Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rowland Rising, Two

The response to Rowland’s re-entry into the political sphere has been both predictable and uninspiring.

Bill Curry, a Hartford Courant columnist and gubernatorial wannabe who was bested by Rowland, seized the occasion to engage in some ego-stroking chest thumping.

“In 2002,” Curry began his column, “I held a press conference to show how John Rowland broke the law to award no-bid building contracts to his pals… The story didn’t make the front page of any newspaper, nor did any bother to editorialize on it.”

There are reasons for this. Curry’s press conferences were sparsely attended because only his mother and his fast friend Colin McEnroe thought he had a good chance to beat Rowland. Newspapers generally are not in the habit of bathing prospective losers in ink, a policy that rightfully should be and has been abhorred by others – for example, me -- in below the salt newspapers that Curry would not likely notice. Then too, it was not obvious at the time that anyone in politics – except angelic types like Curry – would very much object to politicians dividing the spoils among their political acquaintances. In the past, such upright politicians as Ella Grasso and Abe Ribbicoff did the same, which is why they ended their careers up to their eyeballs in friends and plaudits. Though I’ve been writing columns for more than a quarter of a century, I don’t recall many complaints from the purists when the spoils were being distributed to their bums. Ethical probity is a late arrival on the political scene.

But all this palaver is a lead to Curry’s explosive and stirring last paragraph: “In this life we withhold forgiveness at our peril; someday, everybody needs a second chance. But this isn't rehabilitation, it's recidivism — and I mean us, not him. To break every rule of hiring and management to do a politician a favor sends a clear signal: This is still a state where membership in the club means everything and ethics nothing at all.”

But the truth is: We extend forgiveness at our peril, if we are political columnists, editorial writers and political reporters. No one in Curry’s profession is in the forgiveness business. And in any case, there is no question here of forgiveness. Rowland has not been forgiven his offenses: He has been punished for them.

He went to Jarjura as a penitent ex-felon, a tag he will never shed. The open question is: Should he be permitted to redeem himself?

Curry, puffed up with the milk of human kindness, says no. Waterbury – the whole damned city, pretty much – said yes.

It is an open question which, of the two, is more humane.

Curry should ask himself the question: What would Buddha do?


Anonymous said...

it's a question of fiarness not forgiveness

Ed said...

Buddha'd spend his own money, not fill a fresh trough full of yummy taxes.

Don Pesci said...

When people say “such and such is not fair,” generally what they mean is that such and such does not live up to their own personal expectations. Fairness, as the word is popularly used, lies almost entirely in the eye of the beholder. In matters of litigation, we ought to be concerned with justice. Justice can be objectively measured against a baseline of laws and traditions. Rowland’s punishment was just even though it may fall short of my own personal expectations of what I may believe should have happened to him.

When I say laws and punishments ought to be applied “fairly,” what I mean is this: If both A and B ahve committed the same offense, both should be punished equally: The punisher, somewhat Godlike, should be no respecter of persons. It is simply stupid to pretend that Rowland has not been punished. But punishment, like all good things, must have an end to it. And when punishment is ended, life should resume. The possiblity of redemption should not be foreclosed.

I must confess that I’ve lost tract of the Ben Andrews case. I do not know whether he is in prison or on his way there. In any case, Andrews, a prominent Republican, will be punished for having done – at the same time and with the same people – what Bill DeBella, a prominent Democrat, has done. Andrews is either in jail or on his way there; DeBella either has been or will be re-appointed as a prominent commissioner. If you are looking for an example of unfairness, here it is. Go to it.

There are in this sorry world of ours people who do not believe that other people who have committed offenses against that base line of laws and traditions mentioned above should be given an opportunity to redeem themselves. I’m not one of them.

Rowland will be watched. Believe me when I tell you that a thousand eyes will be upon him. If he slips up, he can be prosecuted and send back to jail. Federal prosecutors who have decided to use RICO legislation to prosecute political crimes – the legislation originally was written to ease the prosecution of mafia Dons and drug runners – make prosecution very easy. So, Rowland’s way is full of hurdles, and those who believe it would be fair had the flesh rotted of his bones in prison for what he did may yet get their wish.

I say he already has shown signs that he wants to redeem his past offenses; let him try.

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