When he was a kid, Dan Malloy must have had a poor self-image. After all, in a story the learning disabled governor loves to repeat, some of his elementary school teachers told the young Dannel as late as fourth grade that he was mentally retarded and would amount to nothing. His classmates — the meanies anyway — called him a dummy.
Flash forward 50 years and you will find a man who runs an important state of 3.5 million. You will also find a guy who is so confident in himself that he can rub people the wrong way. Imagine that.
Don’t get me wrong. Malloy did not rub me the wrong way during CT News Junkie’s hour-long editorial board interview with him last Friday at his Capitol office. Success in the political realm doesn’t reward the faint-hearted. Just ask Barack Obama.
Strong leadership requires someone at the helm who at least acts like he knows what he’s doing and isn’t afraid to step on the toes of friend and foe alike to get what he wants. Indeed, Malloy elicited a few chuckles when he acknowledged having “shown a willingness to gore oxes.”
Malloy is a former prosecutor, a former school board and board of finance member, a three-term mayor of one of the state’s largest cities and was recently appointed to head the Democratic Governor’s Association. So he is ambitious, upwardly mobile, knows what it takes to be a leader and is trying mightily to strike a national profile. Ironically, the very combatitiveness and drive that propels him forward every day has the effect of annoying much of the electorate. Combine that with the state’s perpetual economic uncertainty, and you have a governor whose approval ratings now stand at 32 percent and have never been above 50.
Having missed a news conference earlier in the day regarding Malloy’s impending executive order to bar those on national terrorist watchlists from obtaining gun permits in Connecticut, I asked him about it — specifically to address the criticism of those who say it is an example of executive overreach and insist he must offer some form of due process for this who would lose their rights.
“Don’t repeat NRA arguments in my office. Seriously?” he interrupted.
That’s the Malloy we all know and love — or at least some of us do. The self-described porcupine never disappoints. As he was in our last editorial board meeting with him almost four years ago, the 2015 version of Malloy was, “combative, confident and closely attuned to the world,” just as the board described him in February 2012.
I informed the governor that I’m no gun-nut. I would probably score some points with the NRA for my belief that the 2nd Amendment does protect the rights of individuals to keep and bear arms, but the love fest would end once they hear me say it doesnt “infringe” on anyone’s rights to ban weapons of slaughter and high-capacity magazines.
No, I was just looking for clarity from Malloy and I got it, I think. The executive branch actually has wider latitude on these matters in states where gun permits are required, he said. And those who would lose their rights have a form of due process through the courts and the state Board of Firearms Permit Examiners.
Malloy held forth at length about pensions and the state’s slow economic recovery — subjects my colleague Susan Bigelow will write about this week. We also touched on some of my other pet peeves, such as what I call “liquor justice” — the reform of the way alcoholic beverages are sold in Connecticut. “I usually try something every year,” he said in response to my question of whether he would introduce any new initiatives in the coming legislative session. He did not, however, promise an effort to deliver us from the scourge of minimum pricing. “I would do away with it if it was within my authority,” he proclaimed.
I also asked him about whether he would support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, now that the evil weed’s medical use is enshrined in state law. To which he replied, “I don’t think there’s political support for it,” adding that he doesn’t “want to promote” something that’s bad for you.
I countered that the lottery is bad for you and the state promotes that every day. “It’s not bad for you if you win,” he smiled. It was about the only thing he could say.
You’ve have to hand it to Malloy. He’s a workaholic who enjoys toiling away on matters large and small. He comes across as someone who is less interested in being something than doing something — in some cases, doing big things. No matter which side of the fence you reside on, you’ve gotta respect that.
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