OP-ED | Few Risks As Connecticut Delegation Attacks GOP Over Nunes Memo
In recent years, Connecticut has had some loudmouths among its congressional delegation. After all, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and his predecessor in the seat, Joe Lieberman, honed their skills as state attorneys general, an office that functioned as a PR factory for both of them.
Both men loved media attention. Indeed, the space between Blumenthal and a TV camera has long been labeled the most dangerous piece of real estate in Connecticut — that is, unless Chuck Schumer is visiting.
But the crisis in Washington over the release of a memo put together by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee has caused Blumenthal and his colleague in the Senate, the never-shy Chris Murphy, to up their game.
Blumenthal in particular has been all over cable news, especially MSNBC, which is friendly to Democrats and has, along with CNN, been hyperventilating about the release of the classified material and the possibility of it compromising national security — to say nothing of the investigation of Robert Mueller, the special counsel and former FBI director investigating the extent of Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election.
On Twitter and on his Senate website, the normally cagey Blumenthal has been scathing in his attacks. Of the the Nunes memo, which he called “reckless” and “a desperate attempt by President Trump and his Capitol Hill lackeys to smear the Special Counsel,” Blumenthal said, its release “adds evidence to the growing credible case of obstruction of justice against the President and his associates.”
A small point of clarification: Recently, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe (see video above), perennial Joe Scarborough sidekick and hanger-on Mike Barnicle touted Blumenthal’s 20-year stint as state attorney general as evidence of his experience as a prosecutor. While Blumenthal did try criminal cases for four years when he was U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, the state AG does not prosecute criminals. Those duties are handled by the State’s Attorney’s office. Connecticut’s AG essentially presides over the state’s largest law firm, issues press releases and sues everyone in sight — especially those big bad corporations everyone loves to hate.
Blumenthal’s replacement as AG, the estimable George Jepsen, was a breath of fresh air in that regard. He simply did his job and, since he does not appear to harbor ambitions for higher office, did little mugging for the cameras. Jepsen, upon whom I confess I had a man-crush, will be missed.
But I digress. As much as I would like to, I find it hard to disagree with Blumenthal — or Murphy, for that matter. Or Congressman Jim Himes, D-5th District, a member of the House Intelligence Committee who has perhaps been even more active on cable news than Blumenthal, who himself has high visibility as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
They are virtually united in their contention, either directly or indirectly, that Trump is trying to obstruct justice. From asking FBI director James Comey to go easy on now-fired National Security Director Michael Flynn, to the firing of Comey and Trump’s reported desire to fire Mueller, a picture emerges of a president who has something to hide and is trying mightily to prevent that something from being discovered.
Blumenthal, Murphy, and Himes are all Democrats in a state which Trump lost by 13.5 percent. Moreover, Trump’s approval ratings in Connecticut are about 30 percent. So there is little political downside in going after him. Compare that to the caution exhibited by Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat up for re-election this year and whose state Trump won by more than 40 points and where his approval ratings are holding steady at 61 percent.
Even Rep. Joe Courtney, who represents Connecticut’s Quiet Corner, has weighed in, most notably against Republican attacks on the FBI, which are personal for the congressman. Courtney’s parents met while working at the FBI. Following the release of the Nunes memo, Courtney fumed, “The unfounded attacks being leveled against the dedicated law enforcement professional of the FBI are reprehensible and dangerous.”
There really are no meaningful consequences for the Connecticut delegation in going after the president, while the advantage is obvious: increased national exposure in the event of a run for higher office (unlikely for Blumenthal but very likely for Murphy and Himes), while avoiding any negative consequences.
Wouldn’t it be great if we all could live our lives that way?
Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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