Philadelphia — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy condemned the Republican ticket of Donald J. Trump and Mike Pence as bullies in a speech Monday night to the Democratic National Convention, winning cheers by noting Connecticut welcomed the Syrian refugee family Pence turned away from Indiana.
Trump “has insulted anyone who doesn’t agree with him or doesn’t look like him. Women. Mexican-Americans. Veterans. Muslim-Americans. The LGBT community and people with disabilities. You name ’em, Donald Trump has bullied them,” Malloy said. “I know something about bullies. And I know why we must stand up to them.”
Malloy, 61, a second-term governor struggling at home with a 24-percent approval rating and fresh off the disclosure that a federal grand jury is investigating how Democrats financed his re-election, is playing a welcome role this week as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton.
He shrugged off a question about whether he arrived here under a cloud.
“I would hope not, but things are what they are,” Malloy said, referring to the grand jury investigation. “I think the party’s got to deal with it.”
On Monday night, Malloy was one in a procession of speakers who performed an often thankless job of warm-up act in a big, restless hall for the big names to follow, Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders.
Malloy’s image in Connecticut is one of the political aggressor, not the childhood victim of bullies. But he talked about growing up as a child with severe learning disabilities.
“I’m here today to tell you a story of hope,” Malloy said. “A story of why we are stronger together. It’s the story of a young boy with physical and severe learning disabilities. A child for whom reading and writing were almost impossible. A child thought to be – as the term was used in the early 1960’s – ‘mentally retarded,’ as late as the fourth grade. A boy who could not tie his shoe or button his shirt, until the fifth grade. Someone who knew the harsh words of bullies in the playground and discrimination in the classroom.”
Malloy said the boy overcame.
“See this is my story. A story of why we are stronger together. It’s an American story. Our communities are bound by the shared understanding that we are stronger together. That we need to lift up our brothers and sisters, and ignore the shouts and taunts of bullies amongst us,” Malloy said. “That is one reason why I am a Democrat. And that is why I am proud to support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.”
A few weeks ago, Malloy was a sure bet to be greeted with a chorus of boos from the supporters of Sanders. Malloy had been an especially aggressive supporter of Clinton on gun control, and his role as co-chair of the Platform Committee made him a target for dissatisfaction with a party not moving fast enough to the left for Sanders.
But Malloy moved acceptance of the platform without being booed, then returned for a speech that highlighted the importance of electing Democratic governors as well as Clinton, again without jeers. He said he believes the Sanders campaign concluded the platform process was open and fair.
Malloy did not mention Sanders or his difficulties with the Vermont senator in a speech that, like all others delivered Monday night, was reviewed by the Clinton campaign.
“That’s not my place,” Malloy said. “That was not the purpose of this speech.”
As chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, Malloy said he was trying to promote Democratic governors while he made the case for Clinton and against Trump. Until he was named Trump’s running mate, Pence was one of Malloy’s targets as an Indiana governor up for re-election.
“With the Trump-Pence ticket, it’s like a contest to see who can discriminate more.”
“Pence rejected $80 million in federal money that would have funded pre-k for 4,000 low-income children,” Malloy told the convention. “He signed a law that would have forced women to hold funerals for fetuses – even, in some cases, after a miscarriage. He signed another law that would discriminate against people based on who they love and how they express that.”
On a night when other speakers urged tolerance for immigrants, both legal and illegal, Malloy recalled Pence insisting that a vetted family of Syrian refugees not be relocated in Indiana.
“Gov. Pence turned his back on refugee children and their parents. The first family of refugees he rejected are now welcomed residents in Connecticut,” Malloy said. “The Trump-Pence ticket brings the worst of the Republican gubernatorial record to the national stage.”
In an interview after the speech, Malloy said the image of bullies was an appropriate way to describe the GOP ticket.
“They use very disturbing and hurtful language. They seek to separate people, obviously for political gain. I think it’s the right terminology to apply to them. I think denying a fully vetted refugee family access to your state was bullying,” he said. “I think it was for political purposes. It probably bolstered his person popularity amongst folks who don’t like Muslims. I understand that, but that’s the move of a weakling, not a strong person.
“At their very core, most bullies are weaklings.”