Blogster's Miscellany: Slow Probe, Elevated Risks, River Like a Sewer, and More

Thursday, December 27, 2018

TURTLES ARE THEY. They are either being very careful and painstaking or there’s a hell of a lot to investigate.  Come January, it will be one year since the start of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against former casino magnate Steve Wynn and how his former company, Wynn Resorts, handled those allegations prior to Wynn being granted the Eastern Massachusetts casino license.  Wynn Resorts, which has renamed its casino-under-construction in Everett “Encore Boston Harbor,” could potentially lose its Massachusetts license because of the investigation, but I doubt it will -- and I don’t believe it should, given the tens of millions it has spent on the environmental clean-up and restoration of the casino site on the banks of the Mystic River, where a chemical manufactory once stood.   Without Wynn Resorts the place would have remained a nasty, multi-acre toxic heap in perpetuity.

HOPING HYPOTHETICALS STAY THAT WAY. Recent developments in the stock market have rendered even more unsettling a report this past September from S&P Global Ratings, which placed Massachusetts at “elevated risk” of financial distress during a hypothetical recession.  Under S&P’s “moderate” recession scenario, Massachusetts could expect to experience a 10 percent revenue shortfall and the state’s Stabilization (a.k.a. Rainy Day) Fund could make up for only 62 percent of it.   S&P said only 20 states are well-positioned to weather the next recession, and Massachusetts isn’t one of them.  
GOVERNMENT SHOULDER-SHRUGGING.  If you want to lose your holiday glow really fast, read the Eagle Tribune story of how a couple of commercial buildings apparently dumped thousands of gallons of raw sewage into the Merrimack River for as long as a decade, [“Lawrence buildings disconnected from sewers for years dumped waste into Merrimack River,” 12-2-18].  If you neglect to repair a failure of your car’s emissions control system, you can have your registration suspended, but some people can avoid sanction while allegedly grossly polluting a drinking water source for years.  Years.  Here’s the link:

GOLDEN AGE OF REALTORS. The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman, reported today that the median sale price for a single-family home in Massachusetts reached an all-time high last month, for a November, of $385,000, up from $368,000 a year earlier.  I like owning a home I could never afford to purchase today until I consider all the young couples out there with $3,000-a-month mortgages, brutally long commutes, and 50-hour-a-week-plus work weeks.

WHO’S LOSING WHAT? Steve Aylward of Watertown, one of 70-plus members of the Republican State Committee, sent a lengthy email to his colleagues yesterday asking them to face the “bitter truth” that the Massachusetts Republican Party “is all but irrelevant.”  It’s a long message.  Towards the end, Aylward, a Boston College grad who describes himself as a manager in the banking and information systems industries, gets to what really seems to be eating at him. “I could go on about our failings, why we lose and how our leadership maintains control in spite of those habitual losses,” he writes. “But while we fiddle, the country burns.  Because if you watch the News with any regularity, you know that we are losing our country.  There will be little left of the country we knew when our children and grand-children come of age.”
SOME PERSONS CAN DO AN AWFUL LOT IN 17 YEARS.  In January, 2002, Katherine Clark became a member of the Melrose School Committee, the first elective office she ever held.  In January, 2019, shortly after she takes the oath of office for the third time as the representative for the 5th Massachusetts District, Clark, 55, will assume the position of Democratic caucus vice chair, the sixth highest ranking position in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Clark was elected vice chair by her Democrat peers.

LOVES TRUMP, AND DeLEO!  Geoff Diehl, Republican rep from Whitman who went all-in for Donald Trump in 2016 and ever since, gave his farewell speech on the floor of the Massachusetts House on Tuesday, Dec. 4, recalling how he happened to get a seat next to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, at an event DeLeo hosted in 2010 for Republican members of the body.  It was “one of the greatest evenings of my life,” said Diehl, who gave up his House seat to challenge U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and is reported to be angling/interviewing for a federal job appointment.  He added, “I will never forget how welcome Bob made me feel and how gracious he has been to members on both sides of the aisle during my time in this chamber.”  As far as his personality and demeanor go, Diehl is the antithesis of Trump.  Never have I understood how he fell for The Donald.
DO I HEAR AN AMEN? The Rev. Rick Walsh, Catholic chaplain of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, is known for his thoughtful, history-based prayers with which he opens the sessions of the lower branch.  Take what he said on Thursday, Oct. 4, for example: “God of justice and righteousness, we pray for the efforts of legislators and staff in crafting laws for Massachusetts as we remember that it was on this day in 1636 when leaders of the Plymouth Colony wrote the first code of laws in America.  They were known as the General Fundamentals.  The legal code included a simple bill of rights that guaranteed trial by jury.  The General Court of Plymouth Colony (the first legislature) levied taxes, decreed the distribution of land, and set out punishments for certain crimes.  Several crimes carried the death penalty, including witchcraft and adultery.  The use of profanity was to be punished by no more than three hours in the stock, and if one travelled, worked or participated in sports on the sabbath, the person would be fined 40 shillings or (given) a whipping.  God of truth, we are grateful for the wisdom of today’s General Court and the greater leniency and morality exhibited in its legislation.  May God continue to bless our Commonwealth.”

What I Would Have Told Those Fresh Faces at Academy for New Legislators

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Last week, members-elect of the Massachusetts legislature and legislators who won special elections during the 2017-18 session attended an Academy for New Legislators at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 

An event designed to prepare them for their new responsibilities and to smooth their transitions to life in the legislature, the Academy included simulated committee hearings on bills, a simulated legislative session, question-and-answer sessions with current legislators, panel discussions on weighty topics (e.g., “the new world of communications”), presentations on the state budget process, the rules of the House and Senate, legislative ethics, and more.  (There were three days to kill here.)
Perusing the Academy web site the other day, I found myself daydreaming about what I would have said to those legislative newbies if, by some massive error or misunderstanding on the part of UMass, I was invited to speak there.

Daydreaming led to jotting ideas on paper.  Before I knew it, I had drafted a series of steps I’d recommend to anyone aspiring to mover-and-shaker status on Beacon Hill.  The working title I scrawled at the top of the page was: What to Do at the State House If You Don’t Want to Be Irrelevant
Here’s the text:

  1. Before you take the oath of office, carefully study legislature’s committee structure.
  2. Identify a committee or two that offers best chance of ultimately delivering something your district badly needs and/or could benefit from in multiple ways.
  3. Upon taking office, establish friendships with alpha dogs in your branch: House Speaker, Senate President, Majority Leaders, Ways & Means Chairs, et al.
  4. Do not be shy about expressing your interest in serving on the committee of your dreams.
  5. If appointed to said committee, work hard and long at the business at hand.
  6. Constantly build and deepen relationships with alpha dogs.
  7. Become an expert on issues under your dream committee’s purview.
  8. Maximize all networking opportunities so that peers come to recognize your expertise.
  9. Get re-elected.
  10. During second term, successfully seek vice chairmanship of committee.
  11. Pay attention to everything “in the building.” Work hard, work smart.
  12. Get re-elected.
  13. During third term, secure committee chairmanship if it becomes available. (By virtue of chairmanship, you are now considered a member of leadership.)
  14. Over time, strongly define your leadership profile while remaining humble and helpful to all, and especially to Speaker or President.
  15. Become trusted, ever dependable insider on small team around Speaker or President.
  16. Get re-elected.
  17. When time is ripe, when all ducks are lined up, introduce your district’s dream project and start calling in chits to move it forward.
  18. Work hard but don’t ever show the strain. 
  19. Develop the patience of a sage.
  20. Help other leadership members with their priorities at every juncture.
  21. Don’t talk too much or issue oodles of press releases.
  22. Do everything possible, every little thing, to move dream project over goal lines in both House and Senate, while also cultivating Governor and staff on the side.  (You’ll need him or her to sign your bill or approve your budget item.)
  23. Get re-elected. 
  24. Repeat process next session.
If the new legislators doubted my formula, I would have encouraged them to do a little research on John D. Keenan of Salem, a Harvard grad and attorney who served in the House (2005-2014) and is now president of Salem State University.  When he entered the legislature, Keenan knew the big coal-fired power plant in his city, a major taxpayer and employer, was coming to the end of its useful life, and would have to be phased out at some time during his expected tenure. 

Keenan then set out to become a member and eventual House chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, a perch from which he engineered a special section of an energy bill that delivered millions of dollars to Salem to compensate it for the loss of the plant and to help the city redevelop the site. 

This was a once-in-a-generation development for Keenan’s community.  He pulled the operation off masterfully with the state senator then responsible for Salem, the late, great Fred Berry of Peabody. 
Shamelessly, I would have recommended to Academy goers that they begin their research at a blog post I wrote in August of 2012.  Here’s a link to that post:

So Many Positives with George H.W. Bush. Then There's the War His Son Started.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States of America, was born in a home in Milton, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1924, and died yesterday shortly after 10:00 P.M. at his home in Houston, Texas.  In between, he led an incredibly meaningful and eventful life: he was a decorated Navy pilot in World War II, millionaire oilman, congressman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, ambassador to the United Nations, first U.S. envoy to communist China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Vice President, President, and father of the 43rd President, his namesake, George W. Bush.

Mr. Bush, who was 94 years old when he died, was a patriot in the oldest and deepest sense of the term.  The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor six months before he was to graduate from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and he decided that day he would go off to war as soon he finished high school.  "I could hardly wait to get out of school and enlist," he wrote.  He became the youngest Navy pilot in the war and risked his life in 58 combat missions, flying a one-engine bomber off aircraft carriers in the Pacific.  He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross.

Mr. Bush was what Massachusetts and other New England States used to be filled with: a Yankee Republican.  This was a breed of conservative, hard-working, understated, public-minded, country-loving patriots whose grandfathers built what used to be called more frequently than it is today "the party of Abraham Lincoln." 

To make his way in the world of politics in his adopted state, he morphed himself into a pork-rind-chewing, horseshoe tossing Texan who bragged about trying to "kick a little ass" in his vice presidential debate with Geraldine Ferraro in 1980 but he was never really convincing or even comfortable in that role.  At heart, he was a polite, considerate, charitable and self-effacing gentleman of means.  No wonder he spent so much time in Maine, his mother's state.  He always fit in better there than in Texas.

Had George H.W. Bush been born in America in the 18th Century rather than in the 20th, it's not hard to imagine him as a delegate to the Continental Congress from Massachusetts -- his ancestors were all over the Bay Colony -- and as an aide-de-camp to George Washington during the Revolutionary War, in which he would have fought valiantly.  That's how true of a true-blue American he was.

Mr. Bush was like our founding fathers in other ways, too, which is to say he was far from perfect -- and not always nearly as courageous in politics as in combat.  He spoke out against the Civil Rights Act when he was trying to get elected to Congress, and later expressed regrets at having done so.

Many years later, when he came out of the Republican convention in 1988 as the nominee for President and was 17 percentage points behind Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis, the Democrat nominee for President, he did not hesitate to adopt the strategy concocted by his handlers to demonize Dukakis as an ultra-liberal, card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union who was uncomfortable making schoolchildren recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.  Mr. Bush also signed onto the racially tinged strategy devised by his campaign manager, Lee Atwater, to fill the airwaves with ads highlighting a Dukakis administration policy that granted weekend furloughs from prison to murderers, one of whom, Willie Horton, who was black, raped a white woman and stabbed her husband while on furlough.

In 1991, when Mr. Atwater was dying of a brain tumor, he made an apology to Mr. Dukakis in the pages of a national magazine.  He said, "...I said that I 'would strip the bark off the little bastard' and 'make Willie Horton his running mate.'  I am sorry for both statements: the first for its naked cruelty, the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not."  Further, he said, "In part because of our successful manipulation of campaign themes, George Bush won handily," and this, "While I didn't invent negative politics, I am one of its most ardent practitioners."

Naked cruelty.  Manipulation of campaign themes.  Ardent practice of negative politics.

Because he benefited from all of the above, these are all a part of George H.W. Bush's legacy.

Although he was a man of physical courage, personal rectitude and decency, devotion to duty, strong family values, and deep love of country, there will always be one very large reason to regret there ever was a George H.W. Bush presidency, his many positive accomplishments as president, such as how he handled the peaceful demise of the Soviet Union and ended the war to liberate Kuwait early, notwithstanding.  I'm referring to the presidency of George W. Bush. 

Without the first President Bush there never would have been a second President Bush.  Without a second President Bush, there never would have been a misbegotten, needless, seven-year, trillion-dollar war in Iraq (March 2003-December 2011).

As Michael S. Dukakis lamented many a time, "If I hadn't lost to the father, we never would have had the son and that terrible war he started."

In addition to its monumentally stunning cost of $1.06 trillion, entirely financed by deficit spending, the war killed 4,424 Americans and wounded 31,952, many of whom were permanently disabled, blinded and/or maimed for life.  This was the war of bombs planted in roadsides, the improvised explosive devices.

Then there are the hellish costs on the Iraqi side of the ledger.  Close to half a million Iraqis died from war-related causes, according to an academic study published in the fall of 2013.  An article on the study published at that time in the Huffington Post, and updated in December 2017, stated:

"The latest estimate by university researchers in the United States, Canada and Baghdad in cooperation with the Iraqi Ministry of Health covers not only violent deaths but other avoidable deaths linked to the invasion, insurgencies and subsequent social breakdown. 

"It also differs from some previous counts by spanning a longer period of time and by using randomized surveys of households across Iraq to project a nationwide death toll from 2003 to mid-2011. 

"Violence caused most of the deaths, but about a third were indirectly linked to the war, and these deaths have been left out of previous counts, said lead author Amy Hagopian, a public health researcher at the University of Washington.

"Those included situations when a pregnant woman encountered difficult labor but could not leave the house due to fighting, or when a person drank contaminated water, or when a patient could not get treated at a hospital because staff was overwhelmed with war casualties."

There are those who believe that George W. Bush went to war in Iraq to finish the job his father should have when he called an early halt to the war in Kuwait, as our troops were advancing toward Baghdad. It has been said the younger Bush was driven by vengeance against Iraq President Saddam Hussein because Hussein was involved in an unsuccessful plot to assassinate his father after he had left the presidency.  We'll never know if these things are true.

We know for sure, however, that George and Barbara Bush produced a son of such hubris that he readily bought into the wildly ill-founded and absurd-in-retrospect premise of his Vice President, Dick Cheney, to wit, that the Iraqi people would welcome the conquering Americans in 2003 with flowers, and that the U.S. would be able to pay for what they hoped and believed would be a short war with the proceeds from the sale of Iraqi oil.

Deval Patrick's Running for President and, Don't Laugh, He Could Win

Friday, November 30, 2018

You and I will never have a credible pathway to the presidency of the United States, but if we did, we would take it.

That's why former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (2007-15) will be a candidate for president in 2020.   He probably won't win, but he could win; therefore, he'd be crazy not to give it a shot..

Here's how a successful candidacy could unroll for the man I call, admiringly, the Buddha of America politics:

A naturally gifted, superb one-on-one campaigner, Patrick goes to Iowa early and often.  He connects exceptionally well with small audiences everywhere he goes, and, after weeks of  quietly going about the business of retail campaigning in small towns and at rural farm crossroads, his candidacy catches fire.  One day the sun comes up in Iowa and everyone's talking about this guy from Massachusetts by way of Chicago.

In the state caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020, he manages a strong second-place finish.

The wind in his sails, the campaign moves to New Hampshire, where a smitten national media covers every move of the Patrick campaign and every word on the stump of Patrick himself.  A legion of Deval loyalists from Massachusetts pours into the state to volunteer in the campaign and testify to the goodness of their man.

Patrick wins the February 11, 2020, New Hampshire primary and is now a legitimate presidential contender.  Several prominent Democratic governors and senators join his campaign. 

The first truly huge day of the 2020 race for the nomination, Super Tuesday, is coming up fast, on March 3. There will likely be primaries in 10 states that day: Alabama, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Vermont. Patrick, as the Democratic frontrunner coming out of New Hampshire, wins six of them: California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Vermont.

Then he picks up victories in Florida and Illinois, which will be holding their primaries on Tuesday, March 17.

From there, he's virtually a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination for president.  He's too smart, and too good a campaigner to blow it at that point.

In November, he goes up against a beleaguered Donald Trump, presuming the president is not indicted or impeached by then.  With the economy in recession and the Make America Great Again vow looking increasingly ridiculous, Patrick wins by 50 electoral votes, 294 to 244.

Writing in a recent edition of The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin said, "Patrick would enter the (presidential) race with one significant distinction: he is a kind of political heir to Barack Obama, and enjoys broad support from people close to the former President."

Toobin quoted David Axelrod, one of the few true masterminds of Obama's political ascent, who later worked in Patrick's 2006 gubernatorial campaign, as saying about Patrick, "He is a guy who makes people feel comfortable.  He's very principled, you can see that -- just like Obama."

I don't think Patrick can win the nomination in 2020.   But he has a chance.  If he did capture the nomination, he'd have a good chance of beating Trump and a decent chance of beating some other Republican.  The man has to run.

Post-Script, 12/6/18:  My crystal ball is broken: Deval Patrick announced today that he will not be a candidate for president in 2020.

You Don't Need a Study to Figure Out Declining T Ridership

Monday, November 26, 2018

The economy of metropolitan Boston is booming, employment is near historic highs, and more young people than ever want to live and work in Boston, so one would think that ridership on the MBTA would be increasing.  One would think wrong.

According to a report delivered during a meeting of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board today in Boston, overall subway ridership is down 1.6 percent for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2019 (July 1-September 30, 2018).

Things are worse on the subway line I frequent. The board was informed that, over the past five years, ridership has declined 2.5 percent on the Orange Line, which runs from Oak Grove Station in Malden, at the Melrose line, to Forest Hills Station in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston.

I hope they won't spend on a marketing study to determine why riders are shunning the T. The reasons are obvious to anyone who has to use the T: on the Orange and Red subway lines, for example, service is generally slow, equipment breakdowns and "signal problems" are common, and the cars are packed tighter than a carry-on bag on an airplane.

During rush hours, you often can't get on a train when one finally arrives, and if you are able to squeeze in one of the fully functioning doors, you have an involuntary up-close-and-personal experience with total strangers for next 15 or 20 minutes.  The strangers love it as much as you.

We ride the Orange and Red lines because we have no other way of getting to or from work.  Captive audiences are us. 

If you can opt out of the T, you have.

A few minutes after I read the State House News Service account of today's control board session, I happened upon Globe reporter Adam Vaccaro's article on, "Old Orange Line cars gear up for their final rides."The first cars of what will be a new fleet of 150 Orange Line cars are expected to be put into service late this year or early next, the article said.  Hallelujah!

I'm not going out on a limb when I predict Orange Line ridership will be up at least a couple of points by this time next year.

Here's another discouraging number that emerged at the control board:  since the FY 19 T budget was adopted several months ago, the projected overall cost of paying pensions to T employees this fiscal year has risen from $97 million to $103 million.

T pension cost are "entirely unsustainable" if you look at the trend line, said board member Brian Shortsleeve.  Will he please give us his sleeve to cry on?

A metro area taxpayer may have a choice of whether to ride the T but no choice on supporting its retirees.  Ouch.

Like Franklin Roosevelt, the Late Senator Berry, D-Peabody, Was Super-Abled

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Whenever I think of Freddie Berry, the late Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate who will be buried this weekend, God rest his magnificent soul, I can't help but smile because he was such a naturally funny and attractive human being, the kind of person who constantly surprised and delighted you with his slyly camouflaged wit and high intellectual voltage, and because every day that he ventured forth into this brutish world he was a walking, talking Exhibit A of how much a righteous person possessed of an unswerving, ferocious determination could achieve in the face of obstacles the nature of which normally crush 9,999 out of a 10,000 souls.  I doubt that Freddie's soul was ever seriously dented, so formidable was his inner strength. 

Berry died this past Tuesday at age 68 following a long period of declining health.  He was born with cerebral palsy, and though he bore the effects of that condition his entire life, he was defined, first and last, by his remarkable, soaring spirit and his innate, irrepressible sense of humor, and not by the condition that sometimes contorted his speech and limited his physical movements.

On the day of Berry's death, the State House News Service noted that he, as a member of the Peabody City Council, had won a five-way Democratic primary for an open Senate seat in 1982 "as the only candidate who said he was pro-choice."  Undoubtedly, this discomforted some at his alma mater, Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody.  The SHNS also reported that, right after his election to the Senate, Berry and his wife, Gayle, started and ran the Fred Berry Charitable Foundation out of their Peabody home, an organization that raised more than $1 million over three decades to help food pantries, homeless shelters, educational programs and various human services agencies. In the Senate, he was the tribune of the poor, the chronically ill, the physically and mentally challenged, the homeless, and every hard-luck, forgotten, friendless, family-less, invisible person who had no chance of surviving without a hand from our government.

The tributes to  Berry have been gushing forth from those who knew him and served with him at the State House.  Two of the most resonant remembrances were offered by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester and Mayor Kim Driscoll of Salem.

Tarr said: "Former Majority Leader Fred Berry was an outstanding senator, a champion for the needs of his district and people across the state, and a dear friend.  He was an extraordinary public servant with a kind heart, and a sharp intellect.  Despite a lifetime impacted by cerebral palsy, Fred gave strength to those who needed a champion.  In the years that we spent together in the Senate, I knew of nobody more capable of being both uproariously humorous and profoundly poignant, the effect of which often better informed the thinking of those in the Senate Chamber.  Known not only for his abilities as a legislative leader, he was also acclaimed for his decades of civic engagement by helping those in need through his charitable work.  Word of his passing is truly saddening and I extend my sympathies to his family and friends.  I hope that they will be comforted by knowing that his legacy will live on through his lifetime of accomplishments, the close associations that he made, and the love that he shared with so many."

Driscoll said: "He was always the funniest guy in the far.  More importantly, he had an indefatigable zest for life and served Salem and nearby North Shore communities with distinction during his decades' long service as our state senator.  Underneath his outward humorous personality, Fred Berry was a force to be reckoned with -- a true champion who always stood up for those who didn't have a voice or political clout on Beacon Hill, in particular children in need."

When I think of Berry, there is one scene that almost always comes to mind.  One day, back around the turn of the century, I had set up a meeting for a then client of ours, the American Cancer Society , with him in his office at the State House.  A professional colleague of mine at the time was supposed to attend that meeting with me and three persons from the ACS.  That colleague, in fact, was supposed to lead our presentation because he had formerly served in the legislature and knew Berry well.  But, at the last moment, he was unable to attend and asked me to explain his absence and apologize to the senator for his being a no-show. 

Dutifully, I opened the meeting with an explanation of my colleague having to be somewhere else and an expression of his regard for the senator and his regrets at not attending. 

I had no history with Berry.  I had never met with him before on a piece of client business and was nervous about having to carry the ball at the meeting. I was sitting right next to him and Berry kept eye contact with me throughout my opening spiel and listened patiently to what I said; I could not tell how he was taking it.

When I was through, he paused for three or four seconds, silent, still fixing me with his eyes.  At last he responded.  "Your friend is a very busy man," he said, "a very busy man.  I'm just glad that, with everything he has to do, he would stop and think of me, and be sure to tell you to tell me that he is thinking of me.  He wishes he was here and is sorry he is not!  Well, I'm just glad that he, a busy man, such a very busy man, with big responsibilities, important things, is thinking of me.  He's thinking of me!  You tell your friend not to worry.  He's an important man.  You tell him, Thank you for thinking of me."

Given my limited perspicacity, I didn't realize until Berry was done offering reassurances that he was actually puncturing a pal who dared to have better things to do than meet at that moment with one of the Senate's top dogs -- and a widely beloved dog at that.  Had it not been out of line to do so, I would have burst out laughing at how well, how artfully, he had just pulled my pants down.  Instead, my face broke into a big, stupid grin, and a welcome sense of relaxation came over me.  "This guy has a wicked sense of humor," I said to myself. "Everything's going to be alright."  And so it was that day for me and the folks from the American Cancer Society

What a man, and what apiece of work, he was.

Good for Capuano: Beaten Badly, He Did Not Look Crushed or Even a Tad Angry

Friday, September 7, 2018

Now that Mike Capuano has lost, I’m hearing some grumbling to the effect he could have run a better campaign.  Some say he wasted too much time talking about Trump when he should have been taking the fight hard, much harder than he did, to Ayanna Pressley.

“In terms of experience and ability to get things done, she doesn’t belong in the same ring with him,” said one lifelong resident of the district who was sorry to see the curtain come down on Capuano's career.  “For whatever reason, or reasons, he decided it was too risky to attack her.  Well, look where that got him.”
At first, this line of reasoning made sense to me. But, the longer I thought about it, the less convincing it became. 

I’d try to conjure a mental picture of Capuano ripping into Pressley on the stage at some candidates’ forum or on the set of some TV program, and every time I did, Capuano came across as a bully and the audience looked pained.
It now seems to me that Capuano's candidacy was simply doomed on Tuesday, September 4, 2018.  There was nothing he could have done to beat Pressley.  She was a force of nature, an agent of fate.  His number came up.  He had to go.

Based on repeated viewings on the Internet of his concession speech, I suspect that’s what Capuano also thinks.
It was an extremely brief speech, less than two minutes, delivered extemporaneously.  There was no text, no checklist of persons and organizations to thank, no scripted paeans to the glories of public service and the majesty of the electoral process.

He had the air of a coach whose team has just lost the Superbowl by 40 points and knows he has to say something before the cameras but has zero appetite at the moment for analysis and reflection. 
“The district is very upset with lots of things that are going on,” Capuano said.  “I don’t blame them.  I’m just as upset as they are.  But, so be it.  That’s the way life goes.”

He did not look sad or beaten down.  It was as if he had known in his heart two days before he was going to lose and had willed himself to put the whole damn thing behind him.
He talked about how honored and grateful he was to have had the support of the folks in the room for so many years, over so many campaigns, then wrapped up with kind of a verbal shoulder shrug:

“We did everything we could to get this thing done…I’m sorry it did not work out.  But this is life.  This is OK.  America is going to be OK.  Ayanna Pressley is going to be a good congressman.  And I will tell you that Massachusetts is going to be well served.”
As Capuano exited the stage, the smile on his face was entirely genuine.  “You are all invited down to the Caribbean to have a drink with me on the beach!” he exclaimed.

I will not be surprised if he stays on that beach a long time.  Eight years as Mayor of Somerville.  Twenty years as a United States Representative in Washington.  Mike Capuano has a lot to think about, so much of it good.