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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Time for a Deval-uation

These have not been the best of days for Gov. Deval Patrick -- a man trying to put forward a solid agenda but who keeps tripping over his own feet -- and mouth.

Patrick turned an already bubbling pot to full boil the other day by dismissing as "trivial" public concerns over the $175,000 job for supporter Marian Walsh and the impolitic behavior of his supposedly politically savvy transportation secretary James Aloisi.

(Tip of the hat to my friend Dan Kennedy for including me in his roundup of the governor's horrendous PR efforts. And I agree with Jay Fitzgerald that the past week will be anything but trivial for Patrick going forward.)

So it comes as no surprise that the administration launched a two-pronged response to critics: leaking plans for his pension reform plan to the Globe and dispatching chief of staff Doug Rubin to open a dialogue on Blue Mass Group.

Dan is right that I have been one of Patrick's better friends. I know from real life experience that any governor is at the mercy of a legislature to get things done. Patrick has certainly offered an agenda -- casinos, tax reform, transportation restructuring, ethics and pensions. We may disagree with all or parts of it, but it is real and reflects an active executive.

Patrick's problem has been a disconnect between word and action, There has been way too much time between proposal and actual legislative language. Lawmakers have also taken their own sweet time. Part of that is the normal deliberative process. Part of it is politics too.

Patrick has compounded public frustration with the delay by some very ill-conceived and ill-timed actions. The Walsh appointment to a job that has been vacant for 12 years is hard to fathom. Coming in the context of the various Aloisi (brother and sister) issues, it is just plain dumb.

This is hard to understand after a staff shakeup that followed the drape and Cadillac debacles and suggests that he doesn't listen terribly well to advice.

But to my mind, he still beats the alternative of the Not Ready for Prime Time State Treasurer. And while I respect Harvard Pilgrim boss Charlie Baker, I've really seen no indication he wants to jump into this.

So that leaves us with Deval and Bizarro Deval -- the eloquent reformer of the campaign versus the well-intentioned but tin-eared bumbler living in the Corner Office.

In theory, he has 20 months to show us how his words have translated into action. But since we are also now in the 140-character sound bite era -- with angry mobs sharpening their pitchforks -- that job is going to be even harder.

So let's say I give Patrick an "incomplete" along with a warning that he has his work cut out for him. He needs to work extra hard to resolve the contradictions. And choose his words more carefully.

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Blogger Judy Meredith said...

Deval-uation. Congrats for verb invention. Can you copyright it? Look forward to seeing it pop up in the Blogophere and the MSWM and nobody giving credit to you!

March 22, 2009 12:29 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

I'm not going to hold my breath, but thanks!

March 22, 2009 12:56 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

For some reason I can't imagine a Republican taking so much heat for a patronage appointment. Did Romney never do such a thing, or was it just never noticed? Surely Bush was more than guilty of appointing incompetent political supporters to important positions, sometimes with disastrous results, but it was sort of the least of our worries vis a vis the overall Bush phenomenon.
According to Patrick, he wanted to make Marian Walsh the de facto head of this agency, and the only way to do it was by filling this long-vacant assistant director position because of a long-term contract finagled by a Romney appointee. This seems to be a little more legitimate than people are giving Patrick credit for.

March 22, 2009 1:18 PM  

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