There is something very troubling about the “interfaith prayer vigil” Sunday in Stamford designed to “pray” that Sen. Joseph Lieberman would somehow change his mind on the health care reform bill now before the US Senate. Not for a moment is this to question the free speech and free assembly rights of the 500 or so people who gathered outside Lieberman’s Stamford home. The crowd, including many members of the clergy, were there to use the power of prayer and persuasion to get Lieberman to at least allow a vote on the bill. Lieberman says he will not allow a bill to come to a full vote if includes what he see as a financially crippling public option.
The question here is: When did God declare his position on this public policy issue? This writer happens to agree with the clergy and followers on the issue. However putting the specific issue aside for a moment, offense is easily taken when religion is invoked to declare moral authority on any issue. The divinely inspired memo in favor of a senate bill with a public option didn’t make it to the e-mail inbox of Scully Communications.
For the clergy to invoke God-given moral authority on any issue is one thing. For politicians to manipulate it is is even worse. Gubernatorial candidate and Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy and Health Care for All chief Juan Figueroa, whose name has been tossed around as a potential candidate, were both on hand Sunday to jump on the “wrath of God requests” to alter Lieberman’s thinking. Malloy can probably be excused because the event was in Stamford and he is still invested in what happens in the town he ran for so many years.
There plenty of ways to engage in political discourse in our democratic system. The idea that one side or the other has God in its corner is alarming.
There are nine months to go before any primary is held in the race for governor in Connecticut. Now is a good time for watchdog agencies to start keeping an eye politicians who are seeking higher office and in doing so, are using his or her current office to further those efforts. Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz has been walking that fine line for months now. The job of secretary of state is crystal clear under the state Constitution and state statute. The SOTS’s duties are primarily to oversee elections and register new businesses in the state. Bysiewicz has done more than a thorough job in the last two months or so on the job of overseeing elections. She had pre-election voter turnout predictions for any media outlet that would listen and has since sworn-in newly elected officials in every corner of the state.
However the SOTS has also someone how decided that veterans affairs are her office’s purview as well. She has attended numerous event promoting veterans’ affairs since forming an exploratory committee to run for governor. One would think her office had such issues in its job description.
A Nov. 4 article in the Rocky Hill Post detailed a ceremony for “men who served in the Pacific and men who served in Europe. There were men who fought at Pearl Harbor, D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. In all, more than 30 World War II veterans at Rocky Hill’s State Veterans Home were honored by Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz.” The article goes on to quote Bysiewicz as saying,“Meeting these veterans has really enriched my understanding of WWII…but also deepened my appreciation for what everyday Americans did in extraordinary times.’” The problem is, the people of the state don’t pay their secretary of state to improve her appreciation for what Americans did in extraordinary times or any other.
The RH Post goes on to say “Bysiewicz has made 122 presentations since she began in the fall of 2007 and she said she has 40 more towns to visit.” That is not the secretary of state’s job. Are taxpayers paying her to campaign for governor?
The post-script on Governor Jodi Rell seems to include more and more of a rewrite of history. Rell, who announced last week she is not seeking re-election, made it a point to reminisce about a gay couple who hugged her after she signed civil union legislation. Other reports on the governor’s likely legacy include her work on campaign finance reform, education, holding the line on taxes and ethics. Yet as often happens when a person of note leaves the scene (be it departing from one’s earthly existence or leaving an influential position) a fair review of the record shows far less heroic action.
Gov. Rell may have signed civil unions into law but she remained staunchly opposed to extending all legal protection and status to gay couples by opposing gay marriage. If the governor had her way, a certain segment of our population would still be treated differently than the any segments. A real profile in courage there, gov.
Rell backers also quickly point out that she signed landmark legislation to remove special interests and ‘big money” from elections in Connecticut some years back.. The fact is, the governor was dragged kicking and screaming to the camaign finance reform signing ceremony by the legislature. In fact, she vetoed the first version of CFR.
The same is true of her work on education. In her budget address of 2006, Rell boldly proposed a small increase in the income tax to infuse hundreds of millions of dollars into public education and thereby decrease local cities’ and towns’ dependence on property taxes. She quickly retreated from that proposal in the face of criticism from her own party and unfriendly poll numbers on the issue.
The most head-shaking is the assertion that the Rell administration stood for high ethics. Despite the talk, the governor was constantly dealing with ethical problems usually involving the state’s “walking ethics violation,” chief of staff Lisa Moody. From fund-raising violations, to using the governor’s office as her own little money-raising machine, to claiming under oath she didn’t read a memo that, when it surfaced, showed she edited it, to telling state agency heads to “pony up” for the governor, to using a taxpayer-funded study to further Rell’s political ends.
The Rell administration’s “achievements” that have bandied about lately don’t survive an honest review of the record.