Tuesday, April 03, 2018

A Friendless Esty Calls It Quits

“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” The saying was attributed to President Harry Truman by a playwright, but just because Truman may not have coined the phrase does not make it any the less true. Washington DC can be a cutthroat corner of the world. This is not to say that all well-mannered pols have cashed in their chips and left the casino in the hands of brutes. Some U.S. Senators still feel that politics should not be a murderous affair. If you do catch your enemy in a compromising position, it would be prudent to leave open a back door through which he might escape with his honor intact. Your enemy will appreciate the graceful gesture and, perhaps in some future encounter, pause and consider before he draws the knife across your throat” 

Connecticut’s two U.S. Senators were among the last to commend U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty for having “done the right thing” by resigning. Before Esty announced she was leaving Congress, many other Democrats had forcefully urged her to resign. Esty, her critics charged, had failed to discharge her chief of staff, who had abused a woman in her office. The victim had reported instances of abuse to the police and Esty throughout 2014. A threatening e-mail written by the abuser in 2016 -- “You better f-----g reply to me or I will f-----g kill you” – was reason enough for an immediate dismissal, but Esty chose, after consulting her lawyers, to present her former chief of staff, dismissed three months after the threatening e-mail had been received and reported, with a non-disclosure agreement, a payoff of $5,000, and a job recommendation that secured employment for the abuser with Sandy Hook Promise, an organization formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter to encourage legislation regulating the sale of guns.   

The list of prominent Democrats demanding Esty’s resignation included Bill Curry, Connecticut’s one-term State Comptroller. Curry ran for Governor in 1994 on the Democratic ticket. The field of candidates at the time included John Rowland, Eunice Groark, Governor Lowell Weicker’s Lieutenant Governor, Curry and Tom Scott. Rowland won that one by 3 points. Curry had a second chance in 2002. A prophet unloved in his own state, Curry charged that Rowland had awarded contracts based on rigged bids. Rowland, who won his gubernatorial bid by a 12 point margin, later resigned his office during an active impeachment proceeding. Still wearing the prophet’s mantle, Curry, then a commentator for the left of center Ezine site Salon, tied his kite to Bernie Sanders’ tail and urged publication’s readers to vote against Hillary Clinton as President. One expected Curry to correctly read the writing boldly etched on Esty’s wall.Other prominent Democrats also turned their thumbs down on Esty. 

Even the Hartford Courant -- a paper that had endorsed Esty over her Republican opponent, the more experienced fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republican Andrew Roraback – vigorously called for Esty’s resignation. On April 2, Esty obliged with a brief Facebook statement: “One of the greatest honors of my life is that the people of Connecticut's Fifth District elected me to represent them in Congress. However, I have decided that it is best to not seek re-election.”

Slow out of the gate were U.S. Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Governor Dannel Malloy. Blumenthal thought Esty’s constituents should decide the issue in the upcoming 2018 campaign but had second thoughts after Esty threw in the towel.

“She made profound mistakes, as she has acknowledged” said Blumenthal shortly after Esty had announced she would retire from the Congress. “Harassment and assault in any workplace are unacceptable.” Following Esty’s declaration that she would not be defending her seat, Murphy also jumped into the pool. “Elizabeth knows she handled the dismissal of her former chief of staff badly,’ he said. “The decision she made today is the right one for her, and I look forward to working with her during the remainder of her term.” Malloy said, “Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty’s decision not to run for another term is the right one… The truth is, too many facts about how this incident was handled fall short of appropriate standards for responsible and responsive leadership. Fostering a safe and supportive workplace culture for staff must be a guiding principle for all managers, and especially all elected officials, from local office all the way up to the President.”

Hours after Esty, hoisted by her own #metoo petard, bowed out, the vacuum she had created sucked in not a few Democratic U.S. Congressional aspirants. Republican doors also will be flung open in the 5th District race. During the off-year election campaign, Republicans will be running against the destructive  policies Malloy put in place before he decided not to run for a third term. Esty has given the GOP at least one social/moral issue they might mine during their campaign to wrest control of the governor’s office and the General Assembly from Democrats whose ranks are full of fire-breathing #metoo progressives. The #metoo progressives will be running against President Donald Trump, a distant target used to drawing knives across the throats of his enemies, who are legion.

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