Friday, November 11, 2005

Rowland and His Enemies

Two appointments made by Governor Jodi Rell recently have come under criticism. Rell has chosen Ross Garber, formerly John Rowland’s attorney during his impeachment hearing, as a legal advisor and George Gallo as state chairman. Gallo managed Rowland’s 2002 campaign and was the executive director of the state GOP for a little more than nine years.

Ross Garber has been disqualified by his critics because he committed the unpardonable sin of defending his client to the best of his ability. But no one, not even highly sensitive political commentators, has accused Garber of accepting hot tubs from pay-to-play state contractors. And, despite objections from the authoritative New York Times, there is no reason why Garber should not be advising the Rell campaignon legal issues, especially since Democrats and others are even now making attempts to cast aspersions on Rell’s reputation through her presumed association with former Governor John Rowland.

Rell was Rowland’s Lieutenant Governor, during which time she no doubt busied herself crocheting, presiding over the senate and waiting patiently for the governor to die or to be carried off to jail by ambitious federal prosecutors so that, next in line in accession, she might become governor.

Lieutenant Governor Kevin Sullivan, who ascended to his present position after Rell assumed the job he would have preferred, has a more than notional understanding of sometimes wearisome duties of the office. The acerbic former President Pro Tem of the senate has complained more than once that he had not been invited to important meetings involving the governor and legislative leaders. It is a safe bet that when William Tomasso’s employees installed a hot tub at Rowland’s lake estate, the packing slip did not pass through Lieutenant Governor Jodi Rell’s office.

Even this early in the gubernatorial campaign, it is being said on radio talk shows by the underlings of leading Democratic legislators that Rell’s nose must have been very insensitive not to catch a whiff of the corruption pervading the Rowland administration. These charges are made by people who are reasoning backwards from what they now know to be true to what they could not have known with certainty before Rowland accepted a plea deal offered by federal prosecutors.

Meanwhile, super sleuths in the media have got into the nasty habit of throwing mud at everyone associated with Rowland, a tactic found useful by “Tail gunner” Joe McCarthy, until the mudslinger’s career was brought to a screeching halt by Boston lawyer Joseph Welch, who said, after McCarthy had defiled yet another blameless victim, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?” The lad to whom Welch was referring was one of his assistants.

Garber, it should be noted, was not at the switches during Rowland’s administration, and it was Rowland himself who terminated the impeachment process by resigning his office, no doubt with the concurrence of his lawyer. The resignation aborted an impeachment hearing that was widely understood at the time as a ploy used successfully to pry Rowland from office. But does anyone, including Rowland’s most ruthless critics, doubt that the entire legislature breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement?

The aborted impeachment shut down a possibility, by no means remote, that chilled the blood of politicians who had in the past conducted business with lobbyists and state contractor who favored them with campaign contributions and amenities. Might not an impeachment get out of hand and flatten them all like pancakes? The same fear hovered like a goblin over the possibility of a trial.

The aborted trial that denied the public an honest and public accounting of Rowland’s participation in a corrupt administration was initiated by prosecutors who might have gone to trial had they not preferred to terminate what should have been an instructive public proceeding by arranging a plea deal with the ex-governor. None of Rowland critics, some of whom now throb with indignation that the truth about corruption in the state has been buried in negotiated settlements, have demanded that such plea bargains should never be permitted in the prosecution of elected officials.

Public men and woman should be given their day in court before the public they are sworn to serve. And if prosecutors cannot obtain convictions other than through extraordinary means, so be it. The certainty of a public trial or impeachment will keep both deal making prosecutors and politicians honest and upright.

That is the only way of outing the truth, and it is only because the truth still lies in chains that the new McCarthyites may be as successful as the old McCarthyites in slinging mud, some of which may stick to but not stain the reputations of honest and upright men and women.

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