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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, October 31, 2006

Desperate times...

First things first. John Kerry has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is humor-challenged. A "botched joke" doesn't begin to explain away his performance today in suggesting that students who don't do well in school will wind up in Iraq. That wasn't a joke. That was ancient history.

But in reciting the history of students who avoided the draft and Vietnam by staying in school, Kerry did say the words that no one short of Charlie Rangel has wanted to say. This war, like Vietnam, offers loopholes to those better-educated or better off than their contemporaries.

And the vociferous, over-the-top response by the AWOL-in-Chief, accusing Kerry of insulting the troops serving in Iraq, reflects how desperate Bush is to rally his base, no matter what.

For George Bush to relaunch the Swift Boat assault at the tail end of a month when more American soldiers died than in more than a year -- all the while Republicans questioned the reason for their presence -- is the ultimate insult. Bush, not Kerry, is using soldiers as a prop for his campaign.

Kerry actually offered his most eloquent defense of his military service and that of the many men swift boated four years ago by an administration noted for people who didn't complete service or had "better things to do."
"I'm not going to be lectured by a stuffed-suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no doubt today will take a break from belittling Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's disease to start lying about me just as they have lied about Iraq. It disgusts me that these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have."
That said, Kerry should drop his fantasy of running again in 2008. He botched a winnable race two years, conspiracy theories about Ohio notwithstanding. He was a flawed candidate then and he would be a flawed candidate in 2008. His "botched joke" gave aid and comfort to those he accurately describes as "assorted right-wing nut jobs and right-wing talk show hosts."

Same goes for Mitt Romney, who joined the chorus of those condemning Kerry's remarks. You know the Romney who did not serve in Vietnam -- not the one who was brainwashed.

There she goes again

Mitt Romney and Kerry Healey are upset some things that took place yesterday, were, gosh, political!

Our positive, forward-looking, always seeing the bright side Republican candidate offers this complaint while releasing yet another negative ad filled with distortion. I guess this must be the fourth, compared to the hundreds aired by Deval Patrick.

Kudos to the Globe for the simple declarative sentence: "The ad contains some distortions."

And I guess Sean Healey really wanted to pay his taxes when, as the Herald reports he "personally pushed for questionable state tax breaks for his cash-flush acquisition firm as it moved to build new headquarters in a wealthy section of Beverly."

Meantime, the non-political public servant is crying foul over a letter from members of the Governor's Commission on Sexual and Domestic Violence asking her to step down as chairwoman because of the political mugging she has been engaged in for the last month.

The commission focused on the parking garage ad, where Healey attempts to frighten the bejesus out of women by implying a rapist lurks in the shadows. The letter declares:
This ad perpetuates three damaging myths: first, that only women are at risk for sexual violence; second, that strangers - particularly those who come from communities of color - are those who should be feared the most; and third, that rapists are visibly unsavory individuals."
The Healey campaign complains that many of the letter backers are registered Democrats who have donated to Patrick. Well duh. How many of the non-signers of the 300-member commission are registered Republicans or women to have donated to Healey? It is a gubernatorial commission after all.

The one valid complaint: the stand would have been more effective if 21 of the 39 participants had opted to sign their names rather than remain in the symbolic shadows.

And oh gosh, golly gee whiz the Legislature is playing politics one week before the vote by issuing a report blasting the Romney administration's failure to coordinate emergency preparedness and disaster response efforts with cities and towns. Think this is what has the bee in their bonnet?
The report, compiled by the powerful Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee, found that the state's police and fire departments have lost more than 1,100 employees since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and that the vast majority of departments lack key communications capabilities.
Somehow I'm not comforted by the fact that the Department of Homeland Security reached an opposite conclusion. The record of DHS' preparedness agency, FEMA, is not what I could call stellar.

But Mitt doesn't seem to have problems when he constantly passes through airport security.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Dumb and dumber

Here we are, just a week away from what appears to be a major repudiation of the Romney "legacy" and our favorite Empty Suit is hard at work on his next challenge: finding his running mate in '08.

Yes, the man who brought us Kerry Healey as second banana has his eyes on Jeb Bush as his No. 2. The thought runs that the Bush name inoculates Romney from the slings and arrows of the Theocons who don't believe Mormons are sufficiently Christian.

The best thing I can say about this potential matchup is Romney is a lot of wind and Bush has a lot of experience cleaning up after the mess caused by wind. After that, it's all downhill.

There remains one major elephant in the room (sorry) even if Turd Blossom aka Boy Genius is right in believing the GOP will retain control of the House. It's called Bush fatigue. The Divider, not Decider polls in the upper 30s and lower 40s (generously) and its fair to say a large segment of the country wants a change. Yet another Bush is not a change.

Then there's the issue of Romney himself. Leave aside the bigotry of the Theocons who rule the roost (and will be looking for purity after being disappointed that gays are still allowed to breath, let along get married.)

What does Willard Mitt have to show for himself after four years in the Corner Office? It won't start with a pretty picture. He's heading for a serious repudiation here (his negatives are higher than Healey's) and his tenure as chairman of the Republican Governors Association doesn't look like it is going to end with a bang.

Then there's the, ahem, record, short as it is because he lost interest two years into the job. The Cogliano tenure as Big Dig Czar is looking a lot like the Amorello reign. There's been a lot of talk and great photo ops but is anything truly different 16 years into Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff "management"?

The health care law that he will surely claim credit for is heading for some rocky times because of Romney-Healey policy decisions that spare those who can afford to pay (businesses) by hitting hard at those who cannot (the uninsured).

Once the national press corps gets past the nice suit and great hair they will also discover that Willard Mitt is, what's the term, a flip-flopper. And he flipped on one issue that is generally considered to be guided by moral clarity -- the right to choose. He won't be helped by blunt advisers like Michael Murphy:
''He's been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly."
Then there's gay marriage, a true crowd pleaser for red meat Theocons. But Mitt has failed there. Gay men and women have been getting married for two years now and the moral fiber of the Commonwealth and the nation has not disintegrated. The earliest a ballot question could appear on the ballot is 2008 -- too late for the Mittser to profit from the sturm und drang it would generate.

So here's the Romney record. His tenure brought an end to 16 years of GOP control of the Corner Office as voters tired of a party who produced candidates who didn't believe in finishing what they started. He was in charge when the GOP House of Cards "overseeing" a massive construction project fell apart. He was not good for his word, telling Massachusetts voters in 2002 he was pro-choice, then changing his mind on the national stage.

Yep, he sounds like a Bush all right. Why does he need Jeb?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Frankly Kerry, you just don't get it

Let me see if I have this right. Kerry Healey, who launched the first negative ad of the campaign when she reached over party lines to blast Chris Gabrieli, says she is the victim of negative campaigning?

The same Kerry Healey who came out on primary night with both barrels blazing -- making a very large presumption that Massachusetts voters knew her as more than Mitt Romney's second banana -- and launched a shrill attack on Deval Patrick on crime and taxes.

Or the same Kerry Healey who received notice in The Washington Post for an ad described as "as vicious as it gets."

As Ted Koppell once said of Mike Dukakis "frankly (lieutenant) governor, you just don't get it."

"If you tallied up all the negative ads run against me and the governor since the primary," Healey said, "I've run maybe three negative ads and they've run, I don't know, 20," Healey blithely claimed in an interview for what she probably thought was a friendly home court audience.

She has certainly run three of the most talked about negative ads: targeting Gabrieli; using a convicted Florida cop killer to question Patrick's legal career; and the disgusting garage ad to try to hang Ben LaGuer around his neck.

And here's where the negative-comparative ad debate comes into play. Patrick and his allies in the Mass. Teachers Association, the Patriot Majority Fund and other independent groups have not been soft on Healey. That would be unilateral disarmament. They have used her words against her -- particularly the "overhoused" seniors line. But they have not attacked in the sense Republicans are particularly known for.

Nor have the Democrats been alone in receiving outside support, particularly from 527 groups. Healey famously received funds from the Republican Governors Association, headed up we should note by her (former) boss Willard Mitt Romney.

So Healey seemed to be poorly briefed when she went into that interview, shedding crocodile tears for herself when in fact she is recognized across the state and nationally as the person who has been over-the-top negative. (We won't even get into the verbal stylings of Tim O'Brien and the boys in Skinhead Central.)

Maybe that's why a large majority of Massachusetts residents think it is time for a change. Here's a novel idea -- a governor who is elected, serves and is engaged for four years and who doesn't allow boondoogles like the Big Dig to eat up tax money.

And a belated thank you to Dan Kennedy for sharing the Salem News story.

RIP Red

It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with a great man who used sport as a tool to entertain -- and to make kids into men. Arnold "Red" Auerbach made the Boston Celtics a basketball dynasty and created a pride that has endured through too many lean years,

But life (and with it, politics) is never far from the surface. Auerbach broke basketball's color barriers by drafting Chuck Cooper as the first African-American player in 1950 and naming Bill Russell the first African-American coach in 1966 -- two years after the Celtics fielded the first all-black starting five.

Sports, like politics, has changed for the worst over the years. Overpaid athletes with under developed senses of responsibility and sportmanship (Hello T.O.) dominate all sports. Money has corrupted professional sports, allowing "the anything to win mentality" reflected in the toleration of Barry Bonds. And the incessant salary demands has made a day at the game a luxury few can afford.

So long Red. Thanks for the good times. And you're free to light 'em at will.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Scapegoats and straw men

Push is coming to shove, smart money is moving to the Democrats and Republicans are bringing out the usual round of scapegoats and straw men as they try to demagogue their way to an increasingly improbable victory.

In Massachusetts, the image of Michael Dukakis is in the air as (former) Gov. Mitt Romney dropped in to offer support for his second banana. Sixteen years after Dukakis walked out the center doors and down the Statehouse steps, he remains the Massachusetts GOP's straw man -- the image of a elitist liberal who will tax state residents into oblivion. Thankfully, it appears the act is wearing thin based on years of GOP mismanagement, exemplified by the Big Dig fiasco.

Barney Frank is once-again a popular target from Dick Cheney to gay baiters trying to revive the shameful imagery of Dick Armey. And Frank (gay and Jewish) is part of a troika of Charles Rangel (African-American) and Henry Waxman (Jewish) being waved in front of voters in the hope of driving up their usual fears about irresponsible liberals.

But once again, smart money (or is that smarmy money?) is gravitating toward a perceived winner.

Kerry Healey has revived the spirit of Lee Atwater and current demagoguery of Karl Rove to produce a series of campaign spots that revived talk of Willie Horton and raised her negatives through the roof.

Nationally, we see the GOP's No. 1 bully, Rush Limbaugh, go over the top in his shameless shilling for the party -- attacking Michael J. Fox for allegedly faking his Parkinson's tremors. Obviously Rush forgot about Alex P. Keaton, Ronald Reagan's No. 1 Young Republican.

But desperate times require desperate measures, so the GOP attack machine has revved up to new levels: accusing Democrats of calling telephone sex hotlines, supporting child abuse and providing aid and comfort to the enemy.

And trying to change the subject from the real sex scandal threatening to keep the "moral values" voter home, they resort to one of the oldest and dirtiest trick in the arsenal -- raising the fears of miscegenation among the older male voters in the South.

Same as it ever was. Conservatives need straw men and scapegoats to generate fear and loathing to stir up fear to maintain power. Even those who claim to be uniters, not dividers.

There are hopeful signs that, for whatever reasons, these self-righteous hypocrites are about to lose their grip. But then again 10 days is plenty of time to sow fear and discord in a land they have already successfully divided.

Stay awake -- and be very, very afraid about what they might try to pull.

Just curious

Some words buried deep in a Brian McGrory column about the emergence of a kinder, gentler Kerry Healey continue to gnaw away:

A little more than two weeks ago, I made some points privately to her that I made a couple of days later in print -- that she was too negative in person, that her ads were too harsh, that she wasn't giving people a reason to vote for her even as she was berating them to vote against Patrick. (Emphasis added)

Columnists are not reporters and are not bound to be fair and balanced, although the good ones are. So McGrory is free to offer advice publicly and then write about it.

He is also free to throw his weight behind a particularly candidate, something you might think he is doing when you compare the tone of the columns lamenting Healey's loss of gentility with these two columns about Deval Patrick.

Or in the cheapshot crack that followed in this column, quoting the Healey talking points about the Democrat's resume and cracking wise about Patrick spending more time on the tennis court than in a criminal courtroom.

But I'd be curious about the process that led him to have private conversations with candidates. I'm struck by the choice of words -- not off-the-record but private. Private raises the potential that the conversation was of other business -- consulting perhaps? Has he had them with Patrick? Why did he choose to write about this particular conversation? Because she apparently heeded the advice?

Maybe I'm making too much of an innocent choice of words that didn't attract an editor's eye. I generally like McGrory in tone and substance (even if I go to Steve Bailey or Joan Vennochi if I want news).

But I can't shake the words "private conversation." Neither journalist nor political candidate do anything "private" during election campaigns. At least they shouldn't.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The perfect storm

The latest Globe poll says it all -- 25 percentage point lead, at 17-point gap between Kerry Healey's sky high unfavorables and dropping favorable rating and voter acceptance of Deval Patrick's arguments that property tax relief is more important than an income tax rollback.

But if you need more proof that Kerry Healey ran the perfectly wrong campaign at the perfectly wrong time -- check this out in the Herald -- open season in the GOP.

First the numbers also show that state employees, one of the Herald's favorite targets, are putting their cash behind Kerry, making her the insider.

Then, you have the wayward (former) governor making a rare appearance to invoke the "D-word." When the GOP trots out the Mike Dukakis fear and smear tactic. you know they are in trouble. Especially when it comes from someone guilty of the very same of which they accuse the Duke. No not "liberalism" -- though Romney is more extreme to the right than Duke was to the left -- but "abandoning" the state for national ambitions.

Which bring us to "governing" and the pathetic job the Romney-Healey administration has done "managing" the Big Dig. Somehow the sins of Cogliano don't match those of Amorello in the Mittser's eyes, a form of, er, tunnel vision perhaps?

But you really know the firing squad is setting up in a circular fashion when Howie Carr trains his sights on you. But when the Pudgy Preppie blames Mitt for Muffy's woes you know two campaigns are headed for burnt toast status.

But you always need a touch a realism and I got that from a friend, up from Florida for a visit, who took in the Wednesday debate. With no prior knowledge of the players, he summarized the race after that hour by saying "she's a mean one, isn't she?"

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Buzzing around

I opted to pass on the latest gubernatorial love-in and from the reviews it looks as if I didn't miss much.

Oh sure, there was a kinder, gentler Kerry Healey (it would have been hard for her not to be at 53 percent unfavorable and being fitted for a Halloween costume appropriate to neighboring Salem); an opportunity to question Deval Patrick's failing memory for dates and another chance for Christy to be Christy. And there was less talk of violence and more talk of taxes -- and nothing new under the sun to chance the impression of those voters who bothered to tune in -- or tune out.

Healey desperately needs to create some buzz, so she went back to a tried and true GOP scare tactic: beware the Democratic insiders!
"Deval, you know that all around the State House this week there's just been a buzz, which is -- we're so excited that Deval Patrick will be our next governor because he's going to be a rubber stamp for every single spending proposal that we have," Healey said. "He's going to fulfill our agenda. He's going to do what we want [him] to do. I've been up here long enough so that I know what they want to do is spend taxpayers' money without regard to the work that went into every single dollar."
At least Healey shows up in the Statehouse, compared to her boss, the wandering Mitt Romney, who plans to drop in this morning and give us his take on the race to succeed him (hey if he can pundit from a distance, why can't I?)

Patrick, who to the best of our knowledge has held exactly one meeting with legislative leaders, was almost gentlemanly in ignoring the Romney-Healey administration's most egregious failure to rein in special interests, Bechtel/Parsons, Brinckerhoff. You know, the company that has been paid $8 million since the Big Dig ceiling collapse, including the ludicrous decision to allow it to supervise the repairs of the flaws it was responsible for in the first place.

The most interesting exchange surrounded taxes -- with Healey tripping up Patrick on whether he voted for the rollback in 2000. In the gotcha game, she scored a small victory. Too bad no one pressed her about Paul Cellucci's promise the rollback would be painless.

But he scored in return when parrying the standard line about how the money belongs to the taxpayers, reminding people about the toll that comes from believing the tooth fairy funds public amenities.
"It's their money," Patrick said of the taxpayers. "It's also their broken roads and their overcrowded schools. It's their broken neighborhoods and broken neighbors."
When Healey went back to the well -- again -- with her line about Patrick's promises likely to cost $8 billion, he was ready.
"Lieutenant Governor, when you're talking about a balanced budget, you're talking about a $700 million income tax rollback," Patrick said. "You're talking about $114 million in forgone tolls. You're talking about all kinds of [campaign proposals], many of which require new spending. That is what you are putting on the table as a way forward. . . . And it doesn't add up. It does not balance."
Patrick also turned the tables on Healey when discussing immigration (avoiding any mention that there is a lack of unanimity in the Healey household). And he hit her where it counts -- accountability between word and deed on her push for taking action against employers who hire undocumented workers.
"We have public information that your own government, your own administration, has been giving millions of dollars of government contracts to construction companies who do this very thing, and the question, I think, is: Who's in charge? When are you going to take responsibility for that?"
That produced one of the lamest responses I can ever recall in debates.

"We're not an investigatory agency; it's the attorney general's job," Healey shot back.

And Patrick was ready.

"Why don't you just stop writing those checks. . . Debar those construction companies. Use the levers you have."

So, Deval forgot when and whether he voted for the 2000 rollback. Healey forgot that the administration in which she has served has failed to practice what it incessantly preaches: fiscal and personal responsibility.

I don't that 27-point gap is closing any time soon.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

As the Globe turns

So will Jack Welch and Jack Connors buy the Globe? Will The New York Times sell? Will the Herald ever acknowledge its own problems with as much glee as it relishes those on Morrissey Boulevard?

Steve Bailey's story about a pair of Jacks thinking about buying into one of the nation's most beleaguered newspapers is the start of a long-running soap opera. It's been well chronicled elsewhere how many problems newspapers face today in an era of declining advertising revenues and rising Wall Street expectations (20 percent profit margins are bad????)

A couple of things the Jacks should consider as they move ahead. The advertising market is going to get better (as Hill Holliday founder Connors should well know).

Only this week, the head of Federated Department Stores -- which bought and consolidated or closed Filene's and other several other chains -- talked about a new commitment to Boston, And a high-end one that included a "upscale" Macy's and a new Bloomingdale's.

There's also some major construction going on in Natick, around the site of an already major mall. New tenants -- such as the upscale Nordstrom's -- are going to revitalize advertising.

Yes, much of the advertising (and its revenues) are migrating to the web. But do you click on the banners or actually spend time with the annoying pop-ups? While department stores may be as an endangered a species as the newspaper, neither is going away tomorrow. And department stores, with their variety of products, are harder to sell on the web than in newsprint.

But the bigger things the Jacks need to be aware of is their credibility. Mrs. Welch, the former AP reporter Suzy Wetlaufer, doesn't have the highest ethics rating in the business after sleeping with the marreed man (Welch) she was interviewing for the Harvard Business Review.

In fact, about the only person with a lower credibility rating is their pal Mike Barnicle -- dumped from two local newspapers for a combination of serial plagiarism and laziness above and beyond the call of duty. Any deal that includes a revitalized Barnicle presence in Boston is a bad one.

And just once, I'd like the Herald scribes to focus on their own problems with the elan they attack the Globe's.

A mother's love

When more than half the people in the state have an unfavorable opinion of you, perhaps the smartest thing you can do is campaign with your mother.

The Globe today features the statewide jaunts of Mrs. Murphy and Mrs, Healey even as new polls showing Kerry Healey falling more than 25 points behind with negatives that make Ted Kennedy look non-controversial. Or even Mitt Romney.

The story coincides with new Healey commercials that actually feature sunshine and smiles -- and not women cowering in dark garages. But is it too late for a kinder, gentler Healey?

She'll get her chance tonight, in a four-way debate moderated by Jon Keller. My guess is it is too late for Healey to change her image with the vast majority of Massachusetts voters who have only really come to know Mitt Romney's second banana for the slash-and-burn tactics of the last month.

Maybe her mother has always loved her, but for Bay State voters to turn it around now on the basis of a new ad and a rosy feature would require a flip-flop of unprecedented proportions.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Chickens coming home to roost

While its too soon to say with complete assurance that Kerry Healey is toast, there has to be a lot of glum faces over at Skinhead Central.

The latest poll from Suffolk University and Channel 7 -- shows the lt gov 27 points behind her rival with two weeks to go. This was the poll that showed her only 13 points behind immediately after launching her fear and smear effort against Deval Patrick.

More interesting than the horse race number -- which is after all subject to 5 percent margin of error -- are the internals. Healey can't possibly be happy with the advice she has received (and accepted with relish).
  • Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said they were unlikely to vote for Healey because of the "tone" of the campaign. Healey has particularly criticized Patrick's record on crime.
  • In another question, 53 percent of those surveyed said that Patrick was not "soft on crime," compared to 26 percent who thought the former federal prosecutor would go easy on criminals. However, 24 percent of those who participated in the poll said that Healey was tough on crime, while 59 percent said she only talked tough.
Only talked tough. That's telling. That's probably why she has a 53 percent unfavorable. Not even Teddy Kennedy haters come out in those kind of numbers.

Add in the CBS4 Fast track poll which pegs the margin at 25 points, it don't look good for the Pride of Pride's Crossing.

As Jon Keller comments:
"Not only haven't they stripped a significant number of women away from Patrick, but Healey's once-formidable support among men seems to have collapsed. There are signs Patrick is closing the deal with white voters, and his lead among independents, a slim five percent just two weeks ago, has jumped up to 12 points. Just as we saw in the Democratic primary, negative attacks on Patrick just seem to bounce off him and stick to the attacker."
Coming on a day the Romney-Healey administration was caught up in a whopping Big Dig blunder they can't blame on Matt Amorello, you've got to wonder which think tanks the Healey folks are calling, asking if they need a career criminiologist.

But like Yogi said -- it ain't over until it's over.

Tunnel vision

Like a broken clock, even the Herald can be right twice a day. One of those times is now, with a headline that's on the money: You're Kidding, Right?

The fox is guarding the hen house. The inmates are running the asylum. Republicans are for the little guy. Oops, that's a different story.

But the acknowledgement that Bechtel, Parsons Brinckerhoff is supervising Big Dig repairs actually makes lots of sense. Let this sink in for a second: the firm that failed to adequate check the construction of the tunnels, allowing a ceiling tile to collapse and kill someone, is now in charge of making sure that the repair of their shoddy work is not shoddy.

No wonder Kerry Healey is trying to focus on violent crime. The Romney-Healey administration needs to change the subject from its suborning of white collar crime. And allowing it to continue.

With Mitt off seducing the Mormon Church out of its cash and Kerry busy using copkillers and rapists to claim she's tough on crime, focus has turned away from the Big Dig -- and the flaming inconsistencies between Romney-Healey rhetoric and reality.

Unfortunately, we're used to the ways of the Romney-Healey administration -- of good intentions gone bad (or so they say). Witness the latest: Healey's admonition to her skinhead backers to never, ever do bad things again.
"I let it be known that is not what I want to have happen in the future," said Healey after a minor furor developed over the picketing. "I asked them not to do that in the future, and I do think that it crossed the line.
Then Timmy reveals the real position.
"I don't think there is anything inappropriate with what happened Thursday, or that the (signs) or the suits are inappropriate," he said. "There is a difference between a stand-out and going to someone's house."
I believe the term is unrepentant.

But back to the idea of why this monumental (criminal) farce makes sense. Simply, it's the result of the inattentiveness of an administration that has made ideology a prime mover over policy. So you ignore oversight until a tragedy. You show "resolve" while the cameras are around. Then you go back to ignoring the "mundane" stuff like making the Commonwealth work.

Want to bet the final piece of the repairs will be miraculously finished right before Nov. 7?

No wonder the Healey act appears not to be working anymore.

Don't let any ceiling tiles hit you on the way out of town.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fear and smear redux

Perhaps the worst aspect of the Healey bombardment on decency is the campaign's inability or refusal to face reality.

Listen to this whine from Tim O'Brien, the designated attack dog (where is Reed Hillman?) in trying to defend the savagery of the fear-filled ads against the more traditional "comparative" ads run by Deval Patrick.
"He hides behind the shield of 'They're running a nasty campaign' while at the same time his friends and allies are running a smear campaign," O'Brien said.
Patrick's ads focus on Healey's statements and actions as second banana -- reflecting the state's poor ranking in aid to education and her cold statements that seniors are "overhoused" and should move if they want to pay less in property taxes.

It is one of the oldest arguments in campaign tactics. When does an ad cross the line from "comparative" -- taking a position/action and putting it in a harsh light -- and sink into "negative." The definition, much like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of porn, is "I know it when I see it." Patrick's are comparative. Healey's are smears.

Lyndon Johnson's daisy ad was certainly a pioneer. Bush 41's Willie Horton ad ranks as the worst of the worst. Raising fear to irrational levels is the key in both of these examples.

Healey's ads focused on Florida cop killer Carl Songer and Ben Laguer, using dark images of roadside police stops and a woman walking through a garage. The bottom line is to create a sense of fear among viewers. Do Patrick's ads raise these kinds of emotions?

Throw in the stunt with the skinhead "prisoners" and you have a fear and smear campaign.

Ratchet back the whining Timmy. And learn the definition of "smear."

Who's in charge?

Mitt's jetting off to every corner of the country. Kerry is fully engaged in using a shiv to gain the right to succeed him. The Legislature is in taking a break. Who's running this state?

Well, the Legislature is obeying the rules it created at the behest of the public, though some action on some leftover important matters like a bond bill for technology would be nice. But no one ever said the legislative branch is in charge.

Eric Fehrnstrom, in typical Republican fashion, tries to blame the Democrats.
"This is an election year," Fehrnstrom said. "(U.S. Sen.) John Kerry is crisscrossing the country for candidates. Democrats in the Legislature stopped working in July so they could campaign full time. And Gov. Romney is doing what he can to help elect Republicans."
Note to Eric: Kerry is a legislator. And we know the Republican Congress, of which he is a minority member, is the textbook definition of do-nothing.

The GOP was quick to call for Michael Dukakis' resignation when he ran for president 16 years ago. With two weeks to go, it would be pointless for Romney to step down (not to mention he quit on the Massachusetts voter months ago).

We certainly know Kerry Healey is not in charge. Mitt has never given her significant responsibilities. Besides, we know she's been auditioning for Halloween for about five weeks now.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Not a dime's worth of difference

Take a close look at the candidate's side-by-side stands on crime as published in today's Globe. As George Wallace used to say, there's not a dime's worth of difference between the candidates.

Deval Patrick and Kerry Healey are virtually unanimous on their views about the root causes and solutions. DNA testing. CORI. Mandatory minimums. Support for victims and their families. The biggest difference: Patrick declares his support for putting more cops on the street, cops who lost their jobs when the Romney-Healey administration cut local aid.

Healey? Well she obviously isn't comfortable walking through parking garages. But with a State Police escort and a Yukon GMC at her disposal, she has very little to worry about.

That's probably why she has the time to smear Patrick while trying to scare the living daylights out of women who probably use parking garages only during their rare visits to Boston -- and almost never at night.

The smoking e-mail

The Globe has devoted a lot of ink to whether the Mitt Romney presidential campaign has actively wooed either the Church of Latter Day Saints or Brigham Young University to play a role in the campaign he insists he hasn't decided to wage.

As with all political machinations, the tentacles are twisted and hard to unravel. But there are two points here that need to be stressed.

The Mormon Church and BYU, as not-for-profit entities under federal tax law, cannot engage in politics. Admittedly, more and more religious "leaders" have entered the arena and we haven't seen the revenoors target Pope Benedict XVI (at least that we are aware of).

This isn't the time for the discussion of whether this tactic will backfire because of the belief among many in the GOP "base" that Mormonism is a "cult."

The more important point is that represents the latest example of Mitt Romney's penchant to say different things to different people and change his tune based on his audience. You know, like the abortion shift. Or on a far more trivial matter, what he had to say to Wolf Blitzer and Jon Keller about Kerry Healey's chances to succeed him.

Yesterday, The Globe offered Romney's standard "of course I'm going to raise money among friends" defense along with his usual attack on the messenger.

"There are two factions of reporters where I come from in Massachusetts," he said. "We have the Hillary-loving, Ted Kennedy apologists -- and we have the liberals."

Well, you forgot the third -- the kind that dig up facts and provide hard evidence -- like e-mails showing a concerted effort by the Romney camp to raise funds among LDS members -- and involve church leaders in that effort.

There's a great deal of murk here -- even the tax lawyers aren't sure the campaign crossed the line and of course the candidate has deniability (though I doubt he will fire his son if this goes south.)

But what is clear is this is yet another example of Mitt Romney saying one thing in Massachusetts and doing something entirely different in another venue.

Before his semi-retirement, "Ben" did a marvelous job of following the Empty Suit's twists and turns. I highly recommend it to national reporters thinking about jumping aboard the Romney juggernaut.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Taxing debate

Am I surprised that Deval Patrick's plan to stem the growth in property taxes in Massachusetts doesn't add up? No. Am I glad he raised the subject as a campaign issue? Yes. Am I surprised that Kerry Healey's response was to trot our Barbara Anderson to raise fears about the sanctity of Proposition 2 1/2? Puhleeze.

The mindless no-new taxes mantra is part of parcel of the Republican playbook, along with raising fears about personal security. Massachusetts has paid the price for the focus of four GOP governors on doing all the could to reduce (or eliminate) the income tax. That price can be found in our schools, on our streets and highways -- and in the lack of adequate police and firefighters to keep us safe.

Selected facts:
  • Since 1990, local property taxes have risen on average more than 5 percent per year for single-family homeowners in the state to $3,801 in 2006, according to data compiled by the state Department of Revenue.
  • Local governments reliance on the property tax has gone from 46 percent during 1986-87 to 49 percent in 2002 and 53 percent today, according the Geoff Beckwith of the Mass. Municipal Association. State contributions have fallen from 28 percent four years ago to 24 percent this year.
  • Steep cuts in local aid during 2003-2004 have never been fully restored, Beckwith said, and nearly a third of the state's communities are receiving less from the state than they did in 2002. percent
Patrick and Christy Mihos have responded to this reality by making local aid and property taxes an issue. And Patrick in particular has done this by correctly tying property taxes to income taxes and local aid.

Mike Widmer of the Mass. Taxpayers Foundation is THE respected voice on tax policy on Beacon Hill, even more so after the Romney-Healey administration tried to denigrate his credibility. He simply states:
"It's unrealistic to say property taxes can be reduced in a broad-based way," Widmer said in an interview with the Globe. "Maybe they can slow the rate of growth or target certain categories of taxpayers for relief, but not across the board."
Patrick's proposal fall into this category. The "circuit breaker" for example is a measure that works mainly for low-income or seniors, by offering income tax cuts based on property tax obligations. Does it have pitfalls. Yes. Is it more thoughtful than Healey's contention that seniors are "overhoused" and should move to smaller homes? You decide.

Same problem with Patrick's call for other "targeted" property tax relief. But the candidate deserves credit for offering thoughtful if flawed proposals.

Contrast that with Healey. She rolls out the grandmother of Proposition 2 1/2 (sorry Barbara!) to raise the quadrennial specter of Democratic tinkering with the 26-year-old law that limits a town's collections to 2.5 percent of assessments.

The "non-partisan" Anderson had carpet bombed Mihos several days earlier in a Globe op-ed (the Globe only offered him a letter, not a full rebuttal). Yesterday, Healey brought her to the podium to insist Patrick hasn't offered alternatives and to have Anderson accuse of being soft on 2 1/2.
"Proposition 2 1/2 is staying just as it is for as long as I am in charge," Patrick said. "If somebody smarter than I comes up with a better way to moderate property tax, then I am open to that. But I have no interest and have made no proposal to do away with Proposition 2 1/2."
So let's look at Healey's alternatives. Oops, there aren't any. As Brian Mooney writes:
Healey has offered no specific plans for property tax relief, but has proposed initiatives that could save municipalities hundreds of millions of dollars, potentially lessening pressure to increase property taxes. If underperforming local pension boards joined the state's giant $43 billion pension fund, improved returns would also generate "more than $200 million in savings to cities and towns to cut property taxes." Allowing municipalities to join the state's Group Insurance Commission would result in "likely millions of dollars in annual cost savings" by increasing the state's buying power for employee health insurance coverage, her website states.
Check back in 20 years. If you can still afford your home.

Look what the wind blew in

We've had a Romney sighting! OK, so he was around as Kerry Healey urged the turnpike authority to tear down those toll booths, but he actually tried to stay in the background and let his second banana speak.

But our (former) governor took time out from his busy schedule campaigning for Florida candidates and plotting the way around IRS restrictions placed on the political activities of religious organizations to deign to actually speak a few words on behalf of Sherry Healey.

Mitt took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with Jon Keller and opine about the importance issues facing Massachusetts voters, like Ben Laguer. And to offer is his punditry on Healey's chances.
"I think she's going to pull it off. She was 39 points behind only a few weeks ago, and now I think it's in single digits. And who knows? When people get in the voting booth, I think they're going to say 'You know what? I want a governor who will protect my personal security.'"
Single digits? Funny, that doesn't match what he told Wolf Blitzer? How many more days until he goes away for good?

Tasteless and shameless

Just when you thought the Healey campaign could not hit a new low, they come up with a way to surprise you.

Hard on the heels of an ad the Washington Post calls "a Hail Mary pass" and "as vicious as it gets," the junior G-men of the Healey brigade decide on guerrilla theater, dressing up immature college Republicans in orange jump suits and portraying them as "Inmates for Deval." Or is that Skinheads for Healey."

The boys got into a little shouting and shoving match with Patrick supporters at Faneuil Hall on debate night, but guerrilla theater is an accepted "art form" in those scenarios. Memo to Healey fans: If you can dish it out, you better be able to take it. Union members are not wimps.

However, 7 a.m., in residential neighborhoods as children of the Patrick staff and their neighbors go to school is tasteless in the extreme. Police were called in one community. And, par of the course, the Healey campaign offers the GOP's standard Sergeant Schultz defense.
"The Healey campaign has hundreds of volunteers doing standouts all over Massachusetts every day, and they aren't centrally coordinated out of our office," said Nate Little, a spokesman for her campaign.
What would they say if the Patrick campaign chose to highlight Healey's mean streak with a protest in the "blighted" Pride's Cross neighborhood where she lives?

Naturally, the Healey campaign says they will air the ad even more now -- and probably stop traffic with their little guerrilla theater efforts. It's clear this is a desperate campaign because they are ignoring one of the basics -- ads that sling mud often hurts the slinger more than the target.

The desperation is also evident in her renewed call for one-on-one debate, something Patrick continues to resist but I suspect won't be able to hold off forever.

His reasoning is strong: "The voters will choose among four candidates, not just two," he told the Globe. Hers is logical: Christie Mihos is aiming both barrels at her on every occasion

The decision by debate consortia to eliminate candidates because of "winnability" has always been controversial. Media should not have the right to decide who can win and in effect, overrule voters who sign petitions to get candidates on the ballot.

The argument can hold greater water in early presidential primaries where the outermost wings of each party and assorted flakes join the race. But what strikes me about this race is Mihos' willingness to speak truth to power and the articulateness of Grace Ross.

Mihos may border on flakiness in his manner but he is anything but. Ross' party will forever leave me cold because its 2000 presidential candidate said there was no difference between Al Gore and George Bush. Ralph Nader decided that election. He was no fringe third party.

And the 2000 election also reinforces the importance of those "unwinnables." They may hover in the low teens and single numbers -- but in close races, those votes are counted and make a difference. Voters should know whether they are throwing away a vote, making a solid statement and standing up for someone on principle.

In the end, media and Healey pressure will get so intense Patrick will probably need to surrender so the campaign isn't consumed by another false issue. But by then, the boys will have shifted from prison jumpsuits to chicken costumes.

The Healey campaign is already running on fumes. When you ain't got nuthin', you got nuthin' to lose.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Taking its toll

Leave aside Kerry Healey's implausible (no make that laughable) suggestion that her plan to take down the tolls on the Mass Pike is not political (and ignore the fact the board only voted to consider it upon further study) and go to the heart of the matter.

This is a legally questionable proposal trotted out without a lot of thought -- particularly about how the state will make up for the lost revenue. And if I recall, that's one of the major complaints leveled at Deval Patrick last night -- how are you going to pay for things.

Healey's straight-faced insistence that "We have the money to pay off the debt, and we will pay off the debt. This is a certainty" flies in the face of Romney appointee Eric Kriss' own numbers show that eliminating toll takers only recoups about $40 million of a $114 million gap.

But as Steve Bailey points out (at least someone read Kriss' report), the gap is larger because no one has factored in the cost of deferred maintenance of the turnpike -- let alone the deteriorating state highway system. And no one is being honest about who will pay for that gap -- before our bridges crumble and our cars get swallowed in potholes.

I've said before that Mass Pike users are paying an unfair share of the Big Dig costs and require toll relief. The Romney-Healey administration apparently believes in the tooth fairy or magic dust. Hate to disappoint them, but the answer is that if the toll payers don't pay for it, the taxpayers will.

They reject calls for higher gas taxes -- even calling for a freeze is a shameless appeal for votes. They continue to call for a rollback of the income tax to 5 percent. How do we pay for all of this -- and education and public safety and health care and jobs and, well, you know the drill.

Patrick continues to be criticized for a lack of specificity over how he will pay for his proposals and -- with a little time to reflect beyond last night's instant analysis -- there is merit to that criticism.

But at least he is not calling for the reduction of elimination of revenue sources while promising the sun, moon and stars. Wish the same could be said about the "non-political" Healey proposal.

And oh yeah, why are you raising T fares at the same time you're calling for more people to pay for the roads too?

Consistency is the hobgoblin of GOP minds.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Advantage: Patrick

After weeks of the rope-a-dope, Deval Patrick finally started to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, countering Kerry Healey's allegations with a cool exterior and cold hard numbers. For the many voters getting their first real look at Patrick, it was a strong performance.

For a campaign that had been fought so far on Healey's turf of rape and taxes, the focus on those issues -- and a strong revulsion against those scare tactics -- did not do Healey any good. She was forced to play defense from the get-go.

If she needed a knockout -- or at least a decision -- to gain ground in this race, she failed. Despite her almost comical effort to label him -- in one mouthful of words -- as a tax-raising liberal, Patrick came off cool. And in a medium like television, cool wins every time.

Patrick was assisted by the fact the Christy Mihos and Grace Ross still aimed most of their barbs at Healey -- whether the issue was the disgraceful new Healey ad that tries to scare women into voting for her, the bald-faced political ploy to promise and end to Mass Pike tolls to the Romney-Healey administration's failure to invest in local aid, education or the businesses needed to stop the bleeding of the population.

Healey also failed to show any independence -- let alone courage -- by dodging the question about the impact of (former) Gov. Mitt Romney's use of Massachusetts as a punch line in his presidential quest. Her effort to say she agreed with Patrick on choice and stem cell research was a feeble attempt to show some distance -- but significantly not independence -- from a man who has serious image problems as a result of the lies he offered four years ago,

Patrick offered an array of facts -- from cops removed from the beat, jobs lost or residents leaving Massachusetts -- to answer the critics who said he was all style and no substance. I will leave the fact checking to those paid to cover the event, I doubt there will be significant discrepancies. And even then, more people will have watched this debate than will read the truth squad stories.

After a 6 p.m. debate and one broadcast only on NECN because it originated in Springfield, most voters knew only what they had seen in the commercials. The risk for Patrick was that he would reinforce that hazy, uninviting image. The Deval Patrick people saw tonight is the one his supporters hoped would show up: an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove. He never lost his cool as he sliced through Healey.

First impressions still count the most. Even though Kerry Healey has been around for four years, she is virtually unknown, at best seen as a silent ornament on the Romney chain. On that basis only, Patrick wins.

Wanted: an honest politician

Kerry Healey's fellow "career criminologists" are getting a bit miffed. And the evidence is getting stronger that she's tough on crime only when the cases involve Deval Patrick, not her or Mitt Romney.

James Allen Fox, a very familiar Northeastern University criminologist and BU sociology professor Peter Yeager are among those who think the Pride of Pride's Crossing credentials are "rather thin." Says Fox:
"Many criminologists are offended that she is using that authority to advance a campaign that is so out of line with justice, where a defense attorney can't be a good leader and you have to be either for victims or against them."
Campaign attack dog Tim O'Brien naturally disagrees, denigrating the critics as "theorists who think it's OK to release criminals back into society." (By the way, where is career police officer Reed Hillman in all of this?)

"Kerry Healey, on the other hand, has had to govern. She's had first hand experience and has worked with law enforcement officers and others responsible for protecting our families."
A quickie review of her resume suggests some, er, resume kiting.

"Before I entered politics, I worked for the US Department of Justice researching crime," says Healey. I supose that's true when you stop and look at the fact she The Globe reports that did work as a consultant for Abt Associates, working on issues for the Justice Department. That work, the Globe says, mostly involved compiling the research of others, was published by the US Justice Department's National Institute of Justice.

And yes, she says she was an adjunct faculty member at Endicott College and UMass-Lowell. That's part-time, and on the faculty pecking order, rock bottom. And this academic credential certainly stands out:

According to her biography, she was chosen as a visiting researcher in the International and Comparative Legal Studies program at Harvard Law School in 1985. According to Harvard Law School, students working on advanced degrees can apply and pay to gain access to facilities, students, and teachers. To be admitted, a researcher must be recommended by a faculty member.

Obviously, very little prepared her on basic concepts like the constitutional right to a fair trial and to be represented by an attorney. Or an accurate portrayal of her background.

Don't we deserve a governor who has worked in the real world and doesn't need to embellish her experience?

Meanwhile, the Healey tough on crime stand continues to be selective. Apparently when she is not condoning work release programs in the Statehouse for convicted cop killers, she is signing proclamations for Whitey Bulger leg breakers who find God.

And somehow a defense of “It was a mistake in judgment that every elected body in Massachusetts made” seems weak in the contrast to the decision to pile on Patrick over Ben LaGuer -- who also won support from John Silber and Elie Wiesel, among other known criminal coddlers.

How about some truth and consistency? Oh I forgot, that's not in the GOP campaign playbook.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Transparency in government

This is not what people mean when they say government actions should be transparent.

With slightly less than three weeks to go, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, trying to show off how it is now clearly under the control of (former) Gov. Mitt Romney, votes "in principle" to offer a multi-million break in tolls to Pike users west of Route 128. They claim it will almost pay for itself by eliminating the jobs of toll collectors.

At an afternoon press conference, Gov. Mitt Romney and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey applauded the move

"Finally we've been able to see inside the system ... and we found that we're collecting tolls to pay for the collection of tolls, said Healey, the Republican nominee for governor.

One day after writing off Healey's chances in a national interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the Mittser deigns to offer his presence in Massachusetts at the side of his lt-gov -- and even let her speak.

Let's start with a basic fact: there is no good reason why people west of 128 should be saddled with the cost of paying the Big Dig. Those costs should be assessed to the people -- north and south of the city -- who actually use the road. Toll booths on 93 anyone?

But to offer this clearly partisan proposal, without bothering to put it in the context of a broader plan to pay for the state's massive transportation needs, is reckless (and transparent) pandering at its worst (a hallmark of the Romney-Healey administration).

This campaign ploy comes a few weeks after a supposedly nonpartisan committee suggests that tolls and higher gasoline taxes will be needed to pay for the infrastructure needs that have been neglected through 16 years of Republican mismanagement of the Big Dig. And of course, after Healey's "proposal" to eliminate the gasoline tax for a few months.

Republicans -- especially those in political trouble -- think nothing of pandering to taxpayers. They offer the free lunch theory, thinking the suckers will forget when the time comes to pay for all their promises.

OK Mitt and Kerry -- how about rolling back T fares too? After all, if you're going to make promises, how about us poor schlubs inside 128? Or are we supposed to foot the entire bill for the state's glaring transportation needs?

If you want a friend, get a dog

So Willard Mitt Romney is working hard to support his loyal running mate Kerry "Sherry" Healey. I guess going on national television and predicting she could lose is one way of doing it.

Of course, Healey doesn't help her cause by saying an anonymous state official should take over the function now handled by the local police chief to issue gun permits, a position that puts her firmly in the camp of the gun lobby, whose positions she chooses to endorse but not publicly acknowledge. I thought Republicans believe in local control?

Democrats are rightly worried -- between the big gap in spending and the party's ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But there are signs, such as the significant one Eileen McNamara spotted at a woman's event at the Boston Chamber of Commerce. Healey's over-the-top appeal to male suburbanites is leaving women cold.

I suspect this race will display the same dynamics as the national ones, despite the lack of heated congressional races. Democrats are the committed voters this year. They would turn out in a snowstorm to cast their votes against anyone with an R next to their name. Let's not forgot that for all of her own faults, she carries the baggage of Bush, Rove and company.

Healey is mimicking the national GOP strategy by harping on immigration and personal security. She is looking for the red meat conservatives and the "security moms" who helped carry Bush over the finish line two years ago.

While the sad sack male talk radio audience tends to have similar motivational goals as Democrats, the security moms have abandoned the GOP this year. Those poll numbers McNamara cites suggests the same thing for women here.

The national GOP has also been touted for it's get out the vote effort -- surpassing what used to be a Democratic strength. But as Patrick demonstrated, his field operation and it's ability to get people to the polls is stellar.

The only thing that could make Democrats complacent after 16 years of Republican mismanagement is Romney's concession that Murphy could lose. But while I believe that Mitt, for a change, is correct, I don't think he is going to depress Democratic turnout. Too many years of depressing Democrats themselves to keep them away.

And I suspect the same applies to the independents who Mitt snookered four years ago when he portrayed himself a moderate and thoughtful Republican.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What are you hiding?

Career criminologist Kerry Healey has scored the endorsement of the Gun Owners Action League, coming in with a 95 percent rating on their survey of issues of importance to gun owners. Or so both parties want you to believe.

It seem proponents of the Second Amendment aren't too keen on certain aspects of the First Amendment. Or maybe they think they are exercising those rights by refusing to release the survey.

Or maybe they don't want people to know that some portions of the questionnaire would raise serious concerns about Healey's claim to be a better crime fighter than Deval Patrick.

The Globe reports the league's questionnaire asks candidates if they support or oppose creating a system for ballistic fingerprinting, easing restrictions on granting firearm licenses to those with police records, and curbing the power of local police chiefs to deny permits to carry guns.

One of the questions, asking whether any gun should be banned, relates to whether there should be a ban on assault weapons and high-powered handguns that fire rounds police say can pierce bulletproof vests worn by officers.

<>Paul Birks -- vice president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers which has endorsed Democrat Deval Patrick -- told the Globe his Boston-based, nationwide union respects the right of gun ownership, but said there are "common-sense limits."

"Sportsmen don't hunt game with assault rifles that spray-fire armor-piercing bullets," Birks said. "It's that simple. I don't know how any law enforcement officer could support a candidate who, like Kerry Healey, accepts the endorsement of a gun group that doesn't recognize the need for some common-sense limits."

Of course many gun owners live in the 128-495 and beyond belt that has supplied the winning margin for recent GOP gubernatorial candidates. The same people who Healey is appealing to with her slash and burn commercials depicting Patrick as a low life lawyer who defends criminals.

The same people who moved out of the cities where crime is rampant because of inadequate state and federal aid for policing. The same people who keep guns in their homes for "protection" caused by pandering politicians.

Obviously I'm not a big fan of guns. I have no problem with hunting for sport (even when shooters aren't as dead-eyed as Darth Cheney). I also have no problem with weapons for legitimate protection purposes.

And to prove I'm not a complete knee-jerk liberal, I also have problems with a Hollywood that glorifies crime, guns and violence -- even in entertaining flicks like "The Departed."

But I do have a problem with politicians ginning up irrational fears about crime among people who won't taste what real crime is like.

No one disagrees with the enforcing the rights of legitimate gun owners. What we do have concerns about is the irrational proliferation of weapons whose only purposes are to kill and maim. You don't hunt deer with AK-47s or MAC-10s, nor do you need to keep one under your pillow to protect against the prowler or the rapist.

So Kerry, why don't you release the survey and let people see what you believe in. You haven't told us anything yet -- isn't it time to start?

Monday, October 16, 2006

What do YOU stand for?

First the Healey campaign mocks Bill Clinton coming to town to campaign for Deval Patrick, cheekily suggesting we "lock up the good looking interns."

But then it flip-flops, putting together a 45-second ad -- probably intended for web use only (and which I won't link to give it more hits) -- designed to make Patrick seem out of step with Clinton on "her" issues like immigration, driver's licenses for undocumented residents and the towering heap of crap that has marked the character assassination passing as a campaign.

Just exactly who is that going to appeal to?

Clinton and Patrick got off some good lines at the fund-raiser, with the former president correctly noting why Healey is trying the only tactic available to someone who has unfavorables higher than favorables.
"When they start trying to throw the kind of stuff at you that they've been throwing at him, they don't do that unless they think they're getting a big whuppin' laid on."
As someone who has taken more than a few rounds of GOP garbage, Clinton has perspective. Can't wait to see the smarmy response from Tim O'Brien.

Patrick continues to take the modified high road.
"I am no Bill Clinton. I am no Dr. King or John Kennedy or FDR or Thomas Jefferson," Patrick told the crowd. "But I do know the right words, spoken from the heart with conviction, because of a vision of a place just beyond our reach and a faith in the unseen, are call to action. That's what I'm asking you to do: Take action."
O'Brien will probably respond "pffft."

So one more time, Kerry: we know what you say Deval Patrick stands for. What do you stand for -- other than unrelenting negativism delivered with a sledgehammer touch. What have you and Mitt Romney accomplished? Who should you get the keys to the Corner Office?

And oh by the way, where we you when Dick Cheney came to town to raise bucks for you? Yet another profile in courage from Lt. Gov. Sticks and Stones.

Don't say anything if you can't be negative

Massachusetts Republicans, much like John Hobbes, apparently believe political campaigns should be short, nasty and brutish. They also never listened to their mothers when told that they shouldn't say anything if they can't be nice.

Whether it is flip lines like Charlie Manning's 'Lock up the cute interns" taunt of Bill Clinton (what about the pages?) to Kerry Healey's mouthpiece latest scripted retort, Massachusetts Republicans are a grim bunch.

And let's not forgot Willard's crusade.

Think about it. When was the last time you hear the Romney-Healey administration offer a positive word on the campaign trail. Fear and smear. Gloom and doom. Innuendo and sarcasm. All in an effort to mask a 16-year GOP record of inaction and ineptitude.

Wanna bet they try to turn this story into a plagiarism allegation?

GOP operatives firmly believe in the politics of negative -- tear down an opponent rather than offer specifics. Raise fear rather than hope. Sadly these themes from the Lee Atwater playbook have been tested and shown to work over time.

The result: the world today, courtesy of George Bush and company and the do-evil Republican Congress is short, nasty and brutish -- if you live in Iraq or in the gun violence-plagued cities of America. Where the fear of terrorism has become as effective a weapon as terrorism itself.

That is of course unless you are rich and comfortable -- aided by the Bush tax cuts and unaffected by the service cuts at the local level. You know, the ones where "no new taxes" have meant fewer cops, more guns and politicians pandering to the fear that has created.

And hope? Well that's for sissies and philandering, soft on life Democrats.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rules? In a Knife Fight?

So Kerry Healey thinks she's the aggrevieved party who deserves an apology from Deval Patrick for saying it was "inappropriate" to link her to one of the slimiest political moments in Massachusetts history.

Well, as Harvey Logan said to Butch Cassidy moments before the start of the kick-shortened battle for control over the Hole in the Wall Gang -- Rules? In a knife fight? It's too late now to change the game you started.

Healey launched the mean-spirited tone from the time she took the podium primary night and made "crime" the issue of the campaign. The "career criminologist" who has written four books -- including a 12-pager most people would consider a book report -- was desperate for an issue to overshadow the lack of accomplishments of the Romney-Healey administration.

Since then she has bombarded the airwaves with a litany of issues supposedly important to the Massachusetts voter -- including Patrick offering a constitutionally required defense of a cop killer in Florida and his support for a convicted rapist in Massachusetts who bamboozled that noted liberal, John Silber.

Interestingly, her voice has not been raised on whether cities and towns have been able to hire the cops and firefighters need to keep their citizens safe. Or why 16 years of Republican control of state governments and its authorities hasn't made it safer to drive a car down the Mass Pike.

So now, when in the Healey campaign style, someone drags Patrick's sister and brother-in-law through the mud, revealing he did time for rape in California during a marriage separation, the blonde bumshell decides she's the one who needs an apology.

How does that jibe with her purported belief in victims rights?

Kerry, you ain't the victim here. And when even the Herald, which dredged up this sewer, comes back at you with a story and two columns -- pointing to the hypocrisy, lack of dignity and lack of respect you engender, you know you have problems.

So why don't you apologize to Rhonda Sigh for creating a climate where her marital problems were dragged onto the front page of a daily newspaper. She's the victim of the a crime. You are the perpetrator of a climate of fear to hide your singular lack of accomplishments or qualifications for office.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Walking on a thin line

Technically speaking, I'm sure the Healey campaign did not drop the dime that launched the slime involving Deval Patrick's sister. The term is plausible deniablity and Republicans, in particular, are quite adept at it.

But let's look beyond the precise wording of the retorts from Healey (who said she did not "consider this a campaign issue," adding that "I'm not using it in my campaign") and campaign manager Tim O'Brien, who self-righteously tried to turn the blame back onto Patrick.
"This campaign had nothing to do with the story. This is a wild accusation without any proof. To walk off without answering questions -- I don't know how that's acceptable."
Notice how careful parsed the denial is: "this campaign." That means someone actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the race. There's a whole legion of suspects out there who are not part of "this campaign."

Let's play detective. The questions they always ask are who had means, motive and opportunity. The answer to this is simple: someone who works at the Sex Offender Registry Board (under the jurisdiction of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Romney-Healey appointee Robert Haas) or in the court system has both the means and the opportunity.

Motive is simple: political survival. So that means either a disgruntled Democrat or someone within either of the state government system who is worried about his or her job.

We know Democrats are adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but this year no one seems so worked up to even offer a Loony Left slap the way Tom Finneran did in 1998.

Let's then look at method of operation (M/O as Lennie Brisco liked to say). Which candidate has been a fierce law and order type, running commercials reflecting outrage over the defense of a Florida cop killer, a convicted Massachusetts rapist and labeling the opponent as soft on crime.

So the circumstantial evidence leads to a Healey supporter, currently working in the Romney-Healey administration or elsewhere in the state government run by Republicans for 16 years.

That supporter could very well be working without the knowledge of the candidate or campaign. But O'Brien's protest offers other signals.
"We demand Deval Patrick come out of hiding, answer any and all questions from the press, and issue an immediate apology to Kerry Healey for making wild and baseless accusations."
Patrick's sister has been, in effect, been raped a second time by being dragged into the slime of a political campaign. Where is the concern for victim's that seems to be Healey's emphasis? Why not offer an apology to Rhonda Sigh, the true victim, rather than for Kerry Healey?

Why should Patrick be forced to prove the negative -- "answer any and all questions" about whether he slimed himself for political gain? Why should Kerry Healey escape the questions about what she knew and when she knew it.

It is correct that we will never likely find the culprit, so skillful was he or she was in leaving no fingerprints. There's not enough circumstantial evidence to ever bring this case to court, but it would be interesting to see what would happen if we were to follow the example set by a GOP candidate for another political office this year and bring the case to say, Judge Judy.

Up for that Timmy?

UPDATE: I may have been a bit confused on the origin of the leak, since the Sex Offender Registry Board claims to have acted only upon the Globe's initial inquiry. Assuming that is a true statement, the source could have been someone in the California court system with an interest in the campaign. We will never know the origins -- so it would not be actionable in a court of law. But if it walks like a Republican tactics and quacks like a Republican tactic....

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mush from the Warmonger

The Boston Globe, inadvertently we're to believe, created the standard for political analysis by headlining an editorial about a Jimmy Carter policy pronouncement as Mush from the Wimp.

I think the latest pronouncement from the current occupant of the Oval Office might be Mush from the Warmonger. I might also be concerned that George Bush is talking to himself. Next stop might be the White House portraits.

Nonetheless, we were treated to mush from The Leader of the Free World yesterday who offered the stunning statement that we have not exhausted diplomacy in North Korea, unlike the situation in Iraq, where we were forced to go to war to halt Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Let's leave aside how diplomatic it is to say you "loathe" the leader of another nation. And we might try to understand how, in Bush's mind we exhausted means short of war in Iraq when he opted to invade before allowing the weapons inspectors to finish their job (something that would have exposed the lie upon which the war was based).

But our straw man creator offered this piece of tortured language and logic nonetheless:

“I’m asked questions around the country, ‘Just go ahead and use the military,’ ” Mr. Bush said at a morning news conference in the Rose Garden, his first extended question-and-answer session with reporters in the days since North Korea announced it had detonated a nuclear device. “And my answer is that I believe the commander in chief must try all diplomatic measures before we commit our military.”

“I’ll ask myself a follow-up,” Mr. Bush said. “ ‘If that’s the case, why did you use military action in Iraq?’ And the reason why is because we tried the diplomacy.”

(Oops, sorry, we don't torture.)

This performance comes down to changing the subject. The reality is the congressional sex scandal has the potential to do unto the GOP what Katrina did unto New Orleans, keeping an outraged red meat base at home. W. needs to play up his alleged strengths to get them to vote. And he also needs to rationalize the childish game of "I Double Dare You" he is playing with North Korea's unstable "Dear Leader" -- who is obviously also trying to influence an American election.

Diplomacy has obviously never been in the Bush game plan. His failure to follow up on the diplomatic trail blazed by the Clinton administration in North Korea -- similiar to his failure to follow up on Clinton's Mideast initiatives -- have created a frightening unstable world. One where you don't feel safer.

Funny you don't really hear W. talk about the Axis of Evil any more. A little too frightening for any of us to consider how belligerent, undiplomatic rhetoric has turned into reality I guess. Maybe that's why he's trying out to replace Joan Rivers on the red carpet.

Gotcha politics (III)

Politics is one of the easiest areas to get people doing inconsistent things. Between the demand to constantly speak and act -- and the tendency of many participants to please all the people all of the time -- finding slip ups is like shooting fish in a barrel (whoever does that sort of thing!)

Today's two gotchas are classic: The question is how shocking and/or significant are they?

D
eval Patrick takes money from a Big Dig lobbyists while condemning the Big Dig culture on Beacon Hill. Shocking, just shocking as Captain Renault of Casablanca might say.

Fund-raising is the gutter from which all political detritus begins its journey into the sewer. It is probably the singlemost reason (after or in conjunction with the rise of the Theocratic Right) that politics and campaigns have become the deplorable things they are.

But without money there is no campaign. Which brings us to Willie Sutton's observation on why he robbed banks.

Headline: Deval meets with Travaglini and DiMasi. Headline: Deval breaks fast with O'Neill & Associates. It does not follow from there (yet) that he is now bought and paid for by these special interests. But in a campaign focused on all the wrong questions, it's inevitable this unfortunate fact of political life will become a major question.

Which brings us to tired old cliche #3 about the folly of unilateral disarmament.

Far more significant to me (I'm not Outraged Conservative after all) is the variance between Kerry Healey's rhetoric and reality. I believe the term of the art is flip-flop. Or hypocrite.

Our crime-busting lt-gov now wants the world to know every detail of every criminal's rap sheet -- even if said offender actually may have decided to straighten up, fly right and try to get back into society. But not so many years ago, "career criminologist" Kerry Healey supported limits on releasing information when she was a private citizen sitting on the Criminal History Systems Board.

In other words, she took the same position Deval Patrick takes today. Which is the right thing to do. And for which she is blasting him as soft on crime.

The difference, other than partisan spin? Patrick's fund-raising is based on speculation about future action. Healey's doing one thing while saying another is on the record. It happened.

Mindreading is a tough job. I prefer sticking to things that are real.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The spin zone

Jon Keller's take on the latest CBS4 Fast Track poll represents all that's wrong with political reporting today. Create the story by taking the poll, then spin the results to guarantee continued attention.

The numbers are not shocking. Technically Healey has indeed "cut sharply" into Patrick's lead, slicing a 25-point gap down to 18 points. I'm bad at math but that sounds like 35 percent.

And it's a "whopping" 21 percent lower than the poll they took right after Patrick's primary victory. A poll I believe no one on this green earth took seriously. Only a few more people thought 25 percent was realistic.

Then Keller posits the reason for the slide is the Healey ad campaign. A no brainer indeed -- and one that leaves out the context of the ads and the allegations that they are distorted. And of course the he offers that Healey is getting traction (which is hard to do when you are slipping deeper and deeper into the mud).

Of course 18 points four weeks out is not exactly chopped liver. And the Patrick forces appear to be waking from their slumber, bringing in Jack Corrigan and Doug Hattaway as advisors.

Corrigan has never been one to worry about bruising his knuckles -- or an opponent's sense of self-esteem. Hattaway has also been around the block a few times -- most prominently in Al Gore's winning 2000 election.

It's a somewhat delayed recognition that since Healey won't play fair it's time to turn up the heat on her non-record as second banana of the Romney-Healey administration. And that crime can be defined in ways other than screaming distorted sensationalism.

Hang on. And if you check in on Jon, check in with me too.

The party of personal responsibility

Remember how the Republicans preached about their moral superiority when it came to taking responsibility for your own actions? That's why it is so darn amusing to watch them try to slime Democrats as the leakers of the Foley Affair.

And that's why this story showing Democrats failed to get the media to bite on the story for months is so instructive. (We will ignore, at this moment, why no one at Florida newspapers like the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times showed an interest in it. Tuckered out after Monicagate?)

Equally laughable is the assertion that the Democrats are unfairly making political hay out of a sexual scandal. Is this same party that did a great impersonation of the Taliban sex police during the Clinton years?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Do you bother coming to Massachusetts?

The Los Angeles Times is the latest to praise Willard Mitt's presidential prospects by touting his Massachusetts record.

Hey folks -- do you bother to come to Massachusetts to report? Or even bother with Googling the polls showing Willard an anchor around the neck of his running mate? Could it be why she's rolling in the gutter?

Still even the Times' love-in about the "tall urbane" (former) governor shows he will have problems with the Theocons who still populate the party -- despite Mark Foley. Listen to Pastor Ted Haggard, president of the National Assn. of Evangelicals in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"We evangelicals view Mormons as a Christian cult group. A cult group is a group that claims exclusive revelation. And typically, it's hard to get out of these cult groups. And so Mormonism qualifies as that."
And please the lack of attention to a simple matter of squishy positions on issues like choice. I believe the term is flip-flop.

But it is worth noting I actually agree with the Mittser on something.
Romney admitted in an interview that he would have been "a lot smarter to stay in Michigan" if he had foreseen his plunge into GOP politics.
Or Utah. Or New Hampshire.

A slow start

For someone who says he knows how to take a punch and also throw a punch, Deval Patrick has been doing a pretty good impression of Muhammad Ali's rope-a-dope. Let's hope this newest commercial represents the start of his effort to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

And that Kerry Healey turns out to be Sonny Liston.

Taking a few days away, I thought I would return to find a rejuvenated Patrick, ready to blast away at Healey for the Romney-Healey hypocrisy of rejecting taxes while promising the sun, moon and stars. The transportation finance commission proposal to raise the gas tax and reinstate Mass Pike tolls would reflect the emptiness of the GOP free lunch promise.

But Healey has so defined this race with the GOP mantra of crime and taxes that Patrick could not take the honest road.

Let's hope the newest commercial -- finally hanging the Romney-Healey administration's failures around her neck starts to shift the focus. But while outlining her "record" it is not enough. We need to see details about the loss of jobs, residents and lives caused by the Romney-Healey administration's failures to turn the negative tide in Massachusetts or provide for adequate public safety and public health.

You don't need to get down in the gutter with her Deval, but you do need to highlight the differences. And remember, there are similarities between "comparative" ads and "negative" ads. Healey has defined negative with her below-the-belt shots. It's time to counter punch.