Putting personal pique above the national interest again, Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper the other day, apparently because of Esper’s opposition to sending federal troops uninvited to put down rioting in Democratic cities during the presidential campaign.
Apparently it doesn’t matter to the president that the next two months will be especially sensitive for national security because of the change in administrations and the temptation for the country’s adversaries to probe for weaknesses. For the president taking out his frustrations comes first.
Despite what they consider the Trump administration’s accomplishments — like securing a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, weakening Iran, and inducing more Middle Eastern nations to recognize Israel — few Republican members of Congress are likely to miss the president much. His instability, contradictions, and reversals are great drama but lousy government. Government needs stability, especially when changing course.
Joe Biden’s administration will bring its own problems but they are more likely to be matters of policy than personality. At least Biden seems to know how to behave in public, even if Trump lately has brought out the worst in his rival. Biden’s remark this week about the ability of the U.S. government to evict trespassers at the White House was as gratuitous as Trump’s firing of Esper. The new president needs to be unifying, not triumphalist. Repaying Trump in kind won’t help.
Connecticut’s Republicans shouldn’t miss Trump either, insofar as he just brought their ticket to another low with sound defeats for all their congressional candidates and serious losses for their minority in the General Assembly.
With J.R. Romano planning to leave as Republican state chairman at the end of his term in June and the party’s legislative leaders having just declined to seek re-election, the party may be weaker in Connecticut than it has ever been. The party’s candidate for governor two years ago, Bob Stefanowski, seems to be the only Republican still frequently heard across the state, on account of radio interviews and personal appearances that imply interest in running again. At least Stefanowski now takes more positions on issues than most of the Republicans who ran this year did.
Two months ago Stefanowski and House Republican leader Themis Klarides called for Romano to resign for failing to disclose an allegation of domestic violence against a candidate for the party’s nomination for Congress in the 2nd District. This business was embarrassing but Romano rode it out and it went away.
After five years as state chairman Romano may be faulted more for the failure of the Republicans to develop any strategy for the recent legislative election, which plainly was going to be difficult for Republicans because of the president’s unpopularity at the top of the ticket. Romano lately seemed to spend most of his time cheerleading for Trump. Maybe someone had to do it but it was always going to be a vain exercise when the party’s position in the legislature needed saving.
Of course no party chairman can impose a platform on his party’s legislative candidates, and Connecticut Republicans have shown no interest in even having a platform. In the recent election the most that could be construed about their principles came from campaign postcards: They like police officers and dislike taxes. That wasn’t much of a guide to state government.
So it wouldn’t be quite fair to claim that Connecticut Republicans need a new chairman. More than that, they need a raison d’etre, and the courage to explain it. The atmosphere for such an undertaking may improve once Trump leaves office.
As for Connecticut’s Democrats, there is speculation that their larger majorities in the General Assembly will push Gov. Ned Lamont leftward.
But the state keeps losing jobs in big bunches — most recently at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, ESPN in Bristol, and Genpac in Stamford — and its economy was terribly sick long before the virus epidemic. Reports this week said Connecticut is last in the nation in both job and income growth.
With his own re-election drawing closer, the governor is not enthusiastic about raising taxes and imposing highway tolls. And will the Democrats just elected to their first term in the legislature want to run for a second term on having raised taxes and imposed tolls?