When former Governor Jodi Rell retired from office, she retired from politics as well. Mrs. Rell has not endorsed Republican wannabe governors, however coveted her endorsement might be.
In this respect, she is to Connecticut what former President George Bush is to the nation – hardly there at all.
There is among former presidents a private code verging on a tradition that when opposition candidates are elected president, the retiring president should ride off into the sunset, break ground for a presidential library and permit the new president to govern without carping from the sidelines, however much the incoming president savages the former president by claiming that he or she has been crippled by problems “inherited” from his now stubbornly silent predecessor.
Even the heart of a small ‘d’ democrat may swell with noblesse oblige. When former chief executives loftily ignore the arch criticisms of those who have replaced them in office, they are said to be “classy.” Every incoming chief executive, after all, “inherits” the problems and successes of his predecessor. The mark of a good chief executive lies in his eagerness to OWN and solve the problems he has “inherited.”
Mrs. Rell is classy in the above sense. She has neither publicly endorsed Republicans who wish to wrest the governorship from present Governor Dannel Malloy, nor has she responded when other have accused her of a lack of energy in the executive, a most unfair charge in her case. Comparisons between Mrs. Rell and Mr. Malloy should take into account important differences: Mrs. Rell was considerably hampered by a Democratic dominated General Assembly; when Mr. Malloy was elected, he “inherited” a General Assembly that eased his way, even to the point of conferring upon him plenipotentiary powers to negotiate his first budget with state union workers, always friendly to Democrats and hostile to Republicans. Stars wondrously aligned with the Malloy administration were politically misaligned during the Rell and Rowland administrations.
At the unveiling of her official portrait on September 11, Mrs. Rell’s chief critic, the omnipresent Mr. Malloy, was there to bestow a backhanded compliment: After the dark days of the Rowland administration, Governor Rell had restored the public’s faith in government.
Mark Pazniokas of CTMirror put it this way:
“Her successor, Dannel P. Malloy, who has criticized her fiscal policies, was there to applaud and praise her to reporters for “restoring faith in Connecticut.” Her predecessor, John G. Rowland, who resigned facing impeachment, was not.”
True, Mrs. Rell slept while in office, deeding the deep problems of Connecticut to the more energetic Mr. Malloy, but at least she did not walk off with the state’s silver. True, Mr. Smith was a sluggard, but at least he did not beat his wife.
Mrs. Rell accepted Mr. Malloy’s compliment with sufficient grace, and then she tossed his way a wee hint of criticism.
Mr. Malloy insisted, “I have the highest regard for the governor, and I think she has pretty high regard for me, and we get along very well. In fact, we have some pretty great conversations.”
“Rell did not contradict him,” Mr. Pazniokas reported, “though she made clear she is aware that Malloy, like other chief executives, still blames his predecessor for many of the challenges he faces more than two years after he took office.”
Mrs. Rell responded, “Someone said to me the other day, and I thought it was worth repeating, it was kind of cute, [they] said, ‘Well, it’s either George Bush’s fault or Jodi Rell’s fault.’ So, I thought that sort of summed it up.”