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Is the Republican Party Worth Saving?

Is the Republican Party in Connecticut worth saving?

The short answer is “No.” The long answer is, I’m afraid, longer.

The Republican rot begins, as may be expected, with former senator and governor Lowell Weicker. When Weicker was senator for several terms and full of the puss of hubris, he sighed in the presence of a Hartford Courant reporter, “The Republican Party in this state is so small; someone should take it over.” So Weicker did, and the Courant, of course, obliged him.

Weicker considered himself a Republican in the mode of Jacob Javits of New York – a moderate, anti-conservative with a lively social conscience. Weicker appointed his handmaiden, Tom D’Amore, as chairman of the party, and together they proceeded to reform and destroy it.

What we see now in the age of Jodi Rell -- more popular, apparently, than salt -- is an empty husk of a party, paralyzed and useless. I am not speaking hyperbolically: Except as a reflex action to the preposterous and ruinous agenda of the Democrat Party, The Republican Party has all but disappeared. The most powerful politician in the state just now is not Jodi Rell but Jim Amann, the Speaker of the state House of Representatives.

John Rowland, before he was crippled by his own stupidity and an energized liberal media, used to think of himself as a breakwater to Democrat excesses. But Rowland shucked off his conservative ideology very early on and became, for all practical purposes, yet another in a long line of moderate Republican governors. The threat of a veto, he liked to think, kept Democrat spending in line; but this was largely self delusion. Within the space of two governors – Weicker, a Republican turned Independent, and Rowland – spending in the state doubled. The Democrats were playing Rowland, and Rowland was playing pretty much everyone else.

The charades came to an end when the Journal Inquirer smelled something rotten in Denmark, and the chase was on. It was great fun, and only Rowland and his immediate confederates were discomforted: An impeachment proceeding that might have examined corruption in Connecticut in other administrations was cut short when Rowland bit the bullet and went to jail on a single charge that earned him a year in the pokey. The rot had been contained, thank you very much.

Jodi Rell, Rowland’s successor, has no veto power. The Democrats this year captured enough seats in the legislature to override gubernatorial vetoes. Rell’s real political power is comparable to that of the Queen of England. After years of moderation and bi-partisanship, the Republican Party in Connecticut has been reduced to this – a figurehead. That Republican Party – a party that is permitted to exist only at the sufferance of Democrats and liberals in the media -- is not worth saving. Who needs it?

It is important to understand that conservatives in Connecticut have played no part in the destruction of the Republican Party – none. The real opposition to Democrat programs, such as it is, has come from frustrated conservatives, who have been vigorously opposed by the Democrat majority, Republican moderates and abettors of the one party state in Connecticut’s truckling media.

So, we have a one party state. How do we fix this?

There are different prescriptions. Kevin Rennie, a Hartford Courant columnist, lawyer and former moderate Republican state lawmaker, suggests that the successful strategies of Maine senator Olympia Snowe be replicated throughout New England. Rennie describes Snowe as “the very model of a moderate modern Republican,” wildly popular in Maine. He suggests a New England summit of Republicans in Boston, “the birthplace of rebellion,” where the party can develop successful winning strategies and bring itself back from the dead.

But Connecticut has already been there, done that. Snowe is not more popular than Rell. The object in all this should be to elevate a party rather than a politician. And there has never been – in the whole history of the world – a revolution begun and sustained by moderates.

The heartiest revolutionist in Boston was Sam Adams. This is what Sam Adams said about the moderates of his day: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We seek not your counsel or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; may your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

That enlivening sentiment, the spark that lit a country on fire, cannot not sit well with moderate Republicans such as Snowe or Rennie, who would rather cooperate with the present system than overthrow it.


Anonymous said…
You are right on the money. But is anybody listening?
Anonymous said…
Rell does have some power, she still largely controls the Bond commision. She delayed the Bond Commision meeting several months until Oct., and then went around the state handing out pork. That's all she has, the ability to hand out pork, and when you have that power the Dems have to listen to you at least a little.
Don Pesci said…
Printed in New London Day
Anonymous said…
The only thing that's even close to correct in this pathetic excuse for your own failure is that Conservatives are not responsible. That is, true conservatives are not; the reactionary right wingnuts are responsible.

Those who supported the worst president in the history of the republic as he shredded the constitution are responsible; as he illegally deposed 2 legitimate governments, and failed at deposing his fourth when because they didn't like the US; he lied to congress about the reasons for starting a war; he enriched the coffers of his political contributors at the cost of American lives and taxpayer money; he illegally imprisoned foreigners (for blood money); he illegally imprisoned Americans; he illegally wiretapped Americans; he illegally searched Americans' bank records; and he refuses to recognize that their are limits to his (legal) powers.

When you idiots weren't busy defending this jerk, or slandering and threatening those who opposed him, you were hard at work trying to impose your religious beliefs on everyone; you were busy trying to fire teachers for teaching science and refusing to teach mythology in the classroom; you were busy trying to eliminate Habeas Corpus, Freedom of Speech, 4th and 5th Amendments rights, and prevent recounts of illegitimate election results.

If, as a true Conservative would, you tried defending Constitutional rights, reducing wasteful government spending, prosecuting public officials for war profiteering and violating the Constitution, then maybe, maybe you could have elected someone besides M. "Bugsy" Rell (who is criminally incompetent, if not criminal), Chris "The Conscience of None" Shays, and Joe "The Compleat Asshole" LIEberman.

You bastards wouldn't even stand up for your own candidate, even when he was the only guy brave enough to actually embrace your worthless ideals. You lost because you hitched your wagon to a loser. You lost because you have no other motivation than to marginalize and punish people who disagree with you. Most of all you lost because you're losers.

I wonder if you're such a loser that you'll "moderate this comment into oblivion? Let's see how you truly feel about the "Free Market."
Don Pesci said…
Okay Imajoebob, you got through this time; but since this is a blog for grown-up, we don't generally allow the potty-mouth stuff. So, watch it in the future. I'm not sure Bush had too much to do with Republican losses in STATE POLITICS, which is what this blog was about; but I'm intensely happy you got THAT bile out of your system. It must hurt.
Anonymous said…
Potty mouth? Run for the hills, Martha, the man used a naughty word! Seems you need to do a little growing up. And that's a carefully considered adjective to describe Lieberman. You can't find a better living example in CT politics (now that your buddy, the felon Rowland, is in retirement).

Perhaps you need to reread it. It's ALL about local politics. If you and the rest of your tired troupe of sham conservatives and pseudo-Republicans stood for principles other than winning at all costs you might not have followed the Fool. You might not have had to try and explain the (now) 3,000 dead Americans sacrificed on a Fool's errand. You might not have lost 2 Congressional seats. You might not have guaranteed a veto-proof Senate and General Assembly.

You've got no political sway in this state because you have no scruples. The most powerful right-winger is a lifelong Democrat (until the Dems told him they were tired of his kissing Bush's cheeks). The highest ranking Republican is an empty dress that makes Alfred E. Newman look like a hands-on manager. And you don't have a single big-time player waiting on the bench. You're the Florida Marlins of politics: you sacrificed everything to win it all, and it turns out you were a cobbled-together farce. So nobody wants to see you play anymore.

This ain't bile, it's reality. I won't be happy until that slug you helped overthrow our legitimate government (if you doubt that look at the quote from S.D. O'Connor at a DC cocktail party before the SCOTUS even heard the case) is out of office and in prison, where the true enemies of the Republic belong.

And you've got nobody to blame for the mess you're in but your morally bankrupt selves.
Don Pesci said…
“If you and the rest of your tired troupe of sham conservatives and pseudo-Republicans stood for principles other than winning at all costs you might not have followed the Fool (Bush).”

Good bumper sticker. But how do you explain the fact that the two Connecticut politicians most closely associated with the fool’s errand in Iraq, Shays and Lieberman, won re-election. The rest of them, including Rell, kept their distance.

“The highest ranking Republican is an empty dress that makes Alfred E. Newman look like a hands-on manager. And you don't have a single big-time player waiting on the bench.”

I’ve said that countless times in narly every posting in which I’ve mentioned Rell, including the one you are commenting on. But apparently you will not take “yes” for an answer.

“You can't find a better living example in CT politics (now that your buddy, the felon Rowland, is in retirement).”

Ya’know imjoebob, the Rowland thing is getting a little tiresome. I invite you to read what I actually wrote about him and his ordeal WHEN IT WAS HAPPENING. It’s all there on the blog site. Moveover I’ve said most of these things in columns that were printed at the time in numerous newspapers. You’ll be surprised. I wanted an impeachment; the Democrats didn’t. I wanted a trial; the Democrats didn’t. And I wanted hearings that would have explored similar felonious activities in other administrations, including those of Weicker, O’Neill and Grasso; the Democrats didn’t. Read before you leap and remember – you’ve got a friend in me.

Good luck to you. Try a little anger management; a great deal of what you say is true.
Anonymous said…
When your cabal's poster girl is Rowland's hand-picked successor, and she denies every even smelling something was ever wrong, then Rowland is still worth mentioning. He's the convicted felon you hitched your wagon to (until we find out what Bush has actually been doing), and you supported him every step as he drove you into the ditch. He's the last successful Republican in the state (unless you count Lieberman).

And don't give me that crap about digging up Rowland when you start to salivate whenever you get to mention Bill Clinton. You've aligned yourself with Republicans, and you have to live with that. And don't throw that BS about Weicker, O'Neill, and Grasso. That's just pathetic. I guess we can add intellectually bankrupt to go alongside morally.
Don Pesci said…
Ok Imajoebob,

This is what I said about Republicans Rowland and spending:

If “moving forward” means more of the same, Connecticut had better batten down the hatches. Moving forward from the Weicker years, state government has managed to triple the budget within the space of three governors: Weicker himself, a recovering Republican who fathered the income tax; John Rowland, a Republican who spent the money Weicker hauled in; and now Republican Governor Rell who -- as her predecessors have done to no purpose -- claims to be ready to do battle on taxes, bonding and the budget. Businesses considering moving into the state no doubt have noticed the old pledges of yesteryear, followed by carefree spending, and even Massachusetts – once derisively called Taxachussetts – appears to be more prudent than Connecticut.

This is what I said about Republicans and conservative ideas:

So long as Republican governors are forced by circumstances to gussy themselves up as Democrats in order to hang on to the office by their bloody fingernails, there will be no coattails – and no state Republican Party. The Republican Party in Connecticut has no agenda; it is committed to no coherent body of ideas; it has no warm adherents in the state’s overwhelmingly liberal media; it has no courage, no fortitude and no prospects for the future. But it has a governor, which is not enough to qualify it as a party; just ask Alan Schlesinger, whom liberals were hoping might draw just enough votes from Lieberman to make the ideologically charged Lamont the state’s new U.S. Senator.

This is what I said about Republicans and spending:

Republican governors, surrounded as they are by Democrats who are reflexive spenders, have in the past shown themselves to be “pragmatists,” an odd use of the word. In Connecticut, a pragmatist almost invariably is a Republican who under slight pressure yields up his principles after a token resistance. Lowell Weicker yielded to Democrats on the matter of the income tax, almost before the ink had dried on a budget that might have forced the legislature to reign in spending. The income tax doubled the budget’s bottom line within the space of two governors, as former Democrat Governor William O’Neil rolled his eyes in Hamden, while former Democrat Governor Ella Grasso turned in her grave. Both O’Neil and Grasso were pinch-penny governors.

There’s much more, and it’s all there in a year and a few months worth of commentary, much of which has been printed in several newspapers in the state. I am not hiding my light under a bushel here. It’s there. Look it up. Everything you’ve said about “you” (me) in your remarks so far has been wrong. You do care about what’s right and wrong, don’t you Imajoebob? You’ll have to read a little bit, put your stereotypes back in your holster, think. You do not know what I think, because you haven’t given yourself the opportunity to find out. And in this you are denying yourself a great pleasure.

Thanks for your commentary.
Don Pesci said…
And finally Iamjoebob, this is what I said about Rowland and impeachment way back in Nov 2004, when such things were not being said by the kinds of Republicans you love to hate. You could not have said it better:

So, how did Rowland get into this pickle?

Rowland got divorced and married his High School sweet heart. In the land of fairy, both of them ought to have lived happily ever after. But there is little room for poetic fancy in politics, and unlike the multi-wived Lowell Weicker, Connecticut's King Henry VIII, Rowland couldn't afford the alimony payments.

The math was done by Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell in one of his columns. I'll use rounded numbers here. For the first several years of his administration, the governor was earning about $78,000 but was paying out $33,600 in alimony.Only last year was his salary raised to $150,000.

Feeling his pain, several of his friends -- among them Jo McKenzie, recently vilified for her solicitude in a testy column written by Courant writer Helen Ubinas -- decided to pitch in and defray some of his expenses.

Ubinas apparently was offended by one of McKenzie's kindnesses: When it became impossible for the Rowland's to participate in a home building project for poor people, Ms. McKenzie found other sponsors so the project could continue -- a small good, to be sure, but one that Ms. Ubinas seems determined not to leave unpunished.

It was left to Kevin Rennie, once a Republican state lawmaker and now a political writer for Northeast, a Courant publication, to drive home the stake.

"A defiant Jo McKenzie," Rennie wrote in his fly-on-the-wall column, "looking more than ever like the distaff half of the old ventriloquist act 'Waylan and Madam,' is thought to have already faced a federal grand jury."

Rowland's friends fixed up a cabin on a lake for him. What are friends for?

William Tomasso of the Tomasso Group, a company that through numerous governors has done business with the state, provided Rowland with various amenities. The trouble was that some of Rowlands friends were contractors, and their gifts -- if they were gifts -- were deemed inappropriate by a whole slew of people: such as Courant investigative reporter Jon Lender and Michele Jacklin, the paper's political columnist; Democrat labor leaders who had stubbed their toes on the governor's resolve not to turn over to them all the tax money he had collected during his tenure; moderate Democrat and Republican "legislative leaders"; radio talk-show gabmeister Colin McEnroe, Bill Curry's fast friend; Bill Curry, the liberal white knight in the whole affair; federal prosecutors from whose belts dangled the scalps of Joe Ganim, the ex-mayor of Bridgeport, Paul Silvester, the former State Treasurer, his crooked legal friend Robert Stack and Civil Rights leader Ben Andrews -- everybody, it seemed but Rowland's mother and second wife, who wrote a Christmas satire that sent most political writers in the state into an apoplectic rage.

The divorce -- These things can be expensive -- was partially responsible for Rowland's problems; that and a disposition to accept favors from underlings and sycophants.

Will the Rowland mess leech into the careers of other politicians?

Most likely not. Democrats are very agile at escaping the whip. In a recent Courant story, Lender, the object of Patty Rowland's ire in her Christmas poem satire, mentioned that Rowland was not the only governor to vet state contracts, a practice the governor gave up after the legislature boosted his pay. Lender quoted Louis Goldberg, a commissioner in both the Weicker and Rowland administrations, to the effect that former Governor Lowell Weicker continually had his thumb on the pulse of state contracts.

The gentle art of shaking down contractors to finance campaigns -- if that is what Rowland did -- almost certainly had been practiced, though with more panache, by other governors from whom grand jurors may never compel testimony. If the machinery for corruption was there prior to Rowland-- And it was, in spades-- what is the possibility that more saintly governors and their accomplices did not make use of it?

Will Rowland be indicted?

Everyone seems to think so. But at this point the prosecutorial matter seems to rest on doubtful propositions. It's true that Alibozek buried in his back yard a kickback in cash and gold coins, reputedly from the Tomasso's, certainly an amusing and alarming touch. But the Rowland mess falls far short of "Operation Plunder Dome" in Providence. Anyone who has read "The Prince of Providence," Mike Stanton's sometimes hilarious account of the Cianci regime, knows that Rowland just does not measure up.

Besides, there are legal questions that hang over the prosecution. One of them could be glimpsed by reading through the lines of a recent Courant story in which Connecticut's Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano decided that he would not interfere with the federal prosecution underway by instituting a prosecution of his own.

The Feds are not supposed to prosecute under RICO legislation when states can prosecute, and there is no question that Morano is capable of prosecuting Rowland, a small fly in the prosecutorial ointment that a lawyer familiar with the RICO statutes might exploit.

The federal grand jury sitting in Connecticut, seeming to follow the lead sugested in countless news stories and commentaries, recently subpoenaed records relating to gifts given to Governor John Rowland by friends, contractors and political associates.

Several newspapers have reported that Rowland's status has been upgraded from "witness" to "person of interest," though the governor still is not a "target" of the federal probe.

The question arises: With all this poking around by the media and the feds, who needs an additional probe by the legislature?

A serious answer to the question would draw important distinctions between various kinds of inquiries.

An impeachment probe will be different in kind from a probe that seeks to create legislation that would prevent future officeholders from wandering into the mare's nest that has ensnared Rowland .

A legislative probe is necessary for impeachment. If the legislature is serious about removing the governor from office, the only applicable penalty in impeachment proceedings, it may do so only after an impeachment in the House, followed by a trial in the Senate.

During impeachment, the House compiles a case against the governor and send the case to the Senate for trial. If the Senate convicts, the governor is removed from office.

Such inquiries can cause disabling problems should federal prosecutors return an indictment and wish to try the governor on criminal charges. It is not at all unusual for defense lawyers to successfully petition courts to exclude from a criminal trial evidence obtained during other authorized inquiries. That is why the federal prosecutors have been counseling against an investigation in the House and Senate that would duplicate their efforts.

Can an impeachment in the House and a trial in the Senate be constructed so as to avoid these pitfalls?

No doubt it can. Impeachment is preeminently a political rather than a juridical act, although the process is juridical in form. The real danger in impeachment lies in the precedents it creates. There are no guidelines in Connecticut's Constitution that tell us when impeachment may be utilized. In the U.S. Constitution, office holders may be impeached at the will of the legislature for "high crimes and misdemeanors."

What constitutes a high crime and misdemeanor? Former President Gerald Ford gave the clearest and, many constitutional scholars thought, most accurate answer to this question when he said that a high crime and misdemeanor was whatever the impeaching authority said it was during the impeachment process.

In being asked to consider impeachment, Connecticut's legislature is doing two things: It is proposing to remove a governor and negate an election; at the same time, it is creating a precedent for future impeachments that may be applied to every officeholder in the state.

These are weighty matters.

Impeachment is a political decision that will affect, some suppose for the worse, all future elections and all future impeachments. During the impeachment of Rowland, legislators will be creating the standard against which the behavior of every office holder in Connecticut, appointed or elected, will be measured in the future to determine whether the official is fit to remain in office. In the case of elected officials, legislators will be creating the standard that may be used, rightly or wrongly, to effect what one might call electoral nullification.

Connecticut's constitution is nearly mute on the matter of impeachment. It casts a shadow, rather than a broad outline, which impeaching legislators will define through the act of impeachment itself.

What to make of the argument that Governor John Rowland ought to resign for the good of his party?

The short answer is: The parties have long ago been supplated by interest groups.

There was a point, at the beginning of January, when Rowland decided to hunker down and brave the gathering storm assailing him.

Tom Scott, best known for leading a march on the capitol after former Governor Lowell Weicker pressured the legislature to pass an income tax, made a brief appearance on the op-ed page of the Hartford Courant.

That in itself was bizarre: It was as if Arron Burr had shown up at the funeral of Alexander Hamilton to say a few kind words about the corpse. After his column appeared, Courant political columnist Michelle Jacklin, Scott's ideological opposite, referred approvingly to points Scott made, and Colin McEnroe, a liberal talk show host who also writes a column for the Courant, confessed,"I like Tom Scott."

Common interests make strange bedfellows. But Scott's analysis was sharp.

Scott located Rowland's Achilles heel in his lack of character and principle, as evidenced by his truly shameful and politically opportunistic reversal on the abortion issue.

"I saw what he did on abortion," Scott wrote. "After a career in the state legislature and in Congress as a pro-life Irish Catholic legislator - who said that it was murder to terminate a pregnancy - one morning just before his 1990 campaign for governor, Rowland abandoned the pro-life plank. His excuse? He couldn't get away with it running for statewide office. Whichever side you take on this issue, the shamelessness of his opportunism is breathtaking."

And then Scott pointed out the chief difference between moderates and partisans: "I pity a man who spends his life in the political arena without the pleasure of standing on principle. That someone so lacking in character, in core beliefs, could rise so far is an indictment of Connecticut's go-along, get-along government. John Rowland is the product of a system that rewards a lack of conviction. He has governed without commitment to party or ideology. That has been fine with the Democrats and the liberals; they have had one of their own in office without having to elect him. It has been fine with his Republican colleagues, too, because he has an R after his name. Such blind partisanship discredits the GOP of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and former Connecticut Gov. Tom Meskill."

He got it just about right.

Parties form around persons or a set of coherent ideas -- a political philosophy. But, Scott wrote, "Connecticut does not have ideologues to speak of, just the users and the used. Suddenly John Rowland is used up, and everyone can see what some of us saw all along: Devoid of conviction, he is an essentially dishonest man."

What to call the Republican ... uh, thing ... if it's not a party?

A political interest group, centered in the politician of the moment, whomever it happens to be. The Democrats are the same. Of course, at the extremities of the parties, we have people committment to ideas: There are conservatives and liberals in Connecticut who believe deeply in their principles. But increasingly, they are pushed aside by the unprincipled professional ruling class -- here in the Northeast, mostly moderates.

Political parties have been replaced by interest groups, and modern politics now is centered in personalities. On the edges of the political pond, people are still commitment to ideas: There are conservatives and liberals in Connecticut who believe deeply in their respective philosophies, but increasingly, they are pushed aside by an unprincipled permanent ruling class that attaches itself to various interest groups in order to maintain itself in power.

Political support has two dimensions: depth and breath. There was no depth to Rowland's support, because there was no depth to (italics) him (end italics). Choosing the broad middle way, Rowland very early in his career cast off his ideological ballast so as to make himself light as air, the better to be able to move briskly to the right or left on a whole host of issues.

The best politicians are like rivers: They can chose to be deep or broad -- but not both. Lincoln was a river so deep that, even today, the Republican Party he remade swims in its bed. The same may be said of Franklin Roosevelt.

Depth is a measure of principle and sacrifice. Sometime -- literally, in Lincoln's case -- the man must die so the principle may live and water the consciences of lesser men. May we always be watered by such hidden springs.

Because Rowland cast off the ballast of principles, his support was as shallow as his principles. Rowland's coattails were virtually nonexistent during his tenure. He carried no one into office with him. His agenda was cobbled together pragmatically from newspaper editorials and compromise measures designed to put his critics at ease.

Republicans will not likely suffer long term losses by the scandal that has enveloped their unprincipled governor.

The worse that can be said about Rowland is that he is a shallow man. Most moderates are.

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