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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"We really screwed up"

Which political figure uttered those words?

A. George Bush
B. Hillary Clinton
C. Mitt Romney
D. Deval Patrick

Unless you've been overdosing on Anna Nicole, Brittany, Tom and Bridget and Gisele (in which case you wouldn't be reading this in the first place) you know the answer is D.

It took him too long to personally stand in front of the cameras and speak the words, but Deval Patrick finally acknowledged the obvious -- he committed a PR gaffe of the first magnitude by ignoring symbolism in making purchases for the Corner Office and his transportation.

But by doing that he is now far ahead of other elected officials in that acknowledgment. And he's learned an important lesson about gotcha journalism.

Patrick has been heading to this stare down with the media since he threw down the gauntlet at the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association in December, basically labeling the media part of the problem. But, vanities aside (this is like shooting fish in a barrel) what has the media contributed to this public debate?

Patrick's spending at the same time he is talking about budget cuts and closing tax loopholes is a very powerful and hypocritical symbol. But by focusing on the symbol, while virtually ignoring the nuts and bolts detail, the overall media contribution to the debate is also on the negative side of the ledger.

The recent history of politics is rich in symbols -- and Republicans have been far better at exploiting them. Symbols are a lot easier to understand in a culture where you have 30 seconds to tell a story, cable television "news" is really nothing but verbal food fights, newspaper readership is sinking along with the quality of the reporting and you can find any "fact" or opinion under the sun on the Web.

And where you have live coverage of people fighting over custody of the body of a poor soul whose only claims to fame were her body and her ability to find marry well (financially).

Given this media culture, is it any wonder that a newly minted politician with an impressive bootstraps resume (and unbounded self-confidence) would find the media part of the problem?

Frankly, nobody comes out of this looking good, with Patrick at the top of the list for his tin ear. But he has done what none of the other politicians in the quiz have done -- admit to his mistakes.

Let's look at the real issues facing this state -- soaring housing costs and declining population; the failure of past administrations to generate good jobs at good wages; schools that have gotten better but still have a long way to go.

Not to mention how to pay for those services as well as police, fire and trash removal. And who should be paying their fair share.

I'd love to see those stories on 7News. And I'm all for Brian Dodge for telling me who and how we should pay for things other than Diane Patrick's chief-of-staff.

How likely is that to happen? If we had casinos in Massachusetts I'd put money on "never."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Henry gives David Ortiz -- who gets paid millions -- an expensive new pick-up truck. The press tells the story with good humor and affection. We laugh and love Big Papi and reimburse Mr. Henry by spending $50 at one ballgame to buy $5 Fenway Franks and $3 water for our kids and think it is just fine.

Governor Patrick -- who gets paid $150 thousand -- rents an arguably fancy car for official purposes, and the press and we jump down his throat -- first for doing it and then for not groveling enough when he apologizes later.

February 22, 2007 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Alan said...

Slight distinction you failed to make, anon: John Henry did not use taxpayer money to buy David Ortiz a new truck.

As for who uttered the words "We really screwed up," I believe that was the 2.5 million people who voted for Deval Patrick last fall.

February 22, 2007 9:40 AM  
Blogger Ryan Adams said...

very poignant blog. Deval said all along during the campaign that he'd make mistakes. Guess what, he just did. But he apologized, so let's move on.

Somehow, I think if President Bush apologized for the Iraq War, his ratings would shoot up 20 points and Americans would forgive him. Yet, I don't know if some of the whackos in this state are going to do that now that Deval has *actually* apoligized... why? Racism? Because he's a democrat? The media? I really don't know.

February 22, 2007 9:57 AM  

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