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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Lovely pair of flip-flops, governor

Liberals are unprincipled politicians who change positions to suit the electorate they are wooing. That's the Republican definition, at least and was on bold display last year when Gov. Mitt Romney took to the campaign trail to savage John Kerry during his presidential campaign.

Conservatives are committed and consistent, who act not out of political motive but as defenders of their positions. Uh, Mitt...

Romney's all but formal announcement that he plans to skip re-election and run for the White House came in the form of his decision to veto an emergency contraception bill, announcing that it would be inconsistent with his 2002 campaign pledge not to change the status of reproductive rights in Massachusetts because the medication amounts to an abortion.

Romney did not bother to mention that he promised his support for the legislation in 2002. Oops, one broken campaign promise in his pursuit of the Rick Santorum voter.

The intellectual dishonesty of the Romney pre-presidential is staggering. Bashing Massachusetts at every turn, hitting just about every position on abortion rights from right to left, and generally showing a lack of knowledge about basic, everyday facts of life like transit fares.

To be fair, the signs have always been there to anyone who wanted to see them: he said he wasn't going to challenge Jane Swift. He said we was neutral in the lieutenant governor contest. He said he is committed to Massachusetts, even while he was paying primary residence property taxes in Utah.

Mitt, do the honorable thing: resign now so that you can pursue your ambitions openly and honestly. And make sure that your crackerjack operations staff, the one that didn't know the price of a subway token, doesn't have you come within a few miles of a shoe store. You might just want to stop and try on the flip-flops.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Theocons at the Gate

Lost amid the daily drip of coverage -- and even the occasional look at the politics of religion -- is the realization of how thoroughly Republican Party politics are dominated by the Religious Right. The slow, steady growth of the Theocons has obscured how they have come to dominate both the GOP and America in 2005.

The excesses of the Religious Right are hard to miss: the Terry Schiavo tragedy may still represent the zenith of the movement, the point from which they so overreached as the begin their descent. But the Theocons are there daily from Rick Santorum's silliness to the threats of the Dobson-Bauer axis, mandating the direction of the nation as if they hold the levers of power.

In a very real sense they do -- and it is to their credit and the liberals shame. Over the past 20 years, from school boards and town councils to the halls of Congress, the Theocons have been slowly amassing power to put behind their agenda. And the agenda is really quite simple: the direction of our nation should be drawn from the "moral values" of the movement. Whether that amounts to renouncing evolution, mandating abstinence over reality-based sex education or dictating what we see in our homes and theaters.

How is this different from the theocracies in the Middle East who we are fighting to ensure "our way of life"? Maybe this really is another Crusade?

The battle will play out in the confirmation hearings for Judge John Roberts. "Right-to-life" versus "women's rights" are merely code words for the underlying issue at stake in the Supreme Court fights that will follow. This dedicated band of zealots is really out to reverse the underpinning of Roe. v. Wade -- the Griswold decision that guaranteed the right to privacy. Republicans and conservatives have long held the belief that government should be out of the boardrooms and focus on the bedrooms where it belongs.

If Roe falls (and it likely would not with Roberts on the court, but would be in grave peril with a second Bush appointment) Griswold won't be far behind. From there it would be the slippery slope: government mandates on how to raise children (including what they can watch on TV); mandates on how to live a proper "moral" life, with the creation of unwanted children (and indifference to their plight) enshrined as the "law" of the land. Who know, maybe even roving bands of religious police singling out infidels for punishment.

The Theocons are at the Gate. The 49-plus percent of the nation that voted Democratic (and the millions more who voted for Bush without endorsing this extremist agenda) need to wake up before it is too late. Just one heathen's thoughts.

Friday, July 22, 2005

But will he ever return?

Hey Mitt -- first rule of thumb for political grandstanding is to cover your flanks. Just ask George H.W. Bush about supermarket scanners!

It's a much better bet today that should Willard "Mitt" Romney run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 it will not be as sitting governor of the Commonwealth. His antics Thursday in trying to assure the public that the MBTA, Boston's creaking, ancient and incompetently bad public transit system is safe went over like a lead balloon when he couldn't correctly say what the subway fare was, even though it was raised under his watch. (Full disclosure, I ride when I have to. Walking is cheaper and healthier but doesn't do much for maximizing the value of the pass I buy).

The mocking tone of the comments shows that Mitt has a credibility problem to begin with. Dashing about the country speaking to GOP groups, using Massachusetts as a punch line has been noticed. Failing to heed the presidential candidate's first rule: know the cost of a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, if not fatal, is extremely damaging. The elder Bush's encounter with a supermarket scanner in 1992 proved that. He was able to survive his New Hampshire truck stop request for a "splash more coffee" because only a handful of reporters like me saw it.

Romney has actually never really strived for the man of the people image before. No apologies about his wealth, his mansion in Belmont Hill or the noblesse oblige decision to forego a salary as governor because he didn't need it. Nor is it clear that the gaffe will hurt him nationally because the networks mentioned the ride, not the failure to know the cost.

But for Massachusetts residents tired of being a punching bag in national politics, the mistake means his odds on re-election are shrinking once again (one poll already has low visibility Democratic hopeful Deval Patrick beating him).

For guidance on the perils of humiliating the Bay State nationally, refer to the last Democratic governor, Michael Dukakis, who has been a virtual persona non grata here since his 1988 presidential loss and the subsequent state fiscal crisis.

And for the ultimate benchmark on the depth of Romney's gaffe, note who the Globe quotes at the end of the story -- the one and the same Michael Dukakis who didn't have to pretend to be a common man. He really did ride the subway and to this day you can see him walking to work at Northeastern University, picking up trash along the Muddy River, a one-man civic improvement crew. And Mitt, there's a dead giveaway about your transportation habits in the accompanying photo: a true T rider doesn't smile.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Just the speculation, ma'am....

"This just in: every guess we made about who Bush will nominate to the Supreme Court was wrong! We've spent hours grasping at trial balloons without a clue about what we were talking about. More after this..."

While I doubt you heard that lead-in on CNN (I know you didn't on Fox, the We Love W and We're Never Wrong Channel), it doesn't really matter because that's what happened anyway. The 24-hour news cycle's demand for fresh meat has turned rumor and innuendo in reportable nuggets. Gossip might be a nice word for it, but the fact is our so-called news leaders jump at anything to appear to be live and on-the-scene. (How else to explain the fascination with missing, attractive white women or their mothers whose natural angst is turned into accusatory soundbites for worldwide consumption).

In the hands of masters, and the Bush Administration is masterful, rumor and speculation can serve a number of tools. The more Machiavellian among us think the Roberts announcement was deliberately timed to take the heat off Karl Rove. Plausible, yes. Likely, no. The timing was more likely dictated by the congressional calendar that calls for introducing the nominee before the opposition does -- the way the Democrats introduced Robert Bork.

The networks and the web were all too willing to participate in the GOP plan. Floating trial balloons of various names on various right ends of the political spectrum serves the dual purpose of diverting attention from the real person -- and making him look better than the alternatives.

To be fair, it's a time-honored tradition practiced by Democrats and Republicans alike. What's changed is the 24-hour news cycle, the intense competition, endlessly talking heads on cable and the nasty and brutish dialogue that passes for debate in this country. Coming in tandem with the sharp decline in media standards, you get heresy, speculation and rumor passed off as "breaking news."

In the in interest of full disclosure, I should point out I was as gulty as the next person when I carried the notepad and micro recorder. Maybe that's why I consider myself a recovering political reporter. And don't worry Karl, you'll be back on the front pages before you know it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Governor, that suits looks terrific on you....

Since I am a Massachusetts Liberal, it's only right that I take a few moments to look at the consistency of our fine governor Willard "Mitt" Romney. The man wears a great suit. Too bad there's nothing else there.

Mitt is following in the fine tradition of Massachusetts leaders who fancy themselves as presidential timber. Forget the fact he's been on the job for a bit more than two years and has accomplished virtually zippo.

Being schooled in the no tax and spend GOP tradtiion, Mitt comes out with a major capital spending bill the same day the Massachusetts Senate agrees to a GOP-sponsored bill that would slowly roll the income tax back to 5 percent after spending is returned to the levels before the Bush recession caused massive cuts. That inconsistency is somewhat excusable -- no one told him! (Of course, why the Republican senators who wrote the bill didn't tell him is a good question!)

But this is not good enough for the Mittser. No, rollback those taxes immediately, says his flak. Let's not bother with fiscal responsibility, I've got the White House to run for and I need to follow in the image of our leader, G.W. Bush, who magically turned a surplus into a yawning deficit.

Mitt, good luck on the trail. Rick Santorum also looks good in a suit.

Oh, and Ben, come home. All is forgiven http://romneyisafraud.blogspot.com/

It depends on what the meaning of is is...

The Bush administration prides itself on its high values and its consistency of position, unlike the Clintons who preceded it. The CIA-Wilson-Plame-Rove-Libby affair exposes just one of the Big Lies that is the hallmark of this lawless gang.

Let's skip over Scott McLellan's Ziegler-like performance the day that word of Rove's role as a Time Magazine source became known. The deer in the headlights look was appropriate considering the material he had been shoveling for two years. Let's also skip over Ken Mehlman's disingenuous suggestion that Rove deserves an apology for simply trying the steer a reporter away from a bad story. What bad story? The phony Saddam bought yellowcake in Niger? Er, um, that one seems to be true.

No let's look at the pledge to fire anyone in the White House who was involved in the leak. That certainly was a rock solid pledge from an adminsitration that sticks to its guns? Right?

Well, as Ron Ziegler once famously said, that statement is now inoperative. President Bush will now fire anyone in the White House "who committed a crime." This backing off is crucial to his retaining Rove, his "Brain" or perhaps better known as his smear man. Proving this crime -- outing an undercover CIA agent -- was made deliberately tough. Proving that Rove or "Scooter" Libby -- Darth Cheney's chief of staff -- committed a crime, will be daunting.

So W has proved these loyal hatchet men with some room to maneuver. Par for the course for the "responsible" administration that has not held any accountable for monstrous mistakes -- whether their names are George Tenet, Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld or George Bush.

I guess it all depends on what the meaning of the word is is....

Sunday, July 17, 2005

If you're not outraged...

I used to have a regular voice as a reporter and columnist, one that I used carefully. I've been silent for years, honor bound by journalism ethics and the constraints of my PR job. But as Peter Finch said in Network, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more." The grotesque lies and distortion of the Right and the theocons aiming to turn this country into the Theocratic States of America require me to say enough.

Over time I intend to deal with the what really is a right-wing attack machine, one designed to silence critics through slurs, innuendos and outright lies. And let's begin with the notion that liberals are to blame for the horrid state of what passes for political discourse here.

Yes, Robert Bork had a heckuva time and in the end failed to win a seat on the Court. But to say the nastiness started with the Bork fight is to ignore history. Go back a few years from that, to the 1980 US Senate races, the first to see the rise of bile -- and the birth pangs of the theocons of the Religious Right.

But go back even before that: Joseph R. McCarthy was the founding fathers of the modern era of smear. He in turn took his cues from A. Mitchell Palmer, the US Attorney General who launched the Red Scare of the 1920s. And of course I skipped over the Father of Them All, Richard Mihous Nixon.

It is time for liberals to stand up and defend themselves and what they believe. And where better to do it from than from Massachusetts -- which the theocons have managed to turn into a dirty word all on its own. Stay tuned.