Friday, June 27, 2014

Rell Stirs

After she left office in 2011, former Governor Jodi Rell relapsed into a stately silence, indicating that there just might be a life after politics. Retiring President George Bush, much vilified by then presidential aspirant Barack Obama, did the same.

During Mr. Obama’s second successful bid for the presidency, then President Barack Obama reached into history’s dust bin, pulled out the well plucked bones of Mr. Bush and berated him all over again. The constant refrain of both Mr. Obama’s campaigns was that he had inherited agonizing problems from the Bush years and it would take him some time to heal the planet, close Guantanamo, bring peace to the Middle East and haul Russian President Vladimir Putin, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

The Middle East is a cauldron of terrorism and religious intolerance. Guantanamo has coughed up its five worst terrorists, traded by Mr. Obama to a terrorist organization in exchange for an American military deserter, opening up the possibility that Guantanamo may soon be closed. Mr. Putin has gobbled up a portion of Ukraine and most recently has denied admittance to Americans on a vehicle that travels from earth to the space station jointly used by Americans and Russians. And the planet, if not quite healed, is doing much better than Iraq, Syria, Egypt or Afghanistan.

Through the turbulent Obama administration, Mr. Bush maintained a frozen silence, convinced that his administration was a tad better than that of his most severe presidential critic. The placid Mr. Bush took up oil painting. He remains convinced that history will vindicate what Hillary Clinton might call his “Hard Choices.”  And he presently enjoys higher favorable ratings than those of Mr. Obama.

Governor Dannel Malloy pursued a similar course in his first gubernatorial campaign, his targets being his Republican predecessors, Governors John Rowland and Jodi Rell. Mr. Malloy does not often mention on the campaign stump William O’Neill, a spendthrift Democratic governor who left office with a deficit large enough to convince incoming Governor Lowell Weicker and the Democratic dominated General Assembly that an income tax would be necessary to liquidate it. Rell, who enjoyed as Governor more positive ratings than Mr. Malloy, was vilified by Malloyalists as a caretaker, laissez faire chief-of -state, responsible for crippling budget deficits and a lamentable want of vision. Mr. Rowland – “the disgraced Mr. Rowland,” to give the ex-governor his full title – remains an easy target on the campaign trail. But Mrs. Rell, who avoided prison as a Republican governor, was, like Mr. Bush, a willing target. Sticks and stones did not shatter her imperturbable silence.

Until now.

Some trigger, most news accounts agree, set her off in Waterbury.

An honoree at a Waterbury Republican Town Committee dinner, Mrs. Rell pulled out all the stops. She asserted – hotly, according to event goers – that Mr. Malloy’s repeated claims he “inherited” a $3.6 billion deficit from her when he took office in 2011 are “lies.”

One viewer told a reporter not in attendance at the event “I’ve never seen Jodi that pissed off. She was on fire.”

Most reports of the event are second hand, perhaps because reporters in the state did not want to waste their time covering a former governor they regard as less visionary and newsworthy than the present show-boater.

Apparently a video of Mrs. Rell’s remarks is in the possession of former CEO of WWE Linda McMahon, and reporters in the state not present when Mrs. Rell poured lava over Mr. Malloy’s “lies” – pretty much all reporters in Connecticut -- are now urging the much vilified Mrs. McMahon to release the video, please.

One thing is certain: Deficits in Connecticut are deathless. There were deficits following the O’Neill administration before the Weicker income tax, thought to be at the time a deficit fix, during the Rowland administration, during the Rell administration and after the first term of the Malloy administration, following Mr. Malloy’s Weicker-like deficit fix – the largest tax increase in Connecticut's history.

Is it not possible that the deficits have something to do with excessive (i.e. unaffordable) spending? Mr. Malloy appears to have reached the end of his rope on taxing. He has said from the campaign pulpit – “Let me make this perfectly clear” – there will be no new taxes.  Mr. Malloy also has made pledges to union leaders that he will not renegotiate pending contractual arrangements that reward unionized state workers with incremental salary increases.

How then does Mr. Malloy intend to slay the deficit dragon that has beggared and scorched Connecticut’s countryside from the O’Neill administration onward? And what role has the General Assembly, dominated by Democrats most of the last half century, played in the beggaring?

A deficit of some $3 billion projected by the state’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) recently has been dismissed by Mr. Malloy as an improbable fantasy. That curt dismissal as well as a tendency on Mr. Malloy’s part to attribute to prior Republican governors all the ills he has inherited from them may have been the force that sent the flower through Mrs. Rell’s green fuse in Waterbury. And really, is it necessary to wait for a video to confirm whether Mr. Malloy’s Panglossian prognostications or the far more probable projections of the OFA are “lies?”

What are reporters for?

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