It didn’t take long. Connecticut is almost as blue as they come. Yet most of us sucked it up after the presidential election and vowed to keep an open mind — or as open as we could keep it after the election of Donald Trump, a man whose views and rhetoric are repugnant to the typical Connecticut voter.
But it appears the gloves have come off. Hillary Clinton beat Trump in Connecticut by almost 14 points and took four of six counties, so most elected officials in the state feel they have little to lose by going after the dreaded demagogue.
Trump is a denizen of Twitter. When suffering from insomnia, he sends out incendiary tweets that would get a normal public figure into a heap of trouble. But Trump is the Eveready Bunny of U.S. politics. He survives — or even thrives — where others might wither on the vine.
So Sen. Chris Murphy went after the president-elect on his own turf. Murphy has in his four years in the Senate acquired some expertise in the area of international affairs, sitting on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairing the Subcommittee on European Affairs.
So it did not come as a surprise when Murphy, no slouch in the Twitter department himself, took to the popular social media platform to rip into the president-elect’s recent foreign policy actions, especially his phone call with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan.
“What has happened in the last 48 hours is not a shift,” Murphy tweeted. “These are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan. That’s how wars start.”
Hyperbole perhaps. But we all know that wars have been started over misunderstandings — and at the very least, Trump’s overture could trigger a misunderstanding in mainland China about his planned policy for that region. But that’s only if you believe Trump’s explanation that he picked up the phone when the Taiwan leader called and only he wanted to be polite, which is an odd notion in itself coming from a man who has gone out of his way to be rude to anyone who declines to bow at his feet.
Murphy didn’t know it at the time but it’s now clear that the “courtesy call” talking point promulgated by Vice President-elect Mike Pence on the Sunday shows was a complete fabrication. We now know that former Sen. Bob Dole worked behind the scenes as a lobbyist for the Taiwanese government to establish high-level contacts between the two governments that led to the phone call in question. It was a particularly stupid lie as well, since a cursory check of mandatory disclosure forms filed by Dole’s law firm revealed the contacts.
Murphy was, however, dead right about this being a major pivot in the one-China policy that has been a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy for nearly four decades.
Elsewhere on the Connecticut political landscape, Sen. Richard Blumenthal has joined Murphy in questioning some of Trump’s cabinet and staff picks, especially Steve Bannon, the controversial former head of the alt-right website Breitbart. Disclosure: I wrote a few media criticism columns for Breitbart six years ago when a friend of mine was an editor there. When he left the organization, I quit.
“It sends a terrible message in light of [Trump’s] stated intention to bring the country together and bridge divisions,” Blumenthal said. Exactly. On this matter at least, Blumenthal speaks for me.
Interestingly, Blumenthal has offered no substantive criticism of Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, the racially insensitive Sen. Jeff Sessions — perhaps because both men belong to the world’s most exclusive club.
And both Murphy and Blumenthal have vowed to vigorously fight Trump’s plan to dismantle Obamacare and mount an ugly campaign against undocumented immigrants. Murphy is especially concerned about Trump’s pick to head the EPA, climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt. But Connecticut’s all-Democratic congressional delegation might have found some common ground in Trump’s call for heavy spending on infrastructure and his opposition to trade deals blamed by labor leaders for job losses.
This week both Blumenthal and Murphy found themselves in the awkward position of reacting to Trump’s nomination of their erstwhile opponent, Linda McMahon, as administrator of the Small Business Administration — though in an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday, Murphy graciously said McMahon’s business experience made her “unquestionably qualified” for the post.
Still, the state’s representatives in Washington should tread carefully and avoid being too harsh on Trump. It’s not as if everyone hates him here. After all, he won almost 42 percent of the vote in Connecticut. Oh, and one other thing: as both Murphy and Blumenthal can attest, the state’s congressional delegation is being deluged with requests for tickets to Trump’s inauguration.
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