Malloy v. Foley: Worst Personal Attack in Latest Debate was Subtle…and Shameless

It came in the closing moments of Thursday’s debate, nearly 45 minutes after Republican challenger Tom Foley proposed a “contract” with Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy to refrain from personal attacks for the rest of the campaign. Foley used a question about “core values” to say that the candidates should be asked, “Are you a good parent?” It may not have been clear to some viewers/listeners unfamiliar with some challenges the Malloy family has faced. But it was pretty clear Foley was alluding to troubles Malloy’s sons have faced and what that might say about Malloy as a parent. In a campaign filled with nasty, personal attacks, this one was beyond the pale.

One of Malloy’s son’s run-ins with the law has been well-documented. Another son was peripherally involved in a racially charged incident. Is it fair game to question the governor as a parent—and therefore his fitness as a governor— because of this? That will be for the voters to decide but the thought here is that using an opponent’s family issues to try to discredit him is over the line.

It’s not even so much that Foley subtly brought up Malloy’s family challenges. It’s more that he did so after spending the week since the last debate calling for a truce on negative attacks. He even proposed the contract against such attacks in the same hour he introduced Malloy’s family into the debate.

Further galling was that it was Foley that started the debate attacks by referencing a corruption investigation of Malloy when he was mayor of Stamford. Malloy was cleared or any wrong doing and praised by the prosecutor for his cooperation. But in last week’s debate, Foley dropped in it twice before Malloy responded, and did so with both barrels.

Malloy was correct in his assertion that Foley was fined for a campaign law violation; that Foley lied on an FBI questionnaire when he was nominated to be ambassador to Ireland; that he was less than forth coming about a 1981 road rage incident and lied when he said a police officer didn’t write the police report on the incident when indeed one had.

Foley is proving to be an emperor without clothes living in a glass house (a scary visual to be sure). Both sides in this race are guilty of over-the-top negative campaigning. But using the past problems of an opponent’s children to discredit him as a parent and therefore as a governor is unforgivable.