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Rell is not what she appears to be

Uncle Sam
Just as some commentators suggested that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize merely because he was not George W. Bush, some of Gov. M. Jodi Rell's heretofore astonishingly high approval ratings had to do with the fact that she was not John G. Rowland.

Also contributing to Teflon Grandma's seemingly undentable ratings was her unwillingness to take a stand on pretty much anything except that Connecticut residents should take "staycations." Having strong opinions may win you fans but it also gets you hate mail. Take it from me.

"Change agents don't have high approval ratings," state Rep. David McCluskey (D-West Hartford) observed to the New York Times back in April. "Change agents are the ones who polarize people. She is not a risk taker. She is playing it safe."

Potential Democratic challenger for governor, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, said in the same article: "I think the governor has proved to be very adept at watching the polls and staying ahead in the polls."

Rell's then press spokesman Chris Cooper defended his boss: "People trust the governor's leadership in this fiscal crisis, because they see someone who is standing up for them "� What they have not seen is a hidden agenda."

Maybe that's because just how closely the governor was watching the polls and the lessons in political chicanery she'd learned from John Rowland before she, in his words, "threw [him] under the bus," were just too well hidden. Tucked away in a $220,000 taxpayer-funded contract between the state Office of Policy and Management and UConn Professor Kenneth Dautrich for a "government efficiency study," was a lot of time spent on focus groups considering the governor's popularity and perceptions as a leader against then likely opponent Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and other clearly political issues.

Let's talk a little bit about leadership, because you'd think a real leader wouldn't need a poll to tell her what to do. "A leader comes to the forefront in case of crisis, and is able to think and act in creative ways in difficult situations," says Business dictionary.com. But Rell is like the ultimate Oz -- just don't look behind the curtain! She presented a balanced budget -- counting on the fact that voters wouldn't look too hard at the numbers because it relied on assumptions that conveniently ignored a $2 billion shortfall, so when pushed came to shove she could blame the problem on the Democratic Assembly.

But that's not leadership. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, said, "It's important for leaders to tell hard truths." I'm not sure Gov. Rell would know to tell a hard truth if it stood up and slapped her in the face with a smoked haddock.

Harvard Business School professor Nitin Nohria said of Winston Churchill that he was a great leader because he was a pragmatist who could deal with difficult realities but still have the optimism and courage to act.

Whereas the major characteristic of Rell's governorship? Inaction. She signed the Gender Neutral Marriage statute but only because she had to. She didn't sign the budget -- she didn't approve of it -- but she didn't veto it either.

Two probes have been launched into the $220,000 UConn Study: one by the auditor of public accounts and Attorney General Blumenthal into whether "state tax dollars have been used for other than strictly state purposes," and another by UConn's Office of Audit Compliance and Ethics to determine if Dautrich's research "violated any aspect of UConn's code of ethics." Voters need to take a hard look at the Grandma behind the curtain.


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Uncle Sam
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