Call him the Secretary of State who saved Christmas! In one of the shrewdest moves in recent memory, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis is the guy being credited for returning the moniker “Christmas” to the State House tree after Governor Linc Chafee’s two years of political correctness. Chafee, of course, stirred up national controversy in 2011 and again last year when he decided to call it a “Holiday Tree” saying he simply instructed planners of the annual tree lighting to “Do what they did last year.”
During the eight years of Don Carcieri’s administration, the tree had been described in numerous ways. In a 2009 news release the invitation read “The Annual Holiday Tree Lighting” including “holiday festivities” but no mention of the word Christmas. Nobody dropped a hammer on Carcieri that year. The holiday name fueled a fire of outrage from Republican state lawmakers and talk show hosts and Bishop Thomas Tobin. Republican Rep Doreen Costa even called Chafee “Governor Grinch” and held her own Christmas Tree lighting in protest.
Enter Secretary of State Mollis who told me this morning that he’s always had a good relationship with Chafee. Mollis told me he got into the Governor’s ear about a year ago encouraging him to reconsider and call it a Christmas Tree this season. Chafee’s statement Monday suggests there might have a been a little reluctance on his part to let go saying “despite the myriad of pressing issues facing Rhode Island, and the nation, this presumably happy event became a focal point for too much anger. A simple six word instruction (“do what they did last year”) turned into a brouhaha.” Chafee says Mollis “graciously came to me and said if this is going to cause any type of anger or protest…I’ll gladly take over the ceremony of lighting it, and I accepted his offer.”
Is it political posturing by Mollis who is gearing up for a run for Lt. Governor? Of course it is…but you know what? This is one time I don’t care what the motive is. Sanity has been restored to the State House….at least until the next session starts then it’s back to complete insanity.
Tis the season to be Jolly! Now, bring us some figgy pudding!
Check out my conversation with Mollis below: