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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Public people, private lives

One of the more common laments these days is where have all the good people gone in our public life. Deval Patrick's autobiography gives us a good insight.

The official media punditocracy and the blogosphere will no doubt follow true to form and scoff about the revelation that Patrick considered resigning early in the first term as the coverage of mistakes sent his wife Diane into a depression.

It was clearly a bad time -- inappropriate calls to Ameriquest, symbolic missteps in refurnishing the Corner Office and adhering to State Police to get a Cadillac as his official car. But Patrick reveals the mistakes were amplified by the go for the jugular mentality that defines today's media-politician relationship.

It was apparently the Ameriquest call and the reaction that pushed Diane Patrick over the edge:

“Diane awoke after a fitful sleep,’’ he writes. “She nudged me awake and said she just couldn’t face another critical story. She began to cry and shake.

“When I asked her what was wrong, she said, ‘I just hate this. I hate this. This is what the next four years are going to be like.’ ’’

Diane Patrick is not the first person to react to the nasty, brutish and often short shelf life of politicians and their spouses. She's not even the first Massachusetts First Lady.

The need to personally destroy candidates -- made into garden sport by George H. W. Bush advisor Lee Atwater and practiced by dark arts masters of both left and right -- is one of the major reasons the quality of debate in our country has plunged, along with the quality of candidates.

It is no longer enough to criticize policy: there's a need to demolish the individual (birther anyone?). Right wing radio has been especially adept at this practice from the early days of the medium, but has sharpened its skills -- and fangs -- in the last two decades.

We often wonder what has happened to the real leaders of this nation. The answer is we have pushed them out of the arena by unrelenting and frequently personal attack, questioning not just their policies but their very existence.

Barack Obama correctly characterized his portrayal as that of a fun-house mirror image. It's time we leave the amusement park and return to the real world.

But someone I suspect we won't.

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Blogger Robert G. Logan said...

Yesterday someone posted an attack on my wife in the comments section after an article in the online version of our local paper. Of course, it was anonymous. My wife is not a public figure. She does not hold any office and does not work for the government. I don't think her picture has been in the paper since our wedding 27 years ago. The political discourse has gotten way out of control.

Robert G. Logan
Waltham City Council

February 09, 2011 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the way Sarah Palin has been treated hasn't been a problem? See in your minds right now the reaction tells the tale, if your a leftist you think Tina Fey has been funny, Chris Matthews spot on, etc. It won't get better till each side polices itself.

February 09, 2011 3:46 PM  

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