Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas an idiot on CNN today for suggesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency be denied funding and that Americans rely on private insurance to cope with natural disasters.

Three minutes into a live, five-minute interview about the impact of Tropical Storm Irene on Connecticut, anchor Christine Romans posed a long question about the criticism of FEMA by Paul, a Tea Party hero and Republican presidential candidate. Malloy answered in just five words.

“I think he’s an idiot,” Malloy said.

Romans seemed taken aback.

“That’s blunt. That’s quite blunt,” said Romans, who began laughing.

Malloy, 56, a first-term Democratic governor now seeking a federal disaster declaration to bring aid to the state, said the money the U.S. is spending on two wars dwarfs the resources that go to FEMA and disaster relief.

“This is a ridiculous conversation,” Malloy said. “I really don’t understand what he’s talking about, and I’m not sure he does.”

“I think I hear a frustrated Democratic governor of Connecticut,” Romans said, noting he still was coping with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, which destroyed or heavily damage dozens of homes. “You’re in the middle of a mess right now.”

“It’s not that,” Malloy said. “I’m a supporter of FEMA.”

He credited disaster planning by all levels of government for saving lives in a storm that pummeled the east coast from North Carolina to New England. FEMA’s second in command, Richard Serino, was in Connecticut on Tuesday.

The exchange is one reason why Malloy has become a welcome guest on shows such as MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” where Malloy hasn’t been shy about mixing it up with the host, Joe Scarborough, or exchanging barbs with Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

After Malloy’s first appearance on “Morning Joe” in February, Scarborough ended the show by saying, “I learned that governor of Connecticut is a fighter.” Another panelist, Mark Halperin, approvingly called him “feisty.”

In July, Malloy zinged the rotund Christie, who had accused Malloy of lecturing him about his harsh stance toward public-sector labor unions. With the barest hint of a smile, Malloy dismissed the question.

“This is a debate that’s more important than who has the bigger…”

He waited a beat before completing the sentence.

“…belt. It’s policy.”

Today, Malloy was being interviewed on CNN about his state’s response to Irene, which left more than half of Connecticut without power, caused two deaths and damage expected to reach hundreds of millions of dollars. The interview was preceded by a story about the devastation on the Connecticut shoreline, particularly in East Haven.

When Romans asked him about the claims by some that the storm was hyped, Malloy dismissed the issue as trivial.

“I think the conversation of hype is being hyped,” said Malloy, who was interviewed from the studios of NBC30 in West Hartford. “The reality is the people of Connecticut are hurting. We’ve had homes destroyed, infrastructure destroyed.”

Malloy called the question about whether Irene, which seems certain to go down as one of the most expensive storms in U.S. history, got too much press attention “a ridiculous conversation to be having right now.”

But Malloy was especially disdainful of Paul, who said Sunday on Fox News that FEMA was the real disaster. With the agency nearly out of disaster relief funds, Paul suggested it should be allowed to disappear.

“We’ve conditioned our people that FEMA will take care of us, and everything will be okay, but you try to make these programs work the best you can, but you can’t just keep saying, ‘Oh, they need money,’ … Well, we’re out of money, this country is bankrupt,” said Paul, whose district includes a portion of the Gulf Coast.

Malloy said Paul was playing politics with a natural disaster.

“It really does rise to idiocy and hypocrisy. What state has benefitted more than Texas over the years from declarations of disaster?” Malloy said, noting that Texas now was being hit by wildfires. “Let’s just concentrate. This is pure politics playing out across individuals’ misery.”

After the interview, Roman’s co-host, Ali Veshi, commented approvingly on the “simplicity” of Malloy’s initial response to Romanss’ question about Paul.

“Sometimes from politicians you get a very long answer,” Romans said. “That was the shortest answer to a question I think I’ve had in a long, long time.”

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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