Jan. 29, 2008
By Ken Krayeske • 6:00 PM EST
Better Days: Former Gov. John G. Rowland talks with students in Torrington, CT in 1998.
The third act of the tragedy of John Rowland – a short act of revenge - played itself out in the stage of American politics this week.
As the curtain rises, the audience sees a barren economic landscape. Our hero, a down on his luck politician with a federal corruption conviction on his record, sits in his easy chair reading a newspaper. He is trying to get his mind off the fact that his post-prison career as a motivational speaker isn't paying for his expensive tastes.
The headlines scream "Stock Market Plunge." It seems as if the Federal Reserve Bank can't utter a peep without sending stock markets across the globe into a tizzy.
Below that story, he scans another story about Congress and the President, a man who used to call him Johnny Boy, talking about an economic stimulus package that must be "timely, targeted and temporary."
Our tragic hero frowns when he gets to the third graf in the story and understands that the stimulus package hailed by the Bush administration – tax refunds to the citizen body - is stealing a page out of Johnny Boy's democratic laboratory book.
The former governor gets angry. He stands up, and paces around the richly furnished living room. "That was my idea," he shouts, and opens the curtains with a flourish, revealing a bitter winter wind blowing across a suburban front yard.
"If I hadn't gotten caught, I'd be in the president's cabinet," he yells. "Why won't my phone ring? I have suffered, and learned. Why doesn't anyone want to listen to me? I have a story to tell. My ideas are dominating the national discourse, and no one gives me credit. Oh, woe is me."
The money from the bribes, laundered by flipping houses under the public's nose, is running out. His ex-wife needs cash, his current wife needs more, and he has legal bills out the wazoo. Frustrated, he throws the newspaper on the chair, and picks up the phone. The lights dim for scene two.
When the lights go back up, our tragic hero is in the stereotypical smoke filled room. The year is 2001 – it's a flashback. In a suit and tie, Gov. Johnny Boy commands the attention of everyone in the back room. A deal is being made.
"Listen, Mike," he says, "I'll back you for Mayor of Waterbury, and you'll win, no matter how improbable it seems, but I'm going to need a favor from you someday. And when I call it in, you will give me whatever I need, no questions asked."
"Yes, your lordship," Mike says. The deal is sealed.
The smoke clouds out the stage, and the flashback is over. It is 2008. The governor is back in his living room, reading a newspaper. The phone rings. He picks it up.
"Hello," he says.
"John," the voice on the other end says. We recognize it as that of Mike. "We're in business. I've pulled the strings. I think I can get you around $100k a year."
The former governor smiles. Mike continues on the other end.
"Your title will be Economic Development Director, as you requested," Mike says. "I think you're right that the media is going to come down hot and heavy on this one, but I don't think my Board of Alderman will raise a fuss. So if we weather the first two weeks, I think we'll be fine."
The lights go black. When the spotlight goes back up, the scene is a bar. Some reporters occupy the stools, drinking beer. The bartender is pouring them shots of Johnny Walker Black.
"Audacious," one of them says. "I can't believe they would do it."
"Our website has had more than 80 comments in the first three hours of the story being up," a bearded one says. "People can't believe it either."
"What will it take to stop it?" the third one says.
"Don't worry," the first writer says, "we'll be covering his next criminal trial soon enough. The klepto is back in the candy store. It's only a matter of time."
The lights go dark on the third act. Act four will torture the audience soon enough.