Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Second Act In Politics And Rob Simmons

It was Henry Clay who said he’d rather be right than be president. The cynic perhaps would retort that such a selfless sentiment could only issue from a man who had never been president; though, Lord knows, Mr. Clay, always ready to serve his country in any capacity, certainly gave it a good try.

Drafted for president a few times, he was frustrated by unavoidable political events beyond his control and lost each time, some would say, to lesser men. A Whig leader in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, said Mr. Clay was "my beau ideal of a great man." And Sen. John Kennedy cited Mr. Clay as one of the five greatest senators in U.S. history.

It must be supposed that Mr. Clay took his defeats with a certain degree of equinimity. Rob Simmons very well may be the Henry Clay of Connectiut. Mr. Clay’s Whig party, which later evolved into the Republican Party, was strong enough at that point and later to allow for what might be called “second acts” -- and even third and fourth acts.

There ought to be a second act in the state Republican Party for such a class act as Mr. Simmons and who ever it was, perhaps Republican Party committeeman Doug Hageman, who whispered in his ear prior to the House interview that the Republican Party still very much needed Simmons’ selfless service.

Mr. Clay, who never allowed his spirit to be broken by political adversity, bounced back time and again after his many defeats and repeatedly came to the aid of his country, whenever the call went out to him. Students of history will recall that Mr. Clay was a fierce party man, as was Mr. Lincoln after him. The elasticity of spirit so pronounced in Mr. Clay is very much evident in Mr. Simmons. And it was on display during an (WFSB) “Face the State” program on Sunday moderated by Dennis House.

Will Linda McMahon, Mr. Simmons’ opponent in the Republican primary, beat Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in the November U.S. Senate race, Mr. Simmons was asked?

You bet’cha! Mrs. McMahon, Mr. Simmons told Mr. House, is on her way to a significant upset over Blumenthal. An early entrée in the race when departing Sen. Chris Dodd had not yet thrown in his towel, Mr. Simmons took the measure of Mr. Blumenthal and found him wanting almost as soon as attorney general jumped into the race.

During the primary, it was thought by many commentators that Simmons would be an effective opponent against Mr. Blumenthal because his honorable record of service in Vietnam contrasted sharply with Mr. Blumenthal’s false claims, repeated several times, that he had served in the Vietnam War. Mr. Simmons also had honorably bowed to his fate, rather than challenge a vote count, when he lost a squeaker of a race to present U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, whose Republican opponent, Janet Peckinpaugh, is supported by Simmons.

Characterizing Mr. Blumenthal’s effort against McMahon as “lackluster,” Mr. Simmons said, “It’s over for him.”

The “Obama factor,” far from being a help to Mr. Blumenthal, would hurt his campaign, Mr. Simmons predicted, noting that Mr. Obama has dipped sharply in polls. The President’s approval rating in deep blue Connecticut has plummeted from 71% in 2009 to 45%, a decline that, some commentators say, weighed heavily upon Connecticut’s Obama shy all Democratic U.S. Congressional delegation. When Mr. Obama visited Stamford recently to fortify Mr. Blumenthal’s campaign coffers, Democratic members of the delegation were not conspicuously in attendance.

Simmons additionally predicted that three Democratic congressional seats -- those of Jim Himes, Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney – will fall to Republican challengers Dan DeBicella, Sam Caligiuri and Ms. Peckinpaugh.

If the Republican Party were a real political operation rather than a flag under which candidates assemble to run for office, the party would nurture its tender shoots such as Rob Merkle, Daria Novak or Justin Bernier, whose primary campaign should serve a model for young Republican Turks. And there would be second, third and fourth acts for such as Mr. Simmons and loyal party stalwarts, like Hageman, a suburb party technician who gently led Mr. Simmons to express his support for Mrs. McMahon; though, in Simmons’ case it must be said that the disposition was there, wedged deeply in an honorable and stainless character.


Anonymous said...

Himes has voted with his constituency time after time... held Wall Street accountable, supported Energy Reform, voted for affordable healthcare and even spoke out against big-spending. We need to send Jim Himes back to congress because he's been an independent voice or Fairfield county.

Anonymous said...

Hi Don,

Insightful, excellent column. My biggest beef in living in CT is that the state GOP chair and the central committee are a joke. They continue to play games. Net result: very few Republicans in the state legislature and ZERO in the U.S. House and Senate. It's a disgrace. With this kind of track record, wouldn't you think they'd change their M.O.? Of course not. Many of us volunteered for the first time ever in the 2nd district working for Daria Novak's campaign. Simply put: she's a true conservative, smart, strong-minded and just what we needed to take on and defeat Pelosi's lap dog Joe Courtney. But in stepped Chris Healy and foisted Janet Peckinpaugh on us. A nice but vapid woman who just recently became a Republican. In a recent interview with the Norwich Bulletin, it became painfully obvious that the woman is not too bright. Nor is she very informed on a number of issues. The only thing going for yet another RINO like Janet is that there is so much anti-incumbency anger this year, she actually has a shot at winning. BUT: it does little to really help us of the country, does it? And it further erodes Healy and his minions' credibility with the conservatives in CT. Mr. Healy needs to be ousted and so do his rubber stamp committees. Unless they go, the GOP conservatives have absolutely NO chance of gaining ground. When will strong GOP leaders in CT step up and take control of the party? Even in deeply blue states, people are open to conservative values as seen in many state elections in recent months. WHERE is the CT GOP leadership???

Unknown said...

Accountability Autumn Follows “Recovery” Summer

We are at the end of Recovery Summer and beginning of Accountability Autumn. Our incumbent congressman, Jim Himes, is running for re-election in a tough economic and political climate for incumbents with his voting record. Across the country, incumbents such as Himes are downplaying their votes for the stimulus, Obamacare, and record deficits. While Congressman Himes may be vulnerable this year, the 2010 election may also be a great opportunity for him if he is able to survive. That is because 2010 will be as bad as it gets for Himes in terms of accountability. If he can get a majority of voters to accept the status quo, then he will be practically invulnerable in future elections. Generally, incumbents face their toughest re-election battle after their freshman term. In this case, Himes’ first term ends amidst 10% unemployment and two out of three voters in his district under the belief that Washington is on the wrong track. If he can overcome those odds, then he can do anything –- set aside his campaign season moderation and vote how he pleases in the future. If Himes can win this election, then Accountability Autumn may become as big a failure as Recovery Summer. So the question before the voters is whether or not the status quo is good enough? Because there may not be another chance at an Accountability Autumn like this one.

Don Pesci said...


I agree with much of what you say, with one caveat: Party Chairmen are not artists working on blank canvasses. There are already messages written on the Republican Party. Healy has done much better than most in representing conservative positions. The real difficulty with the Republican Party lies in its recent history. It takes years to overcome the stamp put upon it by such as Weicker and a timid legislative minority. You will notice that Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, in rebutting claims put forward most recently by Ray Hackett (Norwich Bulletin) that Williams had not sufficiently addressed the state’s perilous economic condition, said that he had been working on budgets with the Republican GOVERNOR – not the Republican minority in the legislature, which has offered a stiff resistance to majority Democrats. That is a hopeful sign, and we do not want to throw those babies out with the wash water, do we? The Tea Party movement in the state would prosper if such were encouraged and supported. It might spark some interests if the Republican resistance in the legislature were to arrange, quietly if necessary, for the removal of both Williams and Chris Donovan, the House Speaker. I doubt that any one in the Tea Party movement would greatly mind this.

Don Pesci said...


Powerful analysis.

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