Take Another Two Weeks Off, Governor. Events Show You're the Superior Politician, Again.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Governor Deval Patrick has been blasted by some Republicans for the amount of time he's taken off this summer. The three weeks he spent travelling to Maine and then Bermuda -- or was it Bermuda, then Maine? -- seemed to really rankle the folks in the workaholic wing of the GOP.

Me, I'm a firm believer in the adage, "Don't just do something, stand there!"

Patrick had barely turned the lights back on in the governor's office when he headed to Logan for a flight to California, where today he is addressing the Black Corporate Directors Conference in Laguna Beach. Republicans had the outrage machine cranked up again before the wheels were up on the governor's plane.

I don't know if the complainers sincerely believe Patrick is harming the Commonwealth by absenting himself from the State House, or if they're merely nursing leftover frustrations from the unsuccessful campaign to defeat him in 2010. Either way, I'm enjoying the spectacle of a party that espouses limited government yipping about someone not governing enough.

Might it also be that Patrick's critics are angry because he's getting the job done and making it look easy?

Take the casino bill that just emerged into daylight, for example. It's the biggest thing going now on Beacon Hill, and it reflects almost entirely the governor's view of how Massachusetts should raise its gambling act to the next level.

Or take the way Patrick, earlier in the summer, waltzed once again through the political house of horrors that is the Big Dig, following a Boston Globe extravaganza on torrents in the Tip O'Neill tunnel and turmoil in top leadership at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Last time I checked, the media was practically cooing about what a fabulous guy the new MassDOT secretary, Rich Davey, is.

Davey is Patrick's fourth transportation chief in five years but people are focusing not on the revolving door at Ten Park Plaza but rather on the new guy's intellectual dexterity and wisdom-beyond-his-years. The governor instinctively knew the best way to rise above the sea of troubles at Transportation: name a boyish boss with real transport chops who plays well with the media.

No matter what your political inclinations are, you have to concede that Deval Patrick is a very smart guy, a superior politician, and an executive who quickly grew into the governor's role after making some rookie mistakes. Patrick is now pretty much at the top of his game. If not, the President of the United States would not have him down to Washington all the time to lend weight to his agenda, as Obama did once again this week on the eve of announcing his new jobs bill.

A column this week in Time magazine by Joe Klein helps illuminate our governor's skills, although that was not its purpose. Klein was writing about the Republican candidates for the presidential nomination in 2012 and the differences between running in the primaries and in the general election when he observed, "...general elections are different. The superior politician always wins. Think about it. Always." Consider that in relation to the general election for Governor of Massachusetts in November, 2010, when the three candidates asking for your vote were Patrick, Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill.

Patrick's life is a classic American success story, confirming our best thoughts and renewing our hopes about our country. He wears his success well. ("Bearing is fate," the Romans said.) Most people, I believe, are impressed by his equipoise and benevolence, his total lack of neuroses and malice.

This is a man who grew up in a Chicago housing project and now lives in Milton, one of the best suburbs ever invented. He holds an office once held by giants on the American stage, (Hello, Mr. Hancock, Mr. Coolidge, Mr. Herter and Mr. Saltonstall), and he weekends at an estate in the Berkshires, (gotta love the way he's perfected the art of campaigning in western Massachusetts while visiting his holdings there).

Cynics can quibble that Patrick got some big breaks along the way, namely those scholarships to Milton Academy and Harvard, but I say he basically made his own breaks -- and maximized them to a fare thee well -- by dint of his inner qualities, the "stuff" of his character, which would have been revealed as false long ago by the rigors of life in the public eye, if indeed it was not real stuff.

Scott Brown has to hope that Patrick stays true to his word, i.e., that he is not interested in serving in the U.S. Senate.

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