Why Do I Feel Bad for John Rowland?

I can’t help it. I’ve tried to take a hardline and chime in with the “he didn’t learn his lesson” crowd. I really did try to conjure up a “throw the book at ‘em” stance. But I just can’t do it. I feel sorry for John Rowland. Not in the pitiable sense but in the true sense of empathy. He’ll likely spend the next four years or so in a federal prison as a repeat offender when he sentenced Wednesday after being found guilty of election fraud.

I’m not trying to downplay what he did. He engaged in a sham agreement with a congressional candidate and her husband and then he used his radio show to attack that candidate’s chief rival (that’s the part that bothers me the most). In the grand scheme of corruption and even compared to what he did to land him in the hooskow the first time, this offense was not particularly egregious.

I’ve known John Rowland since 1988 when I was a fresh-out-of-college reporter and he was a young congressman. We’ve never been friends or even acquaintances by any means but we knew each other well enough to say hello whenever we saw each other. That was also true in 2001 when I was the communications director for the state Senate Democrats and he was the governor. Yet I have been among his harshest critics.

I fully understand there is no room for error when you are dealing with the public’s trust, the people’s money or public airways. Elected officials are public servants and should be held to the highest standard. But they are also human with character defects just as we all have.

Maybe John Rowland skated by in his life because he is likable, is charismatic and makes people feel at ease, even important sometimes. That sort of charm won’t help him now.

Call me soft but somehow I can’t help hoping he gets a lesser term and another (third) chance at the rest of his life.