Monday, December 22, 2008

Same-sex-marrying socialists strike back


I love our letter writers. Really, I do. They're informed, loyal, passionate and thoroughly infuriating.

With them in mind, from the person who gets a first look at our readers' thoughts, the following is a seasonal-appropriate wish list. I don't expect it to change many minds, but I figure the long-running issues on our letters pages deserve an occasional response.

-- To start with, other than the election, the most popular topic the past few months has been the national economy and the assorted federal bailouts. People are wondering, with good reason, where all this money is going, and where we got it. We just had $700 billion laying around?

All letters are welcome. But there are code words hidden in some thatare signals to stop paying close attention -- "Chris Dodd" and "BarneyFrank." According to one school of thinking, these two, more than anyone else in America, are to blame for our current troubles.

If you want to castigate their decision-making, fine. If you want to say they and they alone are to blame for the recession, that's crazy. They didn't even take over their congressional committees until early last year, and our problems started long before then.

-- Along those lines, this notion of taking sides in a two-party grudge match is a constant theme, but has little to do with how people think. For instance, while the majority of the country has turned decisively against the current administration, many whose anti-Bush attitude predates the rest of the nation feel a special animus toward Senate Democrats.

It comes down to one word -- Iraq. There's a reason many Democrats never got excited about John Kerry, and the 2002 war vote was the No. 1 factor behind Barack Obama beating the supposedly unstoppable Hillary Clinton. What do Obama, Howard Dean, Al Gore and Ned Lamont have that other members of their party lack? The answer -- a near-bottomless supply of good will from fellow Democrats, dating backto their early, vocal opposition to the disaster that is Iraq.

So anyone who writes in assuming any Democrat or Republican supports that party no matter the situation, maybe reconsider that notion.

-- On a different topic, if you're writing a letter responding to a statement about the separation of church and state, don't quote Scripture. No one is taking your Bible away from you. Some people, though, don't want your interpretation of the Bible to determine the law of the land.

-- In terms of the debate over same-sex marriage, there might be something more offensive than writers equating homosexuality with pedophilia, but I can't think of what. We get it -- some of you are uncomfortable with what other people do in their bedrooms. Guess what -- no one wants to know what you do behind closed doors, either. And again, some people don't think you should get the final say on such matters.

There's also the matter of consent. Children, by law, can't give it. That makes a difference, yes?

-- This is a big one -- socialism. Really? Did I miss Obama's plan to nationalize the oil industry?
The notion that the tens of billions of dollars we spend killing people in Iraq could be better spent on schools and hospitals in this country is not radical. Huge majorities in this country support a robust social safety net, so that people who experience a run of misfortune don't lose everything. All other industrialized nations on the planet have some form of universal health care. None of this is controversial.

Maybe those correspondents who fret about our economic choices are happy with the fact that while this is the richest country in the world, there are 41 nations with lower infant mortality rates. At the same time, most workers in "socialist" Western Europe get four to five weeks vacation to start with. What are we supposed to be scared of again?

-- Finally, about the penchant for using the word "liberal" as an epithet -- despite what your radio tells you, it's not an insult.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. He can be reached at 203-330-6233 or by

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Changing law just delays the inevitable

"The people have spoken," read a recent letter to the editor. "It's too bad we in Connecticut never had that same opportunity to protect our families."

The writer was talking about California's Election Day passage of Proposition 8, which changed the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Connecticut is now one of two states where same-sex couples can legally marry.

What the writer leaves unsaid is what we're supposed to be protecting our families from. Being gay? People either are or they aren't, and I can't imagine anyone thinks passing a law is going to change that.

What adds to the confusion is the odd mixture of church and state when it comes to marriage in this country. It's a legal term that defines a partnership with shared rights and responsibilities. But it's also a religious rite performed in a church by a member of the clergy.

What does the first have to do with the second? If same-sex marriages are anathema to certain religions, there's an easy solution -- don't perform them. But why stop the state from authorizing them?

This is an issue where the key opinion divider isn't gender, class or, despite the results of California's vote, race. It's age. Older people, in general, don't like it. Younger people, for the most part, can't for the life of them understand what the fuss is about.

A poll earlier this year showed 68 percent of Californians ages 18 to 29 favor the idea of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, with 25 percent opposed. Among those over 65, it was 36 percent approval and 55 percent against.

On the surface, this seems like it should fall into the libertarian don't-bother-me-I-won't-bother-you category. No one has ever been able to articulate what harm would be caused by allowing two willing participants to gain the rights and responsibilities that go with being married.

We've had our answers for the past four years. Since Massachusetts became the first state to declare such unions legal, the country has been anything but rapt with attention at the fallout, because there hasn't been any fallout. The world kept turning. The same is true of Connecticut.

The arguments against legalization fall flat. It's true such unions cannot biologically produce children. So what -- that's true for all sorts of heterosexual marriages, as well. Do we mandate fertility tests for marriage licenses? Are we going to prohibit all weddings of senior citizens?

There's the argument about the past several thousand years of human history, which have frowned upon, to say the least, such unions. As if we're supposed to use ancient Egypt as our guide-post in such matters. History also shows centuries of tolerance for slavery and the subjugation of women -- are we supposed to revert to the good old days on those, too?

It often comes down to religion. But that's not how we make laws here -- it's right there in the First Amendment. Of course, another recent survey showed only one-fourth of respondents mentioned freedom of religion when asked what rights the First Amendment guaranteed, so maybe some people need a refresher.

If it's just a question of personal discomfort, that seems an awfully thin reed on which to deny millions of people some basic rights. If no one is harmed, society carries on as usual and the world isn't consumed in a fiery apocalypse, it's hard to see what the holdup is.

If nothing else, the numbers show attitudes are changing. Young people today will be old people someday, and tomorrow's young people won't object, either. If it doesn't happen now, acceptance of gay marriage is inevitable in a generation or two. Why we have to fight about it from now until then utterly escapes me.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. He can be reached at 203-330-6233 or via e-mail at

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lieberman keeps influence intact


Toward the end of this year's presidential campaign, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman took his message to a conservative radio show, where he was asked, "Do you agree ... that if we don't at least have the fire wall of the filibuster in the Senate that in many ways America will not survive?" The host was talking about Democrats potentially winning as many as 60 caucus members, which would bring the chance to forestall - in theory, anyway - the ability of minority Republicans to halt the Democratic agenda. Sixty votes is required to stop debate and allow contentious bills to move forward.

Said Lieberman, who remains a registered Democrat and caucused with Democrats even after losing his Senate primary two years ago: "Well, I hope it's not like that, but I fear."

Fear? If the Democratic agenda is so fearsome, why would he choose to caucus with them?

The question is even more pertinent today. His erstwhile party did well for itself on Election Day, winning closely fought campaigns from coast to coast. And with Senate races yet to be decided in Alaska, Minnesota and Georgia, the possibility the party could reach that "fear"-inducing 60-vote threshold remains.

Lieberman decided this year that nothing was more important than electing as president Arizona Sen. John McCain. He failed. In the course of his failure, he repeatedly questioned the readiness, patriotism and priorities of the man America did choose, President-elect Barack Obama.

Despite this, Democrats voted Tuesday to allow Lieberman to keep his chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. If McCain had won the White House, Lieberman likely would have been named to a top Cabinet position (McCain reportedly wanted Lieberman as his running mate before being talked out of it). So our senator emerges as the one person who would have wound up ahead regardless of the election's outcome.

The real question, then, is this: If he fears for America in the event of Democratic ascendency, shouldn't he take it upon himself to put a stop to it? Shouldn't he caucus with Republicans and keep that 60th vote out of reach?

Could it be that all this was only about Joe Lieberman holding onto power for himself?

Elections have consequences, but not for Joe


If nothing else, Joe Lieberman is a survivor.

The Democratic leadership has every right to toss him to the curb. But in the name of bipartisanship, not holding grudges or maybe self-flagellation, he's likely to stay on as chairman of the Senate committee on government oversight.

Funny how when Republicans win elections they aren't expected to cater to the other party's loudest supporters.

For a year, Lieberman was maybe the most vocal backer of John McCain in Washington. And that alone wouldn't have been a big problem -- Democrats wouldn't have liked it, but if he'd simply endorsed his candidate and made a few speeches, everyone would have been able to get over it.

It didn't go that way, of course. Lieberman, who reportedly begged Barack Obama to come to his rescue in the Senate primary two years ago, proceeded to attack Obama -- in that ever-so-polite manner of his -- at every opportunity.

In April, he was asked, "Senator Lieberman, you know Barack Obama; is he a Marxist?" Responded Joe: "Well, you know, I must say that's a good question."

Isn't it, though!

In May, he said: "The fact that the spokesperson for Hamas would say they would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question, 'Why?'"

Why, indeed?

In August: We have a choice "between one candidate, John McCain, who has always put the country first, worked across party lines to get things done, and one candidate who has not."
Marxism, terrorism and treason -- in Joe's world, that counts as fair criticism.

The president-elect, being a magnanimous type, has signaled he wants Lieberman to stay in the Democratic caucus. No one has suggested kicking him out, but if he loses his committee chairmanship -- the caucus will vote on that this week -- it's widely thought he's done with the party.

It bears repeating -- if Lieberman leaves the Democratic caucus, it will be because he chose to do so. He will gain nothing from switching to the Republican side; they have nothing to offer. It would be the senatorial equivalent of taking his ball and going home.

And still, the best reason to remove him isn't about settling a score, or meting out punishment. It's because he's bad at his job. In charge of government oversight, he saw no reason to hold hearings into a raft of Bush administration scandals and disasters, deeming "divisive" the idea of probing the response to Hurricane Katrina.

It's up to the Democrats to decide his future, and signs indicate he'll get to stick around. But however it turns out, let's dispense with this notion of "betrayal." Lieberman ran against his lifelong party's chosen nominee in the 2006 Senate race; he can't be surprised some people weren't thrilled with the idea.

He campaigned endlessly for the Republican ticket this year. He vouched for Sarah Palin and told the world how ready she was -- "She's so strong, she's so capable, she's so competent," he said. This about a person who stands for everything Lieberman has supposedly fought against throughout his career. Like in 2006, he repeatedly denounced the Democratic candidate and strongly implied that choosing not to listen to him was unpatriotic and would put lives at risk.

And apparently there are still people mad that mean old Al Gore didn't call before bypassing his ex-running mate and endorsing Howard Dean in 2004. These are adults we're talking about, right?

The Senate being what it is, Lieberman will probably stay right where he is, which means four more years of Sunday morning talk shows. That, truly, is what it's all about.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. He can be reached at 203-330-6233 or via e-mail at

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lieberman will pay a steep price


All along, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman knew what he was doing. He knew consequences were likely, for himself and the state he serves, if he continued his actions.

The inevitable got under way last week as Lieberman, the former Democrat who ran as an independent and wholeheartedly supported the Republican presidential ticket, met with Senate leadership to begin determining his fate. He is unlikely to emerge unscathed.

As chairman of the powerful Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Lieberman has much to lose. The Democratic Party, of course, did quite well for itself last week, and no longer needs Lieberman's support to secure a majority.

He could lose his chairmanship, be denied seniority rights or be kicked out of the caucus altogether. Republicans have already said they would welcome him - as well they should, given their shrinking numbers.

It didn't have to be this way. Lieberman is a longtime friend of John McCain, and could have supported his candidacy while provoking nothing but a few grumbles. Instead, Lieberman invested every ounce of his political capital in the campaign, and even as signs clearly indicated his candidate was finished, continued to dig his own political grave.

He launched one attack after another at Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Now, he must live with the consequences. Unfortunately for the state of Connecticut, the rest of us pay a price, too, in terms of diminished stature in the Senate and less chance of getting federal help when we need it.

State voters, whether they voted for him or not, have every right to be angry.

Electoral map is blue and getting bluer

There's a temptation among those who backed the winners last week to gloat, but most understand it would be unseemly. This isn't a football game; it's not about winning elections, it's about changing policies.

But so much happened last Tuesday that can't be ignored. The results ran counter to everything we've been told for the past few years about our country's politics.

If we're a center-right country, how is Indiana a blue state?

Locally, while there are many who were eager to see Rep. Christopher Shays defeated, there are few who think he's a bad person, or even a bad congressman. He tied himself too closely to a bad president and his pet war, but that doesn't erase 21 years of service. His biggest problem was being a Republican in a banner year for Democrats.

For the state's most prominent supporter of John McCain, though, there is plenty of leftover anger. Joe Lieberman didn't just speak out on McCain's behalf, he threw himself into the campaign. Then, after the votes were counted, he said, "it is time to put partisan considerations aside and come together as a nation to solve the difficult challenges we face."

OK, then.

He didn't prove much of a salesman. He made his case for months, and the electorate, especially in his home state, turned out in huge numbers for the other guy -- the one Lieberman told us wasn't ready.

While punishing Lieberman would provide some short-term satisfaction, there's not much point. The Democrats don't need him to form a majority. He should lose his committee chairmanship, but beyond that, he's already received the worst punishment he could face -- irrelevance.

National voting patterns can change quickly, as evidenced by the four years it took from Republicans planning for a permanent majority to figuring out how to rebuild their party. But many trends are encouraging for Democrats.

The population is shrinking in the Northeast, a Democratic stronghold. But the places people are moving are all getting bluer -- Colorado, Nevada and North Carolina are all among the fastest-growing states, and they all moved to the Democratic column. Two others high on that list, Arizona and Georgia, were supposed to be GOP locks, but were in doubt right up to Election Day.

McCain won the vote among white people -- a not insubstantial percentage of the electorate. But it's also a shrinking percentage, a trend that's only going to gain speed in coming years.

The only age range that supported McCain was 65 and older. For obvious reasons, that's a tough group to base your future around.

There was plenty that was one-time-only about this election. Barack Obama making history was a big part, as was the revulsion over the Bush years, and a Republican candidate who Republicans themselves never really took to.

And for Democrats to stay in power, of course, they need to get things right. But the numbers indicate that if they show basic competence -- getting the economy going again would be a good start -- the demographics going forward are favorable.

Nearly every county that voted more Republican this year compared to 2004 lies in a swath of land that includes Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma, with parts of Louisiana thrown in. So that's 33 electoral votes you can already mark down in the red column for 2012.

The GOP can also likely count on stalwarts like Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Nebraska, and we'll toss in Alabama, Kansas and Kentucky for good measure. That's 40 more.

Given the trends, barring a radical makeover, the other 465 could be harder to come by.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. He can be reached at 203-330-6233 or via e-mail at

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A defining moment in nation's history

As the collective surprise and euphoria that greet the end of the presidential race subside, the country is faced with an unexpected question: Just how big a change was this?

Political scientists will tell you any Democrat would have been favored to win the White House this year. With a tremendously unpopular Republican incumbent, voters would naturally look to the opposition party for a fresh start.

Similarly, an economy in trouble is always bad news for the party trying to hold onto power. What had been a relatively close race for much of the summer started to drift into a Democratic runaway as Wall Street fell apart.

But circumstances can only tell you so much; there is more to an election than what happens in the background. In taking stock of Tuesday's outcome, it is impossible to ignore the tremendous appeal and the uncanny political skills of the president-elect of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama.

His name alone tells us something different was afoot this year. The occasional Eisenhower aside, this country tends to elect people with traditional-sounding names, like Johnson and Wilson, Ronald and William. Not this time.

Pundits have been telling us for years, in the absence of real evidence, that we live in a center-right nation, where conservatism is the dominant ideology. (Democrats, recall, have won the popular vote in four of the past five presidential elections.) But the electorate chose a candidate who believes firmly in the ability of the government to play a positive role in people's lives, to provide a safety net for the population's most vulnerable segments. Despite the idiotic braying of the campaign's closing weeks, this philosophy bears no resemblance to "socialism," but does represent a distinctly leftward slant. And it was the clear choice of the American people.

Finally, unavoidably, is the question of his appearance. Americans have always dreamed of a colorblind society, where a person is judged solely on his or her abilities and character, and not on physical characteristics. But we know we're not yet the vision of the idealists, and maybe never will be.

But we also know - we have definitive proof - that we aren't the country the cynics think we are, either. Barack Obama, a child of mixed-race heritage, the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, will be sworn in as president of the United States in January.

Nothing can detract from this moment, this accomplishment. It belongs not just to the man who won the election, but to all of us - and to history.

After historic win, road gets rougher

It's possible Barack Obama will remember the past two years as the easy part.

His accomplishments cannot be overstated - winning the Democratic presidential nomination over a hugely favored opponent; becoming the first person other than a white male to head a major party's ticket; and, of course, on Tuesday, winning the nation's popular vote and electoral college, and thereby the presidency.

But the challenges ahead are enormous. He will take office in January facing difficulties unprecedented in recent memory. The economy is in turmoil, with many experts predicting a prolonged slowdown. Rates of foreclosures and credit defaults continue to worsen, and unemployment keeps rising.

In addition, the country is fighting two wars. Our national reputation is at its lowest point in decades, leading other countries to be less willing to help in the fight against international terrorism. And all signs point to global climate change as the pre-eminent challenge of the coming decades, a problem the U.S. has been painfully slow to address.

The problems won't wait, but it's worth taking the time to appreciate what has been achieved. There are probably many people who never thought they'd live to see the day when a person with a family tree like Obama's could reach the nation's highest office. The son of a Kenyan father and a mother from Kansas, Obama spent part of his youth living overseas, in Indonesia. He lived many years in multicultural Hawaii before beginning his higher education on the East Coast.

All his experiences prepared him for today. And he will need every bit of the intelligence, character and diligence he displayed in the long months on the campaign trail. His calm demeanor proved reassuring in a time of national crises, and led a nation to put its trust in the freshman U.S. senator from Illinois.

Nothing will come easily from here, but just to make it this far is an accomplishment beyond belief for most of us. The president-elect will need everyone behind him to get the country moving forward again. We have put our trust in him, and now is his time to lead.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ugliness of 2008 could doom hopes in four years

John McCain, you could argue, had no choice. He saw he was on pace to lose this election, his last shot at the presidency. He wants to win, so he apparently thought he had to resort to unsavory tactics.

He has nothing to lose. His reputation will be fine; no matter what happens, he will be welcome on every Sunday morning talk show as long as he wants to show up. Why not pull out all the stops?

Sarah Palin, though, is in a different position. She’s young enough, and already popular enough, to be part of the national political scene for the next 25 years. It might behoove her, regardless of November’s result, not to provoke more than half the country into a rage at the sight of her.
Maybe she just can’t help it.

As it stands, McCain is in serious trouble. Barack Obama has solid leads in every state John Kerry won four years ago, in addition to a pair of Al Gore states, Iowa and New Mexico. That means, barring catastrophe elsewhere, McCain has to run the table on the following states — Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri and Colorado. Every one of them shows either an Obama lead or looks to be a toss-up. If Obama takes even one of them, he wins the election.

That doesn’t mean McCain and Palin should give up. But there are limits.

McCain’s ads have long pushed the boundary of truth, but he broke new ground last month with a spot that claimed Barack Obama supported "comprehensive sex education" for kindergartners. It was actually a bill in support of teaching children to be alert for inappropriate advances from adults — the kind of thing they teach in the Cub Scouts.

Palin, as vice presidential candidates are wont to do, is leading the attacks, calling Obama "someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."

It’s a reference to a ’60s radical who has sporadically crossed paths with Obama over the years. By this logic, half the city of Chicago has been "palling around with terrorists," but never mind. Guilt by association is all that matters here.

She’s reveling in the ugliest corner of her party’s support. Rallies over the past week have featured backers yelling racial epithets, calling Obama a terrorist and worse. She has shown not the slightest indication any of this was a problem for her. (Nor, it should be noted, has a certain Connecticut senator on stage with her at a few of these events.)

Palin was in a position to be, in the event of a McCain loss, the leading contender for the 2012 Republican nomination. But she’s turned off so many voters in the last month that her party may decide she’s too toxic to take a chance on. They don’t nominate rabid partisans; George W. Bush ran from the Republican brand as a "compassionate consevative" — he wasn’t one, but he pretended to be — and McCain has based his entire candidacy on a willingness to go his own way.

What seems likely is that Palin, her relative youth aside, knows that this, too, is her best and only shot at bigger things. The more people find out about her, the less popular she gets. Her favorability rating dropped from plus-20 a month ago to around minus-10 today.

Her routine has already run its course, and there are signs of trouble in her home state of Alaska. The local media is not amused by the goings-on of the past few months, in which every inquiry into happenings at the state capital has been routed through the McCain campaign. And she has a serious abuse-of-power investigation hanging over her head.

After her speech at the Republican convention, it looked like we’d be hearing her name for decades to come. Instead, in three weeks, Sarah Palin may already be a footnote.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. He can be reached at 203-330-6233 or via e-mail at

Monday, October 6, 2008

When crossing the aisle is all that matters

Last week’s defeat of the Wall Street bailout package in Congress should have made political writers faint with joy. It was just so bipartisan!

Among Democrats, it was 140 yes and 95 no; for Republicans, 65 supported and 133 opposed. That’s about as far from a party-line vote on a contentious issue as you’ll ever find these days.
Isn’t that what we’re supposed to support? Reaching across the aisle, putting country over party?

Sure. Be bipartisan, be pragmatic. But we’ve somehow reached a point where bipartisanship is praised for its own sake — as if working with the other party is a de facto "good thing," regardless of the merits of the issue. Whether a proposal is sound or not, no one wants to seem too partisan.

That’s the Joe Lieberman school of politics, anyway, and it’s infected the entire country — bipartisanship for its own sake as the ultimate goal.

It’s worth remembering, though, where that can lead. The worst performances by congressional Democrats in the last decade are all linked to a desperate attempt to achieve bipartisan agreement on what could only be called bad ideas. And the best move by Democrats in the Bush years was also their most partisan moment.

The danger of reflexive bipartisanship is this: The party in power can make a proposal, and even if it doesn’t pass the laugh test, members of the opposite party feel compelled to meet halfway. It’s the story of the Iraq war.

George Bush said, in effect, We’re going to invade Iraq, and neither Congress nor anyone else is going to tell me otherwise. Congressional Democrats could have demanded a good reason to start a war. They could have insisted on seeing legitimate proof of a threat (which didn’t exist, but that’s another story). Instead, they opted to be "reasonable."

They persuaded the president to go to the United Nations, and made him promise to seek congressional approval before invading. He did both, and then did what he was going to do in the first place. He ordered, for no discernible reason, the invasion of a country that didn’t threaten us.

Immediately after 9/11, it was understandable that Democrats didn’t want to appear obstructionist. It’s why there was never a chance the Patriot Act wouldn’t pass — in that atmosphere, no one could risk looking political. But they could have developed some spine before giving approval to start a war — one that, it must be repeated, continues to this day.

At least Democrats learned a lesson. After his re-election, Bush embarked on the conservative dream of dismantling Social Security (incidentally, is anyone not happy today we didn’t agree to put all that money in the stock market?). He failed, mostly because it was a bad idea and people hated it. But, just as crucially, the opposition party did its job.

Even with a majority, Republicans knew they couldn’t push through their plan without bipartisan cover. In their earlier incarnation, Democrats would have hedged, met them halfway, sought out a compromise. To their credit, they didn’t. They stood together, cast aside false bipartisanship and helped defeat what would have been the domestic equivalent of Iraq.

Remember that the next time the centrists of the world, or the Fourth District, promote their history of bipartisanship. So what? If a resolution in support of clubbing baby seals emerges with bipartisan support, that doesn’t make it a good idea.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. He can be reached at 203-330-6233 or via e-mail at

Friday, September 19, 2008

Let's talk about that 'Bush Doctine'

The Sarah Palin phenomenon is burning out faster than Lehman Brothers. Two weeks ago, her favorability ratings were off the charts. Now they're already in negative territory.

But who cares -- Americans hardly ever vote based on the bottom of the ticket. As for the health of John McCain should he be elected, we could all follow Joe Lieberman's lead. Asked at the Republican convention about Palin's qualifications, he said, "Well, you know, let's assume the best. John's in great shape; he's gonna be the president and let's assume that nothing bad will happen."

Great advice, senator. As Iraq proved, hope is a wonderful plan.

But as people are finding out more about Palin, there's too much that's not being said. We're familiar with McCain's take on foreign policy. Going back to January 2002, when he shouted, "Next stop, Baghdad!" while speaking to U.S. troops headed for Afghanistan, it's been clear he thinks, if anything, President Bush has been too timid in pursuing his policies.

About Palin, though, we don't know. In her first television sit-down, she famously didn't know what the "Bush Doctrine" is. This has been explained away by supporters saying, in effect, "So what? Most people on the street don't know what it is, either." To which one can only respond, most people on the street are not running for vice president.

But what's most important isn't her lack of knowledge (though that is a serious problem); it's that the Republicans are promising to keep these policies going.

In the ABC interview, after stalling for a moment, the governor got it wrong. So did her interviewer, Charles Gibson. "The Bush Doctrine, as I understand it,'' he said, "is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a pre-emptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us."

He's wrong. No one in the political mainstream disputes the right of "anticipatory self-defense" or a pre-emptive strike. If the country is going to be attacked, the nation has a right to defend itself.

The Bush Doctrine goes further. Leading up to the war in Iraq (which is still going on, by the way), the president laid out the right for our country to attack any other country that might -- someday; we don't know when, but it could happen -- somehow pose a threat. That's why we attacked Iraq (supposedly; to this day, no one but the president really knows). They weren't a threat at the time, but they could have become one someday, maybe.

That's not pre-emption. It is insane, but it is not pre-emption.

Bush favored "preventive" war. If that's our policy going forward, we should expect a lot of wars in the coming years. How many countries are there that might pose a threat someday? Russia, China, North Korea, Iran -- and we may have just added Spain. Are we supposed to invade all of them?

With the stock market crashing and the government nationalizing the finance industry, no one is talking about these things. But they matter. In a best-case scenario, American troops will be out of Iraq by 2011 or so -- a full eight years after we invaded. We spend the equivalent of an AIG bailout, $85 billion, over the course of a few months there.

And still, despite the happy talk from people who supported this war from the beginning (Chris Shays, that's you), Americans are still dying there -- fewer than a year ago, but they are still Americans who would otherwise be alive. Iraqis are still dying. Car bombs are exploding on a weekly basis. McCain, though, told Time magazine last month that Iraq is "a peaceful and stable country now."

He's wrong about a lot of things, but he will never top that one.

Palin gives every indication that she's OK with the way this country went to war. Since she might be president someday, she could at least tell us her thoughts on the matter.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. He can be reached at 203-330-6233 or via e-mail at

Bridgeport must weather economic storm

Bridgeport can't be blamed for this one.

The momentum behind most of the major development projects in town has stalled. Steel Point is in limbo, downtown construction is at a crawl and there's little to report from the other large-scale projects around the city. But there's probably nothing that could have done differently.

The slowdown is hurting development across the country. But because Bridgeport is a poor city that is banking on big-ticket projects to bring it back to life, it stands to suffer more than its share. And with little to fall back on, the situation looks more dire here than it would in a relatively well-off place.

For instance, New York. The country's largest city has been building like crazy for more than a decade, and has enough built-in wealth to weather some difficulties. It would take a lot more than a mere slowdown to knock New York off its current heights; it's one of the benefits of being the financial and cultural capital of the universe. And there are millions of new people projected to move in over the next few decades.

But at a basic level, New York is facing the same problems as Bridgeport. Most of its high-profile mega-projects, financed publicly, privately or in combination, in the past year have been either scrapped or drastically scaled back. Costs are shooting up, and demand for housing and retail is cratering.

For instance, the Fulton Street Transit Center in Lower Manhattan, which was supposed to be a

showpiece near the World Trade Center site, with a glass dome rising over the connection of 12 subway lines and 23,000 square feet of retail space. As the cost climbed by tens of millions of dollars, the dome was scrapped and the entire project has come to a halt. There's no telling what it will look like if and when it's finally finished.

Then there's the plan to build a new Penn Station on the West Side. That project kept growing in scale and dollars, eventually including a number of high rises alongside a rebuilt Madison Square Garden. It collapsed under its own weight, and now there's little hope of rescuing the underground train station in the near future.

The World Trade Center site is a story unto itself, and faces challenges that dwarf any other development. But it, too, has been hamstrung by the bad economy. There's little sense in putting up all that office space if there won't be people or businesses to put in it.

There's a definition of a recession the economy hasn't met -- unless the nation experiences negative economic growth for two straight quarters, we're apparently not in a recession. Why that's supposed to matter to anyone is another question.

People judge the economy by what they're dealing with, not by what the aggregate numbers tell them. People are struggling, and businesses are struggling right along with them.

Cities, likewise, don't judge the economy on what national numbers tell them. There's too much at stake. But neither can they sit back and wait for the problems to work themselves through.

That's why it's encouraging to see that, despite the problems, Steel Point and the other big developments are still breathing. If they can survive this lull, which is no sure thing, the city could be in good shape to capitalize on the inevitable recovery.

It had better hope so. If the recovery takes too long to arrive, there's no real backup plan.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. He can be reached at 203-330-6233 or via e-mail at

Stadiums a losing bet for development

This is a scenario Bridgeport knows something about.

A sports stadium earns favorable tax agreements on the promise of economic growth. In the end, the stadium benefits the few while the many foot the bill.

It's not the Arena at Harbor Yard, it's the boondoggle in the Bronx. The new Yankee Stadium, a report shows, is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and offering almost nothing in return.

A report from a New York City Council member concluded that the city and state invested as much as $850 million in cash and tax breaks in the new stadium, while the economic benefit will go mainly to the team's ownership, which is already doing just fine. In addition, the stadium's construction resulted in the loss of acres of parkland used by some of the city's poorest residents.

The team and the city dispute the findings, but the results by now are clear -- stadium construction is about the biggest farce going when it comes to spurring economic development.

Put it this way: The Yankees are the most successful team in U.S. sports history. Their stadium sits in a neighborhood, the South Bronx, that for decades was synonymous with urban blight. If that much success did that little for the local area, no one should expect better results elsewhere, including Bridgeport.

Stadiums bring a minimal level of new employment and, considering they are unused for much more time than they are in use, can in fact be a blight in their own regard. When there's no game, there are no people.

Bridgeport has learned this; Harbor Yard did not spark a development revolution. New York should have known it, as well.

Make commitment to regionalization

It's the curse of Connecticut. With 169 towns and cities vying for their own slice of the pie, neighboring communities have little incentive to work together.

For well-off towns, that's no problem. But the cities that have lost business and industry over the decades have little recourse. It's one of the main reasons our state looks the way it does, with rich towns surrounding poor cities, and little done to bridge the gap.

Every so often a plan comes along to change that. The hope of regionalization is that towns with money to spare would realize it's in their interest to see their neighbors succeed, as well. Fairfield, for example, does quite well for itself, while next-door Bridgeport has trouble paying its bills.

But it's not just for the cities. A recent proposal calls for a study to determine how Monroe, Trumbull and Easton might benefit from forming a regional emergency dispatch center. It makes good sense - the three towns currently handle emergency dispatching separately, but sometimes share resources, like traffic accident investigation units, canine units and crisis negotiators.

This kind of thinking on a wider basis could lead to real cost-saving opportunities around the state. If local officials can move past their typically insular views, there are some interesting options out there.

But it is the cities that have the most to gain. It's long been posited that if Bridgeport could annex the towns on its borders, the standard of

living for everyone would increase. There would certainly be more money for education - the key component in economic development.

That's not going to happen, but there are steps to be taken. Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch has long championed these efforts, and at a forum sponsored by the regional business council, other local leaders pledged support, as well.

For starters, the local communities could look to regionalize the water pollution control apparatus. It's a burden on Bridgeport, and one that could and should be shared with neighbors.

There will always be thorny issues like neighborhood schools that will stymie progress, but they shouldn't be allowed to halt the entire endeavor. Last week's meeting should be a starting point, and local leaders should commit in writing to workable regionalization plans.

Slowly, the suburbs are realizing that the health of the cities affects everyone. The sooner steps can be taken to improve that health, the better for everyone.

Rell, Blumenthal exploit public fear

No one can deny the emotion surrounding the case of convicted rapist David Pollitt and his much-discussed release from prison last year. But we count on our elected officials to make fact-based decisions, not outbursts.

In this regard, Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal failed the people of Connecticut.

The Pollitt case is difficult for any number of reasons. Convicted of a series of rapes, he served his sentence before being released, with significant restrictions, to the home of his sister, in Southbury. Rell and Blumenthal disgraced themselves then, insisting the Pollitt be held in prison even though his term was up.

Residents of Southbury were understandly nervous about the prospects on Pollitt living in town. Rell and Blumenthal could have used the opportunity to make clear that he would be restricted in his movement and watched at all times by an electronic monitoring device. Instead, they gave in to mob mentality and demanded he be kept in prison.

No one is in favor of seeing someone dangerous on the streets again, but if the law says he is to be freed, he must be. We don't make laws on an ad-hoc basis.

When Pollitt's monitoring device malfunctioned last week, Rell and Blumenthal wasted no time demanding he be returned to prison immediately. They could have let law enforcement do its job and waited for some facts to arrive before sending out their press releases, but they decided to play to the cameras instead.

As it turns out, the problem was faulty electronics ­-- as well as faulty leadership.

No one is advocating anything other than a strict interpretation of the law. If someone has served his sentence, our leaders must not demand he be kept in jail. That's giving in to fear.

Similarly, if there's reason to think a convict's parole has been violated, then let the process take its course. The actions of Rell and Blumenthal did nothing but once again ramp up fear in Southbury. It was political grandstanding at its worst.

Lack of oversight ends predictably

There was a time (for many, we're still in it) when the fashion was to rail against government regulation in all its forms. If only we could get that pesky oversight out of the way, then the economy could reach its real potential, or so the thinking went.

If the events of the past week haven't convinced people of that notion's fundamental misguidedness, it's likely nothing will.

The oversight that kept the excesses of Wall Street largely in check since the Great Depression have been over the past decade systematically swept aside. It's the free market run wild -- Congress and federal regulatory agencies were told to step aside.

Now look where we are.

First, the U.S. Treasury took over the mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; then came the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the sale of Merrill Lynch. The topper, though, was the unprecedented $85 billion government bailout of the insurer American International Group.

Meanwhile, the stock market on Monday suffered its worst day since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The takeover or sale of so many venerable institutions has everyone who is not a financial expert perplexed, and profoundly worried about the overall state of our economy.

There is no single factor to blame for the debacle, but surely the decline of regulatory influence has played an important role. Without anyone keeping watch, financiers took enormous gambles on ever-larger profits -- gambles they took with other people's money.

Those gambles may have paid off for a while, but eventually, as always happens, there was a price to be paid. That time is now.

The events of the past few weeks should be enough to turn the tide against the anti-regulatory status quo of the recent past. At the very least, though, the current situation should be enough to make people think twice before blaming an ordinary homeowner facing foreclosure or other fiscal calamity. People make bad decisions, but not all of us can count on an $85 billion package to bail us out.

This is what it looks like when government looks out for the interests of the powerful at the expense of the powerless.

Sept. 11 a day Americans will never forget


It's unfortunate this needs to be said, but some people don't believe it: No one -- no one -- has forgotten 9/11.

To this day, seven years after the most terrifying morning in recent American history, the attacks continue to be used as a political cudgel. People who disagree about matters of foreign policy are accused of "forgetting" Sept. 11, 2001 -- as if that were possible, let alone advisable.

Today, at least, let there be no doubt. We remember those who died, we mourn those we have lost, and we unite to prevent it from happening again. It would be nearly impossible to find anyone, of any political bent, who feels otherwise.

That does not mean everyone agrees on the best way to do that. But we must, at long last, stop the politicization of people's deaths at the hands of terrorists. Declining to support a specific course of action is not tantamount to surrender, no matter how loudly some people might yell that it is.

The debate over how to keep America safe is not over. President Bush, in his speech to the Republican National Convention this month, invoked 9/11 to help make his point.

"We need a president who understands the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001: that to protect America, we must stay on the offense, stop attacks before they happen, and not wait to be hit again," he said.

That was the lesson he took from 9/11, but it wasn't the same lesson everyone took. Starting wars -- staying "on offense" -- is not a universally agreed upon method of curtailing those who wish us harm. And there are many reasons to doubt this country has been on the right path all these years.

Boosters will point as evidence of our method's effectiveness to the fact that there have been no comparable attacks on American soil since that day. But they lack proof of causality -- one event following another does not mean one event was caused by another.

There are, though, effects of our actions that are verifiable. The dead from the wars we waged in response to Sept. 11 are losses the same as those who died on the day itself. Some may think those deaths were a necessary price this country paid for its safety. Maybe they're right, but it's small consolation to the families and loved ones of those who died.

As the day of the attacks recedes into history, the terror and tragedy remain fresh. No one who was alive that day will ever forget it, no matter where they were or how much the horror affected their lives. Everyone was touched by it in one way or another, and the grief and pain will never fully dissipate.

We do, however, carry on. We don't live our lives in fear. And though the issue has faded somewhat from the news -- the presidential election is focused to a large degree on economic factors -- everyone carries the knowledge that the worst could happen at any moment.

It's not an easy balancing act. Common sense tells us we're much more likely to die in a highway accident than at the hands of a terrorist, but the mind doesn't always -- or even often -- behave rationally. We worry more about tainted tomatoes than the flu, even though we know in our heads which one poses the greatest danger.

Acknowledging the fact that we're unlikely to be killed by terrorists, though, does not equate "forgetting" about life's dangers. Thousands of people simply going about the course of their day were killed for no remotely justifiable reason in New York, at the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field on 9/11; no one has forgotten that, no one diminishes their loss, and no one ever will.

We also will forever pay attention to the shockingly real possibility that those who wish us harm could someday arm themselves with the most destructive weapons ever devised. If our nation has any national security policy at all, foremost among its goals must be securing all fissile material around the globe before it falls into the hands of terrorists. A terrorist with a nuclear weapon is the ultimate nightmare.

In the heat of an election season, politics will inevitably come to the forefront. But we can demand better. To those who seek our votes: Do not use our dead as political props. Do not equate their deaths with your policies.

We are all Americans. Let us acknowledge that much and deal with our differences without exploiting our grief, which is as strong today as it was seven years ago.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Constitution: It had a good run


So many memories.

All the focus is on choosing his successor, but who will take a moment to pay homage to the White House's current occupant, the only president we've got?

President Bush's term has taken us places we never thought we'd go. Who knew eight years ago we'd have national discussions about torturing people?

Everyone is familiar with the Bush team's greatest hits, where torture, amazingly, doesn't even come out on top. How can you do worse than violating one of the universally understood lines between civilization and barbarism?

Well, starting unnecessary wars is one way. With the end of the occupation maybe, finally in sight, Iraq apologists are scrambling to find something to hold onto there, something that was worth the thousands of deaths and the leveling of a nation.

They're coming up short. We were lied into a war we didn't have to fight, and we'll be paying for it for decades.

But there are stories from the Bush years that go beyond the ones we'll all remember. One of my favorites, which might encapsulate the disaster and how we got there better than anything else, involves a scandal that, in a sane world, would have brought down the presidency. In the world we live in, it hardly made a ripple.

This one was about turning the Justice Department into an arm of the Republican National Committee. U.S. attorneys were fired for insufficient partisanship, career positions were illegally filled on the basis of politics, and more. All impeachable offenses, but come on — as scandals go, it can't compete with waging war based on the president's gut.

This particular story involved a former White House political director named Sara Taylor, who testified before Congress last year on the firing of U.S. attorneys. She didn't want to talk about it, and explained herself like this: "I took an oath. And I take that oath to the president very seriously."

That's it.

That says it all. Every catastrophe of the past eight years wrapped up in one short sentence.

Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy, to his credit, called her on it. "I was really struck by one of your answers," he said to her. "You said, 'I took an oath to the president, and I take that oath very seriously.' Did you mean, perhaps, you took an oath to the Constitution?"

Taylor: "I — yes, you're correct. [What I] said is that I took an oath; I took that oath seriously. And I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the president."

Leahy: "No. The oath says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount duty. I know the president refers to the government as being his government. It's not. It's the government of the people of America. Your oath is not to uphold the president. Nor is mine to uphold the Senate. My oath, like your oath, is to uphold the Constitution."

That's not, of course, how the Bush people saw it. Yes, this is supposed to be a nation of laws. It's actually, to get technical about it, one of the basic tenets of Western civilization — the Magna Carta and all that. But who cares?

The Constitution, court precedent, laws passed by Congress and signed by earlier presidents — even those signed by Bush himself, what with his creative use of "signing statements" to undercut his own signature — meant nothing, and continue to mean nothing.

Political operatives throw around accusations of anti-Americanism with impunity, but if anything is anti-American, it's this. The country has made it more than 200 years with the rule of law, but the Bush administration threw it in the trash.

What's somehow worse is that they not only went from the rule of law to the rule of man, they resorted to the rule of this man. If you're going to toss aside the basic principles of the greatest, freest country on the face of the earth, why would you do it for George W. Bush? This is the best they could come up with?

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post. You can reach him at 203-330-6233 or by e-mail at

Shays is happy to change the subject


November's election, we're told, is all about the economy. Past years' concerns about war and terrorism are supposedly out the window — voters will make up their minds based on $4 gas and the mortgage crisis.

That should be bad news for incumbents. Tough economic times can be all the reason voters need to make a change.

But one local politician should consider himself lucky.

President Bush isn't running again, and neither of our U.S. senators is up for re-election. So that leaves 4th District Rep. Christopher Shays as the only local incumbent facing the wrath of voters over rising prices and stagnant wages.

But is this bad news for him, electorally speaking? He can argue, as he has, that it's not his party in charge of Congress these days. And he's made enough noise over the years about alternative energy and gas-mileage standards that he can plausibly claim to be part of the solution.

But whether that's true is questionable, at best. He's taken to pushing for loosening restrictions on offshore oil drilling, which happens to directly contradict the position he once held. He reasons that now that the demand side of the energy equation is taken care of — with improved vehicle mileage standards passed by Congress this year — it's time to focus on the supply side.

Never mind that no one thinks opening up offshore drilling will have any impact on gas prices. Just being seen as "doing something" is supposed to be enough.

So despite his green reputation, Shays is giving in to the electorate's worst impulses — more drilling is a damaging prospect that won't actually solve anything.

Shays has gone so far as to take part in Republican stunts like the ongoing dimly lit protest of Congress' August recess. The GOP said no one should go anywhere until the nation's energy problems are dealt with — as though everything would be OK if only Congress was in session.

It's just an election-year sideshow, but even by those standards, it's insane. Shouldn't Republicans be happy the Democrats are taking time off?

But for Shays, rather than facing a burden other incumbents feel, the overwhelming focus on the economy is convenient. It's comforting. It takes the focus off the fact that he has been wrong — disastrously — on every big foreign policy issue of the past seven years.

If everyone's talking about gas prices, no one will be asking why Shays was so gung-ho about attacking a country that posed no threat to us. No one will ask him what five-plus years of his delusional statements about Iraq have brought us.

Of course, Iraq is a moot issue. Violence there is down; U.S. deaths are down. We won! Or maybe not. Either way, we have a shiny new global hotspot in Georgia; Iraq is yesterday's news.

But it's people like Shays we have to thank for the Iraq disaster. American deaths have fallen, and yet still no one can tell us why any of our troops had to die there. Did we achieve our goal? Were the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis worth whatever we've been doing there? To whom? Going on six years in, and still no coherence, let alone real answers.

But, again, if the debate this fall is about mortgages, no one will revisit Shays' remarks about prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. A year ago, in a speech at Sacred Heart University, he said that scandal was about "a military unit run amok" and that it would have been better for everyone if the story had never been made public. The Army general who led the Abu Ghraib investigation, though, this summer said the Bush administration committed war crimes. Maybe Shays thinks we're better off not hearing about that.

Surely he would rather talk about home heating oil. And why wouldn't he? Otherwise, people could ask him about what he said in April 2003, soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein. "We have to succeed," he said. "Failure is not an option."

How's that working out for us?

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post. You can reach him at 203-330-6233 or by e-mail at

Monday, August 18, 2008

Keeping the world safe from bloggers


So who’s a bigger threat, the terrorist or the blogger? They’re both convenient stand-ins for the downfall of society.

But as we consider the dangers, maybe we can all agree on one thing — no more hyping the existence of bad guys as if there are people out there disputing the matter.

“There are terrorists out there who really do want to destroy our civilization and murder millions of Americans,” said U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman this past week. Against whom he was arguing remains uncertain.

It’s become something of a cudgel against people who disagree about how we deal with these problems. Someone — say, oh, I don’t know, Lieberman — will pull out the old favorite: “Don’t you know we’re at war?” It’s not meant to encourage debate; it’s meant to shut people up.

It’s not a question of whether there are bad people out there. But it is about capabilities. If some two-bit nobody down the street says he wants to wreak havoc on the planet, by all means, do what it takes to stop him. But don’t pretend his words are the same as his abilities.

And don’t pretend that those who want the country not to stoop to tactics beneath us — torture, detention without trial — don’t care about security.

We get it. They’re out there. No one’s arguing that point.

Lieberman made the above statement at a much-criticized appearance with the group Christians United for Israel, whose leader, Pastor John Hagee, has a history of indecorous statements about any number of groups. The senator’s speech made big news, but it’s hard to see why; he didn’t say anything he hasn’t repeated elsewhere the past few years.

But he did make one interesting comment, talking about those who criticized his Hagee trip. “Dear friends,” he said, “I can only imagine what the bloggers of today would have had to say about Moses and Miriam.”

Those darn bloggers.

Estimates show there are between 50 million and 100 million blogs in this country, so it’s doubtful the senator is talking about everyone who has one. Even accounting for people who write more than one, you’re still looking at millions in the U.S. who could reasonably be called “bloggers.”

Generalizing about blogs or bloggers makes no sense. Someone criticizing them might as well say, “I just don’t like writers.” People have blogs written from all levels of expertise, about any topic imaginable, and they reveal as much or as little about themselves as they want.

But it’s safe to say Lieberman was not talking about people who record for posterity their dinner menu. He — and he’s not the only one — is mad at a certain substrain of online writer who, in Lieberman’s view, degrade our discourse with uninformed political analysis and the occasional swearword.

What really bothers him, though, is people calling him on statements that might’ve gotten a pass 10 years ago.

Some criticisms of bloggers are true; for instance, most political bloggers do little original reporting. But that’s not why people read them. At their best, blogs pull in bits and strands from news around the country to help fill in the gaps.

In the past, the only sources of national news were television or the local newspaper, and most of that came from a wire service. Now, with access to different reporters’ takes from around the country, it’s a lot easier to pull together stories that would have disappeared in years past.

And it’s harder for politicians, because everything they say is in the public record. The benefit there isn’t about reporting everyday gaffes; it’s about establishing patterns.

That’s why no one who’s followed Lieberman over the past decade was surprised about his embrace of someone like Hagee. He hasn’t taken a sharp turn to the right since his 2006 Senate campaign, as some recent detractors have argued; he’s been out there for years.

And if it takes the dreaded bloggers to get that kind of message out to people, so much the better.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post. You can reach him at 203-330-6233 or by e-mail at

Shays can't escape Iraq


For left-leaning 4th District voters, what’s so bad about Rep. Christopher Shays? He’ll again face a close race this fall, but is he worth tossing aside?

He’s pretty good on global warming. He supports alternative energy. He says he wants universal health care. What’s so bad about all that?

His biggest selling point may be that he no longer faces what could be called the “Lincoln Chaffee factor.” Chaffee, the moderate Republican who represented deep-blue Rhode Island in the Senate until 2006, faced anguished voters that year who, he said, wanted to support him but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for continued Republican leadership. Beloved or not, Chaffee was tossed aside.

Shays faced a similar problem. He’s never been much good in the arch-villain role, but he was an obstacle standing in the way of getting the GOP goon squad of Tom DeLay, et al., out of power.
But he squeaked through the past two races, and now the impetus driving the “Get Shays” movement has been lost — the Democrats already won.

With zero danger of a GOP resurgence that would once again shift congressional leadership, voters can again take a close look at the contenders. And Shays, it’s true, looks good on a whole list of issues. Also, his contention that Republican moderates are a group worth having around isn’t without merit.

But then there’s the issue he’d love to go away, but won’t. He’s hoping, he says, the war in Iraq won’t be as big an issue as the past two races.

His hopes are misplaced.

As long as he keeps with the fantasy that Iraq is going, in his words, “incredibly well,” he will continue to be haunted by the war’s failures.

In a recent visit with this newspaper’s editorial board, Shays lauded, for what may have been the millionth time, the progress of the Iraqi military, and praised that country’s political advancements. All par for the course, if still misguided.

But he said something else interesting. When asked how far away the day is when a foreigner — say, an American — could take an unguarded stroll down a Baghdad street and not fear for his life, he said it was close, if not here already.

But he added that he would be worried about something bad happening on such an imaginary stroll, because, if someone important got hurt or killed, people would be liable to declare the whole thing a mistake.

By “the whole thing,” I think he meant the war — the decision to invade in the first place. And I hate to tell him this, but that ship, as the saying goes, has sailed.

Americans have made their decision about the war, and they don’t like it. Nothing that has happened in Iraq in years has affected public attitudes.

People, by large margins, want out. They don’t want to wait for some magical day when peace will reign and democracy will bloom. They want the war to end, and soon. (See for the details.)

Shays, despite his hopes, will again have to battle the fact that he’s in favor of staying until who-knows-when. Even the Iraqi government now wants us out.

It won’t matter how good his energy plan looks if he keeps supporting a policy that’s getting people killed for no discernable reason. If the “Get Shays” forces need a reason to mobilize, this is it.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post. You can reach him at 203-330-6233 or by e-mail at

Dodd keeps focus on what matters


Let’s get this out of the way first: Sen. Christopher J. Dodd should have known better about his sweetheart mortgage deals. People are up in arms about it, and for good reason. It’s not just impropriety; it’s the appearance of impropriety that causes problems.

So, to paraphrase Chris “Mad Dog” Russo: Bad job, senator. Bad job.

Having said that, I don’t much care. I can’t imagine Dodd would take a risk on sacrificing his career over a break on his mortgage. It’s probably hopelessly partisan, but I don’t think it’s an issue worth dwelling on.

What does matter, and is worth dwelling on, is that Dodd gave a speech last week on the floor of the Senate that summed up better than anything else all the frustration, anger and outrage of living in George Bush’s America. From Iraq to torture to wiretapping and everything in between, Dodd brought together in one place what people have been feeling who can’t believe what has happened to their country.

The issue in question concerned a bill that modernizes the nation’s surveillance laws. It makes some changes that no one contests. What it also does is throw out lawsuits of people who say phone companies helped the government illegally spy on them.

Now, the way this normally works is a judge rules on whether the suit can proceed, and then a court decides for one party or the other. This legislation, though, would pre-empt that process. Instead, it would say that no matter what these companies did, they cannot be held responsible. Even if they knowingly broke the law, it doesn’t matter.

Of course, the Constitution says something about preventing illegal searches, and by all accounts, what the phone companies did was illegal. The government told them to break the law, they did and now Congress wants to say it’s OK.

Well, it’s not OK. But it’s also the way things are done here these days.

We are supposed to be, if nothing else, a nation of laws. We certainly preach about the rule of law to the rest of the world often enough. But what this bill is saying is that the law doesn’t matter; what we say matters — “we” being the government.

But if the rule of law means anything, it has to matter every time. It has to apply to everyone, people and corporations, equally. If people or companies can break the law and get away with it because the government says so, then we don’t live in the country we think we do.

Dodd took it a step further. “Retroactive immunity is on the table today; but also at issue is the entire ideology that justifies it, the same ideology that defends torture and executive lawlessness. Immunity is a disgrace in itself, but it is far worse in what it represents.”

It’s how we ended up in a war with no coherent rationale; with administration lawyers explaining away torture and secret prisons.

Dodd continued, listing the administration’s many sins: “We are deceiving ourselves when we talk about the U.S. attorneys issue, the habeas issue, the torture issue, the rendition issue, or the secrecy issue, as if each were an isolated case. As if each one were an accident. …

“There is only one issue here. Only one: the law issue.”

Today, we have a president and an executive branch who do not feel bound by the rule of law. Anyone who thinks a presidential election is going to be enough to wash that away will be disappointed.

Dodd will never be president, but we’re lucky to have him in the Senate. Someone has to say these things. Someone has to make clear to the world, and to history, that we know how far our country has sunk.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post. You can reach him at 203-330-6233 or by e-mail at

Time to get cities back on national agenda


The presidential primaries have dragged on, but it’s hard to figure how all this is a bad thing. It’s been years since anyone cared who won such votes in places like Oregon or South Dakota. The more involved, the better.

And anything is better than leaving party nominations up to a pair of unrepresentative states that nonetheless have a huge say in who gets the final nod. New Hampshire and Iowa have few people, little diversity and no cities. They have no business setting the primary agenda.

That part of the quadrennial schedule is long past, but it’s worth thinking about the next time. Many observers consider it a good thing to have a relatively small, low-population bellwether get things going — it gives voters a chance to get to know the candidates in somewhat intimate settings for months before the vote.

Those are valid points; there should be a starting spot where voters can find out all they can about their choices. But it shouldn’t be Iowa or New Hampshire.

It should be Connecticut.

It makes too much sense to ever happen, but this state is the best suited in the nation for the role.
  • It’s small. The third-smallest, in fact, meaning it’s easy to get across in half a day or less. Candidates could hit every corner twice over and give all 3 million or so of us a chance to hear them out.
  • It’s (somewhat) representative. State demographics rank much closer to national averages than either Iowa or New Hampshire. Using 2006 numbers, look at the states’ white, black and Hispanic populations in comparison:

    %w 80.1 84.6 94.6 95.8
    %b 12.8 10.2 2.5 1.1
    %H 14.8 11.2 3.8 2.3

    Connecticut isn’t the most diverse place on the planet, but we’ve got those two beat.
  • A lot of people live here. Our population isn’t huge by national standards, but we’re No. 4 in density. Since most people in this country live in cities or suburbs, Connecticut is representative of most people’s situations.
  • We also have small towns. Litchfield County and, especially, the eastern half of the state are still mostly rural, and there are working farms dotting the countryside. Like the rest of the country, farming isn’t what it once was, but we still have them.
  • Income disparity — the nation has it; we’ve got it more. Rich people are legion in towns closest to New York, but the cities are bastions of poverty. Closing this gap should be among presidential candidates’ top priorities.
  • Finally, we have cities. Not booming metropolises, certainly, but New Haven, Hartford, Stamford and, of course, Bridgeport are big enough, and with enough problems, to finally get urban issues part of the national discussion. Instead of spending months on ethanol, which everyone knows is a sham, candidates could compare policies on smart growth, congestion, mass transit, urban poverty, etc. These are issues that affect vastly more Americans than the typical farmers’ problems that dominate Iowa.
    As it is now, cities are basically absent from the national political debate. Even though most Americans live in or close to one, the problems of urban life don’t make the agenda. Maybe changing the nominating process could fix that.

There’s no chance our state will topple the traditional starter states, and, it’s true, Rhode Island or Delaware would work about as well. But something ought to change. Though we didn’t see it this year, with Iowa and New Hampshire producing different results for both parties, too often those states set the table for everyone else.

Imagine candidates swinging through the Naugatuck Valley towns, stumping in Bridgeport, stopping off at Jones Family Farms. The site of closed factories in the background would dominate the nightly news for months.

It beats an Iowa cornfield.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post. You can reach him at 203-330-6233 or by e-mail at

Society held hostage by cars, roads


First, we need to redesign and rebuild every town in the U.S. The rest should be no problem.

That’s about the state of our plans for dealing with global warming in this country. If this is as serious a problem as we’ve been told, and all signs indicate that it is, we’re going to have to do a lot better on solutions.

The crux of the problem is that this country, outside a few metropolitan centers, is built around the automobile. There has never been a shortage of wide open spaces for branching out, and we’ve taken full advantage. Now, we’re stuck.

For a variety of reasons, basing our lives around cars doesn’t look to be viable in the long term. Like most everything else we need, cars depend on oil — of the cheap and unlimited variety.

Not only are we liable to run out of it (which is a separate issue), but we’re realizing the long-term problems that come from burning it.

Global-warming deniers are still out there, but for the most part not taken seriously. It’s pretty commonly understood by now that continuing to rely on gasoline-powered personal vehicles to get everywhere is impractical. Carbon emissions over the decades have contributed to climate change, with rising ocean levels and weather disasters in the forecast.

The trouble is that (almost) our entire built environment is based around that car-only model.
If you live in the suburbs, think about how many places you can practically go without a car. Then think about where the closest mass transit system stops. And think about whether you have any idea where it goes or on what schedule it runs.

Changing this situation seems to top the list of most global-warming policy proposals. Adding density, encouraging mixed uses (housing, retail, entertainment all together), and rewarding brownfield development (on the site of contaminated former factories) are touted as solutions for cutting down on the necessity of driving.

They’re all good ideas. And it’s true, many people are finding city life more attractive these days, with downtown revivals across the country, from Portland, Me., to Portland, Ore.

The problem is the pace. With the amount of time and energy it takes to make even one small move — getting approval to build apartments in a former bank, for instance — the idea that we can make enough necessary changes fast enough to make a difference seems dubious, at best.
We’re looking at:

  • convincing enough people that a car-free lifestyle is right for them;
  • changing regulations, zoning and otherwise, in towns and cities across the country allowing for dense, rather than sprawling, developments;
  • allowing for thousands of miles of mass transit lines of one form or another to be built between places currently served only by roads; and
  • doing all this before we either run out of gas or pass the global-warming tipping point, whenever that is.
The good news is that the issue is firmly on the agenda; it’s no longer considered strictly an “environmental” issue to be concerned about our consumption patterns. And the renewed interest in downtown living is real, albeit slow-going — just look how long it’s taking for a downtown Bridgeport constituency to come together.

Also, the rising price of gas is having an impact. Across the country, ridership on mass transit is up significantly, and the prospect of $50 fill-ups for the foreseeable future means that will continue. Whether that will lead to the billions of dollars in upfront costs that new transit systems require is another story, but it’s progress that can’t be ignored.

But consider the obstacles, besides those listed above. On the Post Road through Milford and Orange, it’s not even practical to walk between neighboring shopping plazas. Dense housing developments face months or years of regulatory hurdles and neighborhood protests, while single-family standalones sail through unquestioned. The mere mention of more money for bicycle paths is enough to get free-marketers in a snit.

It’s not hopeless, but it’s past time to pick up the pace. In Connecticut, with 169 individual fiefdoms each vying for their own slice of the pie, that could be a stretch.

Or we could be like Lex Luthor and start buying up future oceanfront property in Nevada.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post. You can reach him at 203-330-6233 or by e-mail at

Still waiting for Iraq answers


Maybe a year from now, when President McCain confers with newly installed Defense Secretary Joseph I. Lieberman, we’ll finally get a sense of what we’re doing in Iraq. That will be about the six-year anniversary of “Mission Accomplished,” so maybe that would be a good time to hear some answers.

The prognosis will probably sound something like this — conditions are improving, but not to the point that we can expect to leave anytime soon. That will line up with pretty much every official statement about the war since 2003.

We’ve reached the point today when the president can admit that he willfully lied to the public on multiple occasions about the war’s progress and no one bats an eye.

Speaking of positive statements he made during the summer of 2006, President Bush said this: “Look, you can’t have the commander in chief say to a bunch of kids who are sacrificing either, ‘It’s not worth it,’ or, ‘You’re losing.’ I mean, what does that do for morale?”

Much better for morale to flat-out lie. Didn’t we used to impeach presidents on this sort of thing?

Bush is an afterthought at this point, and his meanderings on the topic of the day don’t amount to much. (He also, in the same interview, admitted he was OK with top White House staff getting together to approve torture techniques. Whatever.)

So none of this would matter much if we didn’t have a candidate running for president who promised four more years of Bush foreign policy. But the McCain-Lieberman team is all in on Iraq, and their election would guarantee we wouldn’t be changing anything as long as they stayed in office.

Lieberman’s personal descent into self-parody, of course, continues as usual. Asked if he thought Senate colleague Barack Obama was a Marxist, he answered, “Well, you know, I must say that’s a good question,” before deeming Obama’s positions “far to the left of me and I think mainstream America.”

Just read that line again. Lieberman is equating his own positions with that of “mainstream America”? The same mainstream America that turned against this war years ago and wants nothing more than to just get out? The same mainstream that thinks maybe bombing Iran while we’re fighting two other wars might not be the smartest move at the moment?

Joe, too, knows his time is running short unless he can drag McCain over the finish line. When Senate Democrats, as seems likely, improve on their slim majority after November’s elections, party leadership will no longer be dependent on Mr. Sanctimony to stay in their caucus. Unless he gets that McCain cabinet post he’s surely counting on, no more “Meet the Press” for him.

When Lieberman delivers the keynote address at the Republican National Convention this year, proving to independent voters how eager McCain is to reach across the aisle to someone who thinks exactly like him on most issues, he’s sure to tell us we’re on our way to victory in Iraq. Since we’re so far past the point of even knowing what “victory” means, it will be interesting to see if anyone calls him on it.

It may not matter much. Americans like a winner, after all. We’re not into “retreat and defeat” or “the blame game,” but we do enjoy a good rhyme scheme, apparently.

So what’s to be done? We aren’t in a dramatically different position on Iraq now than at any time over the past five years. The violence ebbs and spikes, U.S. troop deaths continue unabated, up to 10 percent of the Iraqi population has been killed or displaced from their homes by the fighting — but our presidential debates focus on flag lapel pins.

McCain has made his promise. “There’s going to be other wars,” he says. We won’t be able to say he didn’t warn us.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post. You can reach him at 203-330-6233 or by e-mail at

Don't treat your voters like children


What was most impressive about Barack Obama’s speech last week wasn’t the subject matter or the delivery. What leaves the biggest impression is the fact that, by all accounts, he wrote it himself.

It’s hard to internalize the idea of a president who talks to people like grownups. We’ve had seven years of one disaster after another, all delivered by someone who sounds like he’s talking to a bunch of 6-year-olds. It might be nice to get past that.

For instance, we’ve heard a lot of talk about terrorists — or “evildoers” — who kill people because they “hate our freedom.” That’s one way to put it. Even accepting that formulation, the question of why we had to invade a country that had nothing to do with attacking us remains unanswered.

But President Bush and his tortured — so to speak — explanations have been the rule all these years. People once thought to be at least mildly intelligent (if usually wrong) have reduced themselves to bizarre non sequiturs when it comes to national security policy.

Our own Sen. Joe Lieberman, apparently confused by his party affiliation, recently decided laws against torture don’t matter anymore. “We are at war,” he said. That solves that, apparently.

He was one of 45 senators who voted in opposition to a bill that would have prohibited waterboarding. “It is not like putting burning coals on people’s bodies. The person is in no real danger,” he said. OK, then.

Lieberman has cast his lot with the Republicans, allowing his full-on descent into demagoguery to continue unabated. Even he has to know he doesn’t make sense anymore, but next to his friend John McCain, he’s the voice of reason.

It’s McCain who has had trouble lately differentiating Sunnis from Shiites. When it comes to Iraq, those groups tend to disagree with each other, but to McCain, they’re all one looming menace out to kill freedom-lovers everywhere.

“Al-Qaida is going back into Iran and is receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran,” he said, and on more than one occasion. It took a prompting from his pal Joe to set him straight.

“I’m sorry; the Iranians are training the extremists, not al-Qaida,” he said later. Same difference. All bad guys.

Obama, whatever else you say about him and his speech, didn’t go that path. Speaking about his pastor’s history of controversial remarks and racial tensions in general, he didn’t insult anyone’s intelligence. He didn’t call anyone evil or tell us his political opponents are endangering America. It’s a nice change.

The Bush-Lieberman-McCain team has been at it so long they hardly remember anything different. What was refreshing about Obama last week was how little he sounded like his fellow Democrats, who spend so much time being scared of looking weak that they end up looking weak because of it.

It’s what led Hillary Clinton, not to mention John Kerry and John Edwards, to support this five-year-old catastrophe of a war back when their opposition might have made a difference. But no, they were worried about future Republican attack ads, and petrified the war would go well and they’d look foolish.

In late 2002, real opposition from Clinton, who once lived in the White House, or Kerry, an early favorite for his party’s presidential nomination, could have meant something. But they played along, accepting all the logical flaws that went into the war’s rationale.

Saddam has weapons, he supports terrorists, he’s an evil dictator, he’s a threat to this country — some of the arguments were true, most were not and none of them added up to a legitimate reason to start a war. But the opposition at the highest levels was missing.

Maybe a leading politician who didn’t treat voters like children would’ve been helpful. Obama wasn’t in Congress then, so maybe he doesn’t get credit for opposing this disaster. But say this for him — at least he wasn’t for it.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post. You can reach him at 203-330-6233 or by e-mail at

Warning signs blinking brightly downtown


Surely no one thinks this is an isolated incident.

There was a collective gulp last week among believers in the future of downtown Bridgeport on the news that one of the area’s signature projects might be in trouble.

Developer Phillip Kuchma, whose Bijou Square has been moving along nicely for months, is looking for help from the City Council to complete his $24 million, 84-unit structure on Fairfield Avenue. The project’s main lender has apparently grown skittish, and wants tax help from the city before any more money is committed.

It’s possible, of course, that this is a short-term problem that can be solved with a little nudge from the city. But when it comes to downtown redevelopment, everyone has learned to be wary.

There are many promising projects in the planning stages — from the Magic Johnson site to Steel Point and the condominiums near Seaside Park — but those exist only on drawing boards. The Kuchma site was making real headway, with tangible progress. A hiccup there catches everyone’s attention.

After pledging all along to build the complex without state or city assistance, Kuchma now says lenders won’t provide the necessary money to complete the development unless sale prices are mitigated by a tax break.

He’s probably right. Why wouldn’t lenders be thinking twice about this sort of thing?

The underlying problem is that so much of the city’s growth is planned around the housing market, which is going through its worst stretch in years. Foreclosures are everywhere, and the near future promises a glut of available units. What looked like promising developments a year or two ago suddenly look dicey, at best.

It’s unfortunate that the city, cash-strapped itself, will likely have to step in and rescue this project, but it can hardly be called surprising. There’s a reason why there has been no new downtown construction in decades. For all the happy talk of a better Bridgeport around the corner, there is so much up in the air that even boosters are uneasy.

A variety of plans call for hundreds of new condominiums and rentals throughout downtown in coming years. But the problem, as anyone who’s seen the news in the past six months knows, is no one is buying anything. To think that people will buck that trend to live in a nearly vacant downtown with almost no services is crazy. No wonder lenders are demanding tax help.

Meanwhile, the city is forgiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes to developers while it continues to track down every dime in unpaid car fees. It’s a pretty simple concept — everyone should have to pay taxes, and everyone should face the same penalties if they don’t. But it all depends on who you know.

It wasn’t that long ago the city forgave more than $3 million in back taxes on the decrepit building at 333 State St., which looks worse, if that’s possible, today than it did five years ago. (On my first trip into the city, I took one look at that building and thought, “Do I really want to work down here?”)

Probably the biggest blight on downtown — which is saying something — the building should have been torn down years ago. Especially with the housing crisis and all the new units in the offing, the structure just needs to go. Let Housatonic Community College get some room to breathe and take that thing down.

As for Bijou Square, the City Council has little choice but to come through with the money. What is it going to do, let it sit there unfinished? Bridgeport already has enough symbols of decay and unfulfilled promise; it doesn’t need another one.

The city can hope this is just an economic rough patch that must be endured, and that the housing market will soon regain some of its footing. But none of the indicators point in that direction. Without a shocking turnaround, this will likely not be last story of a promising local development in trouble.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post. You can reach him at 203-330-6233 or by e-mail at

Shays stays the course on Iraq

Rep. Christopher Shays just can’t understand it. Why can’t he convince everyone about Iraq?
The congressman is either the truest of true believers or a world-class actor. In his most recent visit with this newspaper’s editorial board, he struggled to understand why his listeners wouldn’t grant him the benefit of the doubt when he talked about improving conditions in Iraq.
He’s the expert, having been there 19 times (at last count). But he hurt his credibility when he threw out the old line about the Iraqi military, and how well their training was going. As though no one had heard that one in the past five years.
The fundamental confusion is this: Shays says he supports a time line to get American troops out of Iraq, but he is supporting John McCain for president, and McCain is talking about a multigenerational U.S. commitment there. Shays says these points are not contradictory.
The real question, then, is this: If Chris Shays alone made Iraq policy, what would he do? If he instituted his time lines, how many U.S. troops would be in Iraq after they’d expired? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Because McCain is talking 50 years, minimum. Iraq’s defense minister recently said U.S. help will be required there for another 10 years, at least. And we’re building some serious long-term bases over there.
McCain’s point is that Americans will accept such a commitment as long as American troops aren’t dying. Look at Korea and Germany, he says. And that’s fine, if he believes that, but we’ve been hearing something different about Iraq for a few years now.
Here’s George W. Bush on April 13, 2004: “In terms of how long we’ll be there: as long as necessary, and not one day more.” That’s been the official line from the start.
Does Shays agree with this? Does McCain? Will it be “necessary” to stay 50 years?
I don’t think it’s bizarre that people can’t understand Shays’ position. He says it hasn’t changed. Maybe it hasn’t, but it doesn’t matter because no one knows what it was to begin with.
Later in the meeting, Shays repeated his contention that the media’s treatment of the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison — and not the abuse itself — led directly to the deaths of American troops. It became a recruiting tool for Islamic extremists, he said, who went out and killed Americans.
His first mistake here is, as usual, understating the extent of the abuse. This was not a “night crew run amuck,” as he likes to say. Official military reports have confirmed that.
Even granting him that, though, he says the problem would have been uncovered by some visiting official — maybe Shays himself — and then handled, quietly. No need to tell anyone anything.
What was left unsaid was how long members of the media, once they found out about the abuse, were supposed to wait for Shays or someone else to fix it. He says he doesn’t want censorship, he wants the media to show better judgment. But in whose interest is it to let abuse go unreported?
His position is devoid of logic. Suppose, for argument’s sake, in the midst of battle the American military accidentally blows up a bus filled with schoolchildren. It’s a war; bad things happen. Should the media refrain from saying what happened because it makes the military look bad?
The media is not in business to do PR for the military. Reporters, photographers and support staff put themselves at considerable personal risk to tell what happens. If evidence of American abuse makes more news than bad behavior by our enemies, that’s how it should be. U.S. troops are supposed to be held to a higher standard than insurgents.
Each time I write anything about Iraq, a place I’ve never been and know nothing about other than what I read, I get all sorts of reader feedback, positive and negative. Much of the latter focuses on how I’m undermining our troops or hating America or something because I take issue with whatever Joe Lieberman said that week, but that kind of thing I’m used to.
But I had one exchange with the father of someone serving in Iraq who was unhappy with something I wrote, and we exchanged a number of messages, all of them civil and most of them pleasant.
Buried in one of them, though, I’m guessing in reference to his son, was this: “Stop making it sound like you have a personal interest in it.”
This, honestly, stuns me.
It’s true, I don’t have a directly personal interest in the war; no one in my immediate family and none of my close friends are there. But I refuse to believe that it’s commendable for people to just ignore what happens there.
I’m trying to imagine how it would be better to take at face value everything this country’s leadership has to say about Iraq. When I hear Lieberman or Bush or Shays making the same arguments they’ve been making for five years with nothing to show for it, I think that’s worth a mention.
Maybe I’m wrong.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. You can reach him at 203-330-6233 or via e-mail at