Surrounded by ad makers, cartoonists, various temporary – we hope – politicians who reach for the stars in their attempts to explain the nature of man and the universe, Americans are used to hyperbole. It surrounds us like a sometime amusing sea of comic exaggeration and error. Sometimes, you have to blow a thing up to understand it. It’s OK; hyperbole has long history, sometimes honorable, sometimes not, in our politics.
Most Americans shrug when President Donald Trump unveils a stunning hyperbole; as with a window, they see THROUGH the intended exaggeration to the more modest truth obscured by the hyperbole.
But some hyperboles are opaque; in these, there is nothing behind the words, no “there” there.
Here is a passage from a Hartford paper: “After a gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump ‘have blood on their hands’ for passing a law last year that made it easier for people with mental illness to buy guns.” One wonders how many people who have metal illness and guns DID NOT, during the past four decades, burst into schools and slaughter children with assault weapons. Failing to stop at the water's edge, Malloy, bitten by the hyperbole bug, dove in, assailing all legislators who presumed, some for good reasons, to disagree with Connecticut’s two hyperbolic U.S. Senators, Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy. “We’ve got a bunch of yellow-bellied senators and congressmen,” Malloy steamed, “who knew better but are more afraid of the NRA than their children getting killed. For God’s sake we had a congressman shot on a baseball field, and we couldn’t bring Congress around to do something about it. So I’ve given up holding my breath.” The shooter Malloy referenced was stopped by Capitol police who were armed. Had they not been on the scene, the carnage would have been much greater. Apparently assault weapons deployed by good guys against bad guys are good assault weapons. Holding one’s breath does sometimes leave one giddy.
Here is another hyperbolic missile, this one launched by Mike Lawlor, Governor Dannel Malloy’s “Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning,” a title nearly as long as Pinocchio’s nose: “Wow,” Lawlor Twittered in late January, “Connecticut gets its first full-force racist enabler candidate for Attorney General.” And he cited a CTMirror story, “Susan Hatfield, a prosecutor, explores GOP campaign for AG.”
“Susan Hatfield,” the lede ran, “a state prosecutor from eastern Connecticut who was a Donald J. Trump delegate in 2016 and once worked in Washington as a young policy aide to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, opened an exploratory campaign Monday for the Republican nomination for attorney general.” A picture of Hatfield without her KKK hood accompanied the story.
Hatfield is no more a racist enabler than Lawlor. So, why did Lawlor choose to defame her in this fashion? Well, one guess is that Lawlor, perhaps too needy a guy, was looking for approval from the kind of people who thrill to false charges of racism and off-the-wall exaggeration when launched at people less progressive than Lawlor.
There are dozens of reasons why smart people do and say dumb things, some of them leading by hidden paths to pathologies that are better left undiscussed, because they may not apply to the case in hand. Perhaps Lawlor found this mud ball lying around his office and yielded to an irresistible urge to hurl it at Hatfield, whose background does not suggest she gets her jollies by enabling those who intimidate honest people by burning crosses on their lawns.
The connection between Hatfield and racism is highly tenuous – because it does not exist at all, except in the fevered imagination of the Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning. Is the tag just? Nope. Was the hurling of the dirtball planned? It seems it was. One emerges from conversations with Lawlor feeling that every word of his is planned. This can be a good rather than a bad trait. Prosecutors – Lawlor, like Malloy, was a prosecutor – plan things, sometime obsessively. It is the business of Chairmen of the Judiciary Committee, a post held by Lawlor from 1995 to 2011, to plan things, and Lawlor, co-chairman along with then Senator Andrew McDonald, recently nominated by Malloy to fill a vacancy for Chief Justice of Connecticut’s Supreme Court, was an artful planner.
For some reason, Lawlor wanted some people to believe that Hatfield enabled racists. And how did she do this? Pay attention now; the causal connections are as ghostly as a bad dream – because they have no objective reality outside the sleepy mind of the dreamer. Hatfield “was a Donald J. Trump delegate in 2016 and once worked in Washington as a young policy aide to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.” The unstated axiom in Lawlor’s charge is that Trump is a racist – Malloy thinks he is a murderer of school children, who has "blood in his hands" following the mass murder of school children in Florida? -- and Hatfield, by serving as a delegate in 2016, is therefore a racist enabler. Did Hatfield become a racist because of her association with Gingrich – also a possible racist enabler because he too, along with approximately half the country, approved of the nomination of Trump for president – or did Hatfield catch racism, as one catches a cold, by indirect exposure to Trump, who is NOT a racist?