Growing up in Connecticut, I've spent a lot of time on Long Island Sound, especially in and around the harbor of New London. Every once in a while, I see one of the products of local industry rising out of the surf: a nuclear submarine, perhaps manufactured at nearby Electric Boat, leaving from or returning to the Navy's sub base at Groton, on the north side of the harbor. I'm not militaristic, but there's something thrilling about seeing a submarine. They emerge from the water with a dramatic whoosh! And you think, how could such a huge machine possibly glide so silently underwater? But of course they do, and the sight reminds me that while I'm out playing on the water, other people are working to protect that freedom.
Now the Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closure Commission has put the Groton base on its list of military bases to be closed, and unless something changes, those subs will move down to Newport News, Virginia.
Working-class towns, New London and Groton live close-to-the-bone already. They depend on this base. Closing it would mean the loss of some 10,000 jobs. The ripple effect would be unemployment, bankruptcies, shuttered stores and restaurants, crime and drugs. Connecticut's a small state; 10,000 jobs is a lot in a small state. But that's more jobs than any other state in the country would lose in this round of base closings.
Unlike, say, Virginia, Connecticut is not only small, it's also a blue state. Al Gore and John Kerry won it handily. Our senators, Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman, are Democrats. Three of our five House members are Republicans, but they're moderates, which is to say, they have no rooms in Tom DeLay's House. Governor M. Jodi Rell is a Republican, but since she took office after the last governor resigned in a corruption scandal, she's not a strong figure.
I hope this decision was made on the merits. The stakes are too high for it to be about politics. If the Groton base closes, people's lives will be devastated, and a proud Connecticut tradition will become only a bittersweet memory.