One more selection: House GOP leader

SOURCE: The Concord Monitor
By Arnie Arnesen
Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008

Mike, I love ya, but you must be mixing up your drugs. To suggest that Judd Gregg was the best of the eight governors you graded (beginning with Meldrim Thomson) reflects either memory impairment or a failure to appreciate the width and depth of their gubernatorial legacy.

For the public's recollection, let me remind them and you that Gov. Gregg's answer to New Hampshire's worst economic downturn since the Great Depression (until, perhaps, today) was to deny, delay or ignore the problems.

I recall a sad moment during Gregg's 1992 U.S. Senate campaign when John Rauh, his Democratic opponent, was asked during a televised debate if he knew which county Chester, N.H., is in. Rauh, a recent transplant, could not answer. Judd, the perennial New Hampshire officeholder who managed to wrap himself up in his father's political credibility to ensure his electability, jumped at the opportunity to strut his New Hampshire trivia expertise.

Many of us lamented that Rauh should have responded that while he may not know the location of every city and town in New Hampshire, he, unlike Gov. Gregg, would have been capable of locating his desk once in a while for something other than vetoing abortion bills or signing bankruptcy deals that only management could love.

The pathetic legacy of Gregg was twofold: On the energy front, Judd sold the ratepayers down the river when he came to the aid of his honorary campaign chairman, Tom Rath, who also happened to be the lobbyist for the soon-to-be new owner of the bankrupt PSNH. Gregg delivered an exclusive bankruptcy deal for Tom's client that, to the disbelief of many folks on Wall Street, benefited discounted junk bond holders 100 cents on the dollar plus interest (note the word junk) and forced New Hampshire ratepayers to pay 5.5 percent rate increases for the next seven years, leading to the highest electric rates in the country.

Bad deal for New Hampshire residents, but a great deal for stockholders of bankrupt PSNH and the new owner, Northeast Utilities. If the PSNH bankruptcy is any indication of what kind of leadership Gregg will bring to the table vis-a-vis the ongoing implosion of our financial markets, God help the folks on Main Street.

On the education front, Judd and John H. Sununu failed to keep their promise to fully fund the Augenblick formula, which led to the filing of the Claremont education lawsuit in June 1991. No need to fill folks in on the continuing failure of that story.

And finally, if you are going to give credit to anyone for securing hundreds of millions to balance New Hampshire's budget and securing lucrative federal jobs, it was not Judd Gregg but that fiscal hawk U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman, with the help of President George H.W. Bush (running in the New Hampshire presidential primary against Pat Buchanan), who drove the state's rescue wagon. Bush and Rudman maintained a loophole in the federal budget giving New Hampshire unprecedented access to federal dollars intended for the poor but used instead to fill the hemorrhaging state budget and delivered hundreds of jobs.

Sorry, saying yes to pallets of cash and government jobs with benefits is not a sign of leadership. Gregg and Craig Benson should be duking it out for last place.

Gregg shoved the problems under the rug and, thanks to Uncle Warren's surprise departure from the U.S. Senate, fled New Hampshire to return to the federal womb. Benson, on the other hand, was incapable of appreciating the difference between being the leader of a democratic institution and a despot.

Arnie Arnesen


(The writer was the Democratic candidate for governor in 1992.)