, it would have been a moral statement on the part of the paper had it thrown its weight, such as it was, behind the Republican running in the 5th. (Former speaker of the State House of Representatives Chris Donovan was the preferred candidate of progressive Democrats in the state before the FBI sting operation).

Q: That never happened.

A: No. Ideological considerations and perhaps political inertia overcame the tug of moral considerations.

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