Last week, as I cleaned up a puddle of coffee spilled in shock upon learning that former Gov. John. G. Rowland had called Gov. Dannel P. Malloy a “pathological liar,” several thoughts ran through my mind.
First, “Pot, meet kettle” rolled trippingly off the tongue. As a convicted felon who lied about his own corruption, Rowland would have been wise to keep quiet about Malloy’s alleged dishonesty. Nothing could be more obvious than that. When you’ve spent a year in jail and insist you’ve emerged a changed man who has found God (see video below), it takes a mountain of testicular fortitude to blast a new governor who has never been charged with wrongdoing.
Second, as someone whose work includes public relations, I knew that even the shameless Rowland would feel compelled to make amends. Rowland eventually issued a mea culpa but in the most cowardly fashion imaginable. The day after the news broke on July 6, he declined to show up for his afternoon radio gig at WTIC. Instead he sent his co-host, Meriden pastor Will Marotti, out to inform his audience that the former governor had apologized to Malloy. No statement issued, no radio appearance that same day to show some humility and remorse. Just a second-hand apology and a craven retreat behind a man of God. Same old Johnny.
My criticism of Rowland is especially painful. I voted for the man—twice, if I recall correctly. I foolishly ignored the dire warnings of former state comptroller Bill Curry, who all but predicted in his run against Rowland in 2002 that, if re-elected, the governor would be brought down by presumed corruption — whether it be the Bantam Lake cottage, the illegal $220 million loan from the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority to Enron, the sale of his Washington, D.C., condo at an inflated price or taking bribes in exchange for state contracts. Turns out the trifling cottage is what sent Rowland to the clink, but it was probably just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
As an aside, Rowland’s were not the only votes I’ve regretted since moving to Connecticut in 1984. In 2000, I was still an admirer of the centrist Sen. Joe Lieberman when he was tapped to become Al Gore’s running mate on the Democratic ticket. But Lieberman’s selfish insistence on running simultaneously for re-election to the Senate drove me into the arms his Republican opponent, then-Waterbury Mayor Philip Giordano, who was later convicted of performing cruel sexual acts on little girls right in the mayor’s office.
But I digress. One of the most remarkable outcomes of the Rowland-Malloy kerfuffle is the level of agreement among Rowland and his apologists on the one hand, and die-hard labor union supporters on the other.
Jonathan Pelto, the former state legislator, public relations consultant and left-wing gadfly, has been hammering Malloy daily on his snarky but informative blog, Wait, What? In a classic illustration of the old maxim about politics making strange bedfellows, Pelto defended Rowland against criticism that the former governor’s negotiated 20-year labor agreement was the root cause of the current impasse with state employees — though, to his credit, Pelto wasn’t quite sure whether Malloy is a sociopath. Indeed, he offered a Clintonian hedge.
“Now I’m not saying that Rowland is right that Malloy is a pathological liar (I guess it depends on one’s definition of pathological). And I certainly never imagined I’d make an effort to defend John G. Rowland on anything — but that said — here goes.”
Now, just as I felt terrible after voting for Rowland in ‘98 and ‘02, so too does Pelto want to take back his vote for Malloy in 2010.
I’d say if you’re a new Connecticut governor and you succeed in pissing off Rowland, the libertarian Yankee Institute, SEBAC and strong progressives like Pelto, then you must be doing something right — buyer’s remorse or not.
Terry Cowgill blogs at terrycowgill.blogspot.com and was an award-winning editor and senior writer for The Lakeville Journal Company. He is host of Conversations with Terry Cowgill, an hour-long monthly interview program on CATV6 on Comcast’s northwest Connecticut system.