What to remember of Lamont’s first day in office
OK, so Ned Lamont’s JFK impression was scary. That might not be a bad sign.
“Ask not what your state can do for you...” he faked in an unacceptable Bay State accent, leaning down into the microphone.
The dude went to Harvard and that’s as good as we can get? “... Ask what you can do for your state. ...”
Lamont’s 23-minute State of the State Address was much more fun and less cringe-inducing when he focused on policy, like paid family leave, which prompted the newly shrunken Republican minorities to scowl and sit on their hands. Now entertainment.
Lamont’s way of saying “Hi everybody” reminds me so much of Mickey Mouse, that I almost hallucinated white gloves on his hands. Maybe those digits will actually manifest themselves when Connecticut starts selling recreational (I love that word ... What a marketing concept!) cannabis, as Lamont plans.
Ned’s so likable, I want to barf. It’s scary and I’m worried that the wolves in the Capitol — unions, Democratic lawmakers, department heads, lobbyists — are going to scurry away from his skeletal remains and a few tufts of fur in a Capitol hallway some night in late May.
Fortunately there were a couple of moments when I saw someone less likable but more respectable inside that 65-year-old Yuppie exterior, maybe a little Dan Malloy, in the occasional flash of Lamont’s seriousness. Malloy, the ultimate policy wonk, was smart enough for everyone in any given room, and without natural allies in the General Assembly, coming from the municipal realm of 14 years as Stamford mayor, his tenure became lonely.
Lamont, with only modest local Greenwich government service way back in his past, will be learning on the job. He promises to listen to everybody, as if there were enough hours in the day. But that facial expression, you know if he can pull that out once in a while sitting at a table with the
maybe he’ll succeed. Maybe he can bark at lawmakers who want to spend too much. Maybe the AFL-CIO union endorsement didn’t mean he was in their back pocket.
After all, he’s the guy who convinced Connecticut Democrats in 2006 that Chicken Hawk Joe Lieberman did not belong in the U.S. Senate anymore. But in 2018, what does it mean to talk truth to power?
What can he possibly accomplish in this upcoming, no-win four-year term? The underfunded pensions have a $100
liability. The budget that starts July 1 has a $1.7 billion deficit. The governor has until Feb. 20 to offer a budget proposal to the wolves, to the lawmakers who know the line items by heart.
And if Lamont hasn’t promised the stars to everyone, there’s really only a few things he hasn’t, like a path to student-debt forgiveness. You think that wouldn’t bring millennials flocking to Connecticut? How about a redesigned health care system with a public option, so people don’t have to go broke if they get sick? How about better support for emerging green-energy sources?
I know there’s a piece of the new governor steeped in the attitude of his great uncle Corliss Lamont, who wrote: “The act of willing this or that, of choosing among various courses of conduct, is central in the realm of ethics.”
Uncle Corliss — the socialist philosopher son of Thomas Lamont, who was banker J.P. Morgan’s right-hand man — led the ACLU for more than 30
Lamont’s way of saying “Hi everybody” reminds me so much of Mickey Mouse, that I almost hallucinated white gloves on his hands.
years and won a landmark free-speech case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1965.
So there was Ned Lamont, up on the stage in the packed House of Representatives, checking off a what’s-what of progressive goals: retail weed; an “all-digital government” at a time when the DMV still works in hieroglyphs on tablets of wet clay; 5th Generation Internet in the cities and WiFi rampant in the rural streets; “30 minutes from New Haven to Stamford; and 30 minutes from Stamford to Manhattan;” the $15 minimum wage; and an education system that naturally feeds into high-paying jobs.
Might as well shoot high. Might as well dance all night at the Inaugural Ball in what I hope was the last that Lamont will be relaxed for the next four years. There’s too much at stake for him to be happy.
The 19-shot National Guard artillery salute and the flyover by C-130 cargo plans were sad, shabby militaristic holdovers of history. The abbreviated parade halfway around the Capitol was less than its equal.
But that moment on the platform in the House, when the sun blasted through the stained glass in the State Capitol’s historic House of Representatives, shining on him like a poetic spotlight of possibilities, that’s what I want to remember about Gov. Ned Lamont’s first day in office.