President Donald Trump’s morality, character, honesty and mental stability became the political world’s hottest topic last week when the nation’s chief executive reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries” — then denied doing so.

The firestorm over what many termed Trump’s racist remarks threw talk of immigration reform and help for the so-called Dreamers into chaos. Connecticut’s public officials — federal and state, Democrat and Republican alike — were among those sharply rebuking the president for what Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal called “odious and insidious racism masquerading poorly as immigration policy.”  

(Blumenthal, of course, is one of the president’s most outspoken critics, and earlier in the week faulted Trump for declining to say whether he would grant an interview to special counsel Robert Mueller and his team in the Russia investigation.)

But even State Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, who makes a point of trying to keep Trump’s issues from affecting Connecticut Republicans, called on Trump to apologize for his remarks.

Trump’s mental state and fitness to be the nation’s chief executive already had been called into question earlier in the week with the release of Michael Wolff’s instant best-seller “Fire and Fury,” and had gotten an extra bump from a group of psychiatrists led by Dr. Bandy Lee of Yale.

Trump’s tweeting also had caused confusion over the vote on a bill that would allow the National Security Agency to intercept without warrants calls or emails from suspected foreign terrorists outside the United States. Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes, 4th District, was the only member of the state’s House membership to support the measure, which passed.

The federal government also cleared the way for states to begin imposing a work requirement for recipients of Medicaid — something Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he would not do.

In Connecticut politics, meanwhile, hope springs eternal, and candidates and potential candidates for elective office sprang forth in large numbers last week, encouraged by a larger-than-normal turnover of high state offices.

Former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and Ned Lamont, an unsuccessful senate and gubernatorial contender, both showed an interest in running for Malloy’s job, but they were by no means the only ones.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, former Veterans Affairs Commissioner Sean Connolly and businessman Guy L. Smith IV were just a few of the many seeking to join the unprecedented scramble for the chief executive’s chair. Some candidates, like Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, already may feel themselves being thinned from the herd. Drew dropped out Friday.

Mike Handler has the floor at the recent Republican candidates forum. From left are Mark Boughton, Steve Obsitnik, Dave Walker, Peter Lumaj, Prasad Srinivasan, Mark Lauretti, Tim Herbst and Toni Boucher. mark pazniokas /

There are 11 Republicans interested in the job, nine of whom tried to distinguish themselves in a candidate forum last week.  (The week’s only actual election was of one Democrat – Bobby Gibson of Bloomfield –  named to the state House in a special election to replace Rep. David Baram, who resigned to become a probate judge.)

Malloy, for his part, has a lot to contend with in his final year, including a shortage of money to spend on some 400 transportation projects that he says are in danger of being stalled.  The governor, who had to preside over the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, also wants the legislature to ban bump-stock accessories that enabled the Las Vegas massacre of 58 people. (Connecticut already has more firearm laws than most states.)

Justice Andrew J. McDonald, left, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. mark pazniokas / file photo

Malloy also nominated Justice Andrew McDonald, the state’s first openly gay justice, as his choice for the position of chief justice of the State Supreme Court.

The state attorney general’s seat will be up for grabs this November, too, so Clare Kindall of West Hartford became the third candidate to declare for that job. State Treasurer Denise Nappier also has decided to retire, so Shawn Wooden, the former president of the Hartford City Council, and state Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, have opened campaigns for her job.

State officials of all stripes will have plenty of problems to keep them busy (and candidates things to criticize) in the weeks and months ahead, not the least of which is Connecticut’s ongoing budget deficit, made even larger by the legislature’s decision to reverse cuts to the Medicare Savings Program affecting some 113,000 people. Perhaps ironically, a recent $900 million uptick in state income tax receipts will only provide about $10 million to use against the deficit.

Among other things, more money is needed to help Puerto Ricans who migrated to Connecticut after Hurricane Maria, officials say.

Paul has more than 40 years of reporting and editing experience at newspapers in New Jersey, Florida and Connecticut. He worked 22 years at the Hartford Courant in various editing roles including as deputy state editor, assistant editor of Northeast Magazine, and as an associate editor at He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. A trained chef, he and his wife own and operate a bed and breakfast in an historic home in Mansfield.

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