Thursday, June 30, 2005

"Equal Time" on Greater Boston

I try to catch Greater Boston on WGBH as often as I can. My wife refers to it as "your favorite show" and though it is often very well done, every once in a while it coughs up a real hairball. Last night was one of those episodes.

The first segment was on Scientology and its higher profile thanks to Tom Cruise's recent media blitzkrieg. Host Emily Rooney had on a Scientologist, Kevin Hall, and a psychiatrist, Dr. Mary Anne Badaracco. The segment went something like this: Hall would explain how psychiatrists do some horrible thing and then Dr. Badaracco would say that actually what Hall said wasn't true and any good psychiatrist would do something completely different. At one point Hall claimed that there was no scientific evidence that any mental illness was caused by a brain chemistry problem as if he had never heard of a neurotransmitter.

So, fine, if Emily Rooney wants to show both sides of "the story", it's her show. Personally, I think it's lending credence to a movement that doesn't deserve it, but maybe Rooney thinks that giving equal time to both Scientologists and psychiatrists will give viewers the opportunity to sort out the truth for themselves.

So, I was surprised when during the next segment, Rooney paired up Republican Consultant Charley Manning and David Bernstein from the Boston Phoenix for a discussion of Mitt Romney's self assessment he paid to have in yesterday's Globe. What, is there suddenly some shortage Democratic consultants in Massachusetts of all places? If you're going to have a hardcore partisan like Manning -- who worked on both of Romney's campaigns, by the way -- the least you could do is have another partisan representing the other side. Bernstein may be a liberal for all I know (and he probably is) but he's not a paid political operative. Manning has an interest in extolling Romney's virtues whether they're true or not -- so of course by the end of the interview the consensus is going to be that the brochure is great and the Herald piece is just sour grapes.

It just drove me nuts that they went out of their way to put Scientology, which is widely considered a cult, on the same footing as the field of psychiatric medicine and then, not thirty seconds later, gave Republicans a leg up in the discussion of Romney's performance thus far. Has the Democratic Party become so irrelevant that the Scientologists deserve equal time but we don't?

On second thought, don't answer that. I don't think I want to know.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Herald: Mitt's a Failure

Who would have thought that the Boston Herald would have the perfect antidote to the $146,000, 24-page campaign booklet Mitt Romney had inserted in today's Globe. While I've not yet seen a copy of the insert, the Herald has splashed a picture of a dour Mitt holding one of the brochures with the headline "Poor Marks for Mitt". Inside they have a 'special report' slamming the Governor for his poor performance in his first two and a half years. Here's a sample:

As he weighs his prospects in the 2008 presidential race, the slick PR brochure paid for by Romney's campaign committee boasts of "the state's remarkable turnaround" and "reform efforts . . . taking root throughout state government." But the governor omits key facts:
  • Residents fled Massachusetts at a rate of 75 per day during Romney's first full year as governor.
A net of nearly 28,000 people up and left the Bay State in 2003 for better prospects elsewhere.
  • Unemployment is down under Romney, from 192,000 just before he took office, in December 2002, to 160,556 last month. But that doesn't mean jobs have risen. Non-farm payrolls in December 2002 were 3.42 million. Last month: 3.37 million.
The labor force has simply shrunk by about 800,000, or one sixth, during that time. Indeed, Massachusetts has lost a net 11,000 jobs since Romney took office.
Most ominous: The state's technology sector, once the envy of the nation, continues to lose ground. Information technology employment is down 12,700, or 13 percent, so far under Romney. During the same period, California's IT jobs have declined by just 1 percent.
Along with the article, the Herald also published a mock Report Card for the governor. While Mitt did manage to get some A's, they were in the subects of "Doing presidential politicking on the taxpayer's dime" and "Flip-flopping on abortion and dancing around gay marriage". The only A+ the Governor managed was in "Staying fit for the campaign trail".

Check out both articles. I'll probably have more on the brochure after I've managed to track down a hard copy of the Globe.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Damning With Strong Praise

Joan Vennochi is already ready to blame the Democrats if health care reform is not enacted this session. In her column today she speculates whether state Democrats will be willing to tackle the issue since it might give Governor Romney a platform to run on should he decide to run for President in 2008. Her column ends with this:

Is there enough political will to hammer out meaningful healthcare reform over the long, hot summer? Are Democrats ready to exercise it -- even if it helps a Republican governor run for president?
Given yesterday's look into Republican perceptions of Massachusetts, and Boston in particular, perhaps the best thing state Democrats can do to torpedo Romney's chances to win the presidency is to loudly and proudly support him. Could it be that the easiest way to stop Romney in his tracks would be to have Ted Kennedy say nice things about him? Imagine, if you will, ads taken out by George Allen, Bill Frist or John McCain peppered with quotes from famous Massachusetts Liberals like Kennedy, John Kerry, or Michael Dukakis. Throw in Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky for good measure. With the right number of soundbytes, the negative ads just write themselves: "Mitt Romney: Ted Kennedy's favorite Republican" or "Romney's socialized medicine plan was endorsed by Noam Chomsky -- do you want this man to be president?".

Of course, I'm mostly kidding about this. If Mitt manages to actually win the nomination, or decides to run for re-election this strategy could backfire spectacularly. In my opinion, there's really no reason to try to stop Romney from winning the Republican nomination anyway, since I have serious doubts about his abilitity to win the general election with his relatively thin political resume. Still, Romney will have to run against Massachusetts if he wants to win any Republican primaries outside of New England. The thing is, his competition isn't going to let him and we should keep that in mind.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Tainted By Boston Liberals?

The blogosphere was abuzz today with reports of a three-year-old editorial by Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvania Senator (who lives in Virginia) where he places the blame for the ongoing Church child molestation scandals not on the abusers, but instead on the liberals. Here's the money quote (via CapitolBuzz, as seen on Atrios, Blue Mass Group, The Fray and Left in Lowell among others)

[W]hile it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.
I don't really have much to add. John at AmericaBlog points out that while Boston certainly got the most attention, the single largest sex-abuse settlement was not here, but in Kentucky -- hardly a bastion of liberalism.

It's hard for me to have any less respect for Senator Santorum, and this quote doesn't really reveal anything about him that I didn't already know -- despite the conservative mantra of personal responsibility, he will always blame liberals or atheists or secularists or whatever for any and every social ill. It's this mindset that I think is Mitt Romney's biggest obstacle to the presidency -- even more than his religion. He's tainted by his association with Massachusetts in the eyes of many Conservatives. The idea that he is somehow acceptable in Boston automatically means he unacceptable to these radicals. After all, if Boston liberalism can infect the Catholic Church, what chance does Mitt have?

[Update] Some people, notably our own David Eisenthal, are wondering why these three-year old comments are suddenly exploding over the past week. While Santorum's opinion piece is indeed old, the first time these remarks appeared in any mainstream publication was on Friday, in an op-ed by John Baer in the Philidelphia Daily News (reg req). Baer picked out some of Santorum's "greatest hits" and contrasted the controversial Senator with his presumed opponent, the mild-mannered Bob Casey. While it's true that the quote is a few years old, there's no statute of limitations on being a moron.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Red Tide Aid Denied

Remember way back in November when Governor Romney's mouthpiece Eric Fehrnstrom claimed that "Governor Romney is the only bridge Massachusetts has to the White House and a strengthened Republican majority in both houses of Congress,"(via RiaF)

How's that working out?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Mass Congressmen Vote to Repeal 1st Amendment

The Herald had a story today listing the Massachusetts Congressmen who voted in favor of a Constitutional amendment that would ban flag desecration. I'm sure that Congressmen Lynch, Delahunt, Neal and McGovern did this because they thought it was the right thing to do -- to protect an important symbol of our freedom. To my mind, though, they voted for nothing less than a partial repeal of the First Amendment.

Here's the thing, burning the flag is an offensive, counterproductive, insulting thing to do. The people who engage in this kind of protest are too short-sighted (or small-minded) to realize that this completely turns people off to whatever message they're trying to send and for good reason. That said, is there really such an epidemic of flag desecration that we need to change the fundamental document from which all of our rights and freedoms are derived? I don't think the potential consequences are worth it, and frankly I think that job number one for anyone who cares about limiting the scope of government should be to not mess with the Constitution.

Now, I'm certainly not a Constitutional lawyer, but I worry about the implications of an amendment that abridges First Amendment rights -- no matter how narrow. Once the door is open to outlawing a certain type of speech -- obviously political speech, no less -- then the Constitutional protection on all other forms of speech has been weakened. The powers that be are already trying to equate dissent with treason; do we really want the right to free political speech to be open for reinterpretation?

A similar point could be made about privacy rights. Generally, the courts have determined that we have the right to privacy because there is nothing in the Constitution that governs intrapersonal relationships. If we, however, end up putting an amendment that defines marriage in our Constitution, that will no longer be true, and our right to privacy could be in jeopardy.

The Constitution has been amended only 18 times since the Bill of Rights was adopted. We should make sure that we take it as seriously as it deserves.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Mandating Universal Coverage

One of the things I learned very early as a follower of politics was that how one defines a problem very often implies a particular solution. For instance, Governor Romney sees our health care problem as such: there are too many (roughly half a million) people in Massachusetts who do not have health insurance. So what is his proposed solution? Make it illegal for them to not have it. It's almost too obvious!

Now, I'm being a little unfair to Romney because his plan does not just propose mandating health insurance and then hoping everything works out. That would be completely ridiculous and even someone as out-of-touch as Mitt has admitted as much. The reason that these people don't have health insurance is not because they don't need or want it -- after all, everyone needs health care eventually -- but because they can't afford it. So, Romney's plan includes three tiers of low-cost care: Medicaid, Safety Net Care and Commonwealth Care. Why he can't introduce these without also making it a crime to not be covered by them is beyond me. As always, though, the devil is in the details and Governor Romney is chronically allergic to details. As a CEO he could get away with leading by interoffice memo and Powerpoint presentation, but in a Democracy, people usually want to know what they're getting into before it's thrust upon them. If his two new health care products include things like sky-high deductibles, unaffordable copays or a lack of coverage for preventative care or prescription drugs, then they're almost worse for the individual than no insurance at all. What's the point of having insurance if you can't afford to use it?

I do, however, agree with the Governor that this measure will probably not lead to large numbers of companies dropping health benefits all together. While encouraging the idea that health insurance is an individual's obligation is a little worrisome to me ("No health insurance? Well, that's your problem"), I doubt that companies that currently offer health plans will push those back on to the individual worker. After all, these firms still need to hire people and with workers facing penalties for not being insured, they'll place a premium on working for companies that do provide health benefits.

What does bother me, though, is that emphasis on health care as an "individual mandate" will open the door to widespread adoption of so-called "health savings accounts" as a substitute for insurance. When Romney says he wants everyone to "maintain adequate savings to cover their medical expenses" -- that's the first thing I think of. After all, what is "adequate" anyway? I could save 10% of every paycheck but still get into some catastrophic accident or come down with some horrible disease that would cost me more than I'd see in a year. Health care costs are not predictable in the way that housing costs are. You can be responsible and save money in your pre-tax health savings account and still wind up broke and in need of further care.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that the Governor wants everyone in Massachusetts to have health coverage. I'm just skeptical of a plan that could end up punishing people because they couldn't afford health care and if underfunded could be even worse than doing nothing.

Read more at Blue Mass group here and here. Cape Cod Works has his take here and Health Care for All also has some good information.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Fair Characterization

I'm not quite sure why this is news, or "new" at any rate, but the AP had a story where Governor Mitt Romney went on the record as saying he was looking into running for President. Only, he didn't really come right out and say it, he did the typical Romney thing and tried to leave some weasel room -- in case he finds himself "in a different place" later on, I'm sure. Here's the quote from the AP:

"If someone said, well, you know, the governor's testing the national waters, that's a fair characterization," Romney said. "But I'm planning on running for governor. Time will tell, I'll make a final decision and an announcement in the fall, and we'll go from there."
In other words, it would be fair for someone else to say that he's running, but it's too much for him to admit that he's interested himself.

In the meantime, Mitt is on the verge of hanging the state GOP out to dry. I noted back in February that some state Republicans were getting antsy for the governor to make up his mind. The longer he waits, the harder it's going to be for potential gubernatorial candidates to raise money for a run of their own. Well, candidates other than Kerry Healey, of course, who Romney has already endorsed should he decline to run again. Maybe that's his plan -- wait as long as possible to make sure that Healey (who would already be the frontrunner) is a shoe-in for the Republican primary. That's fine with me, because I am not convinced that Healey will be a particularly good candidate, but wonder if the Republican rank-and-file are going to like having no say in who their nominee is going to be.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Preserving the Community: Half-Price

I learned last week that there is a group of people here in Watertown trying to gauge support for the Community Preservation Act. The Watertown Tab describes the CPA thusly:

The Community Preservation Act places a 1 to 3 percent surcharge on property taxes. The money is matched by the state and must be used for programs that either preserve a town's historical and natural assets or create affordable housing.

One hundred Bay State communities have passed the CPA, including Newton, which added a 1 percent surcharge. A 2 percent surcharge in Watertown on the average property tax bill of about $4,000 would cost homeowners another $80 per year, but Town Councilor Susan Falkoff said exceptions could be made for low-income and elderly homeowners.
On a whim, my wife and I went to Councilor Falkoff's reelection campaign kickoff on Friday. Former state Senator Warren Tolman was there, and he spoke briefly about the CPA. The most salient point he brought up, in my opinion, was that since the state matches the funds, towns that don't enact the CPA end up subsidizing the towns that do. That pretty much sold it for me. I don't want to pay for a hiking trail in Agawam -- I want my state taxes to go to connecting East Watertown to the Minuteman Bike path. Watertown is in pretty good financial shape compared to other cities and towns, but that doesn't mean we should turn down free money from Beacon Hill, even if it means raising property taxes. Eventually, we're going to have to maintain our historical spots and open spaces, and under the CPA, we can do it at half price.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Mitt Back on the Marriage Ban Wagon

About a month ago, I noted that Mitt Romney probably didn't want to have anything to do with the gay marriage compromise amendment that created civil unions and could potentially be on the ballot in 2006, the same year he'd be up for reelection.

Well, according to the AP (via the Globe), Romney has now thrown his support to a citizen's initiative that would propose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and could potentially be on the ballot in 2008 -- by which time Romney could potentially be long gone from Massachusetts politics. Unlike the amendment that will be voted on at this fall's constitutional convention, this one would not create civil unions. Here's what Romney has to say about it:

"I believe it's superior to the amendment which is currently pending before the state Legislature, and hope that this amendment will ultimately be the one which the citizens have the opportunity to vote upon," he said.
Notice that he is implying here that he hopes the compromise amendment does not reach the voters. My feeling is that without Romney's support, the civil unions amendment is dead. The legislators who voted against it in 2004 because they were against civil unions have no incentive to switch and the cadre of Republicans and conservative Dems who were convinced by Romney to vote for it last time won't have any reason to vote for it.

In addition, this citizen's initiative will not hit the statewide ballot (if it makes it that far) until 2008. By then, hundreds more same-sex couples will be legally married and I can't imagine that Bay Staters will be particularly keen to force them to divorce. In addition, after four years of no apocalypse with marriage equality, the chances that the anti-marriage amendment will pass are much worse than they would be in 2006.

Thanks to Kristen at The Fray for pointing this out. Marry in Massachusetts has his own take on the events.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Polling the Cape and Islands

In May, the Cape Cod Times and WCAI commissioned a telephone poll of residents in Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket Counties. You can find detailed results here. The Cape Cod Times has the story:

In the Times/WCAI survey, 43.2 percent of respondents say they approve of Romney's performance - moderate support in a region that tends to vote Democratic - but only 20.5 percent said they would give him their vote for the White House. Half of the respondents said they would not support a presidential bid by Romney.
Of course, the statement that the Cape and Islands tends to vote Democratic is a little misleading. When you combine the 2002 results from Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket Counties, you find that Mitt Romney won the Cape and Islands by fifteen points (55.5% to Shannon O'Brien's 40.2%). While O'Brien did win Dukes County by a comfortable margin, Romney slaughtered her on the Cape -- with Provincetown the notable exception. There just aren't enough people who live on Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket (which Romney won anyhow) to make up for it.

Even those much talked about Independents are lukewarm on the governor. When self-reported unenrolled and Independence Party voters are combined, about 45% of them approve of the job Romney is doing, with 26% disapproving and 28% having no opinion. Those are pretty poor numbers for an incumbent who won those people two and a half years ago.

The poll also asked about opinions on Marriage Equality. As I'm sure will surprise no one, support for equal marriage rights was high on the islands and the Lower Cape but residents of the Mid and Upper Cape were roughly split on the issue.

[Update]: Cape Cod Works shares his thoughts on the poll.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Senatorial Approval Ratings

Following up to their gubernatorial approval ratings last month, SUSA has compiled polls on all 100 Senators. You can find the full results for our Massachusetts senators here. After yesterday's discussion about how Massachusetts politicians can appeal to Independents, I thought it would be interesting to see how self-described Moderates and Independents viewed our two Senators.

Ted Kennedy64%30%56%39%
John Kerry56%40%50%44%
It's interesting to note that both Moderates and Independents not only prefer Kennedy to Kerry, but also disapprove of him less. It might just be because he's a Kennedy, and Kerry is coming of a losing presidential race, but it might be because you at least always know where Kennedy stands. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Speaking of Senator Kennedy, it looks like the state GOP still can't find anyone to run against him. GOP consultant Charley Manning was practically begging ambitious Republicans to challenge the Senator to build on a future run. Still, that hasn't stopped Kennedy's team from jumping all over the Wall Street Journal Op/Ed which advised Governor Mitt Romney himself to take on Kennedy. From a Kennedy fundraising e-mail:
[Romney] wants to run for President in 2008. But along the way, he has a decision in 2006 -- whether to run for governor again, or take on Senator Kennedy.

As Romney plots his rise, conservative commentators say that if he can "defeat the brother of JFK," he will have done more to "add momentum to a run for the presidency than anything he could accomplish as governor." That's the empty ambition of Republicans like Romney. A race against Kennedy would be, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, to "gain political capital" for a White House run.
It's only fair -- after all Romney has been using Kennedy's name in fundraising letters for months (probably years) now and Romney's popularity among Massachusetts Democrats is not getting any higher with the Governor's recent rhetoric.

The Article 8 Road Show

Brian Camenker of the Article 8 Alliance, a group with the stated goal not only fighting marriage equality in Massachusetts but also of removing the judges who decided in favor of it, has taken his show on the road.

[David] Parker and Camenker spoke at the invitation of the Christian Civic League of Maine, which recently launched a "Wake Up, Maine" tour to generate enthusiasm for its people's-veto signature drive and to alert Mainers to what's happened in other states with progressive gay-rights laws.
David Parker, you'll recall, was the Lexington parent who was arrested at his son's school in protest of a book (which depicted a family with two mothers, among many others) that his son brought home one day. Marry in Massachusetts had the best rundown on his saga, back when it first happened in April. The gist of Parker's argument seems to be this: "My child brought home a book that had gay people in it, therefore you should deny any and all partnership rights for homosexual couples in Maine."

It's one thing to be against marriage equality because you honestly believe that marriage is a special institution that should only be between a man and a woman and if same-sex couples want similar rights they should call it something else. That's a position I can respect, if not understand. It's a completely other thing to say that it should be okay to discriminate against homosexuals because your child may one day encounter a homosexual person in real life or in the media.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Light Reading

Here are a couple of articles and blog posts that I found interested and wanted to point out. Enjoy!

Yesterday's Globe had a profile of Michael Murphy, the political consultant who claimed that Governor Romney is 'faking' his position on abortion. Of course Murphy says that all this talk of Romney for President isn't going to hamper Mitt's potential re-election plans, but then again Murphy is paid to make his client look good.

Willard's Waffle File: The Mass Democrats have compiled a sampling of Governor Romney's now infamous turnarounds. None of these wavering positions should be a surprise to either longtime reader of this blog, but it's good to see them all in the same place.

Herald Columnist and talk radio blowhard Howie Carr is becoming obsessed with the fact that Attorney General Tom Reilly and family rents their apartment. Way to stick to the real issues of the campaign, Howie. Don't you have a Bulger to hassle or something?

David Eisenthal has a great post responding to Jeff Jacoby's timely column about slavery reparations. In addition, he's engaging David Young, regarding Young's nearsighted op/ed on Prop 2 1/2 overrides. Read David's piece here, and Young's response here.

Appealing to Independents

While I was wading through some things that piled up while I was away last week, I came across this post by Digby, which alerted me to Rick Perlstein's week old guest post on Political Animal. Here's what I saw as the most interesting part of Perlstein's essay.

Here's a riddle: what is a swing voter? More and more, it is an American who thinks like a Democrat but refuses to identify as one.

...If it is true that party identification -- which, as Stan Greenberg argues, is a form of social identity that endures over the long term -- is the best predictor of voter behavior, isn't getting this selfsame public to identify with the Democratic Party much, much more than half the solution?

So how to do it? Democrats must stop looking leaderless, fumbling, unfocused, disorganized, and confused. They must give voters something to identify with. They must no longer judge themselves sophisticated when they cancel all the old long-term dreams. They need new long-term dreams.
If the idea that swing voters or independents are Democratic sympathizers is true anywhere, it's true here in Massachusetts; after all, roughly 85% of the population is represented by Democrats on the state level and 100% on the federal level, and Democrats generally dominate state-wide offices, excepting of course the Governor's. I touched on this theme earlier, when I noted that independent voters are not necessarily in the political center. From voting patterns, it would seem that independents in Massachusetts are generally friendly to Democratic causes, however the conventional wisdom is that they do not want to hand over control of the entire state government to what they see as an unaccountable, entrenched, Democratic machine.

This brings me to Joan Vennochi's editorial last week. In her discussion of Deval Patrick's candidacy, she opines that "on paper, [Harvard Pilgrim CEO Charlie] Baker and [Attorney General Tom] Reilly both appeal to independents." Presumably, this is because of their so-called centrist positions on various issues. Now, Baker's positions are unknown to the majority of Massachusetts voters at this point, but on some level his positions hardly matter. A Republican governor -- even a popular one -- can only do so much 'damage' to the Commonwealth before the legislature stops them. I think voters are aware of this, so while they may prefer Democratic policies, they also don't want their taxes raised. so they are content to have Republicans in the corner office.

On the Democratic side, of course, the dynamic is completely different. I think that where a candidate stands on various issues is much less important than whether or not the candidate is perceived as part of the existing political apparatus. That is, where a candidate falls on a left-to-right axis is not nearly as important as where they fall on an inside-to-outside axis. My unscientific guess is that if you asked a dozen people off the street whether Shannon O'Brien was a liberal, moderate or conservative, you'd get more "I don't remember" than anything else. On the other hand, if you asked whether she was a Beacon Hill insider or outsider, most people would remember her as the former.

It's this inside-outside dynamic that makes it hard to say who, of Reilly or Patrick, will appeal to independents. Reilly has taken some middle-of-the-road positions, but he seems almost embarrassed by them sometimes. He also can somewhat credibly take the mantle of a Harshbarger-style outsider, who is willing to take on entrenched Beacon Hill interests. The bigger question is whether he has the political skill to do so. As for Patrick, most of his appeal to Massachusetts progressives is not so much that he's more liberal than Reilly, but that he is a charismatic outsider who happens to be a liberal. It's for that reason that I think Patrick, could appeal to independents as much as, if not more than, Reilly. That said, I'm not yet ready to bet the farm on Patrick -- his candidacy has not really been battle tested yet. Aside from defending himself against a couple of snipes from the Herald, all Patrick has been doing is travelling around the state, talking and listening to people. I think that's great, but at some point all that talk is going to have to turn to action -- even if it's just taking leadership on one or two issues -- and that will be when we'll see the make-or-break moment in his campaign.

Friday, June 10, 2005

That and $1.25 Will Get You a T Token

So says the Boston Globe:

Governor Mitt Romney has promised to endorse Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey in the 2006 gubernatorial race if he decides to run for president, a top Republican Party official and a Healey adviser said.
Ask James Rappaport how much a promise from Romney means. He could have had Healey's job if Romney had kept his pledge to remain neutral in 2002's GOP Lieutenant Governor primary. Instead, Romney got all in a snit when Rappaport mentioned his name in a TV ad, and immediately endorsed Healey, breaking his promise. Keep in mind, that this happened even before he was elected governor. Since then, he's broken his promise to support stem cell research, failed to deliver on his promise to attract business to Massachusetts, hidden tax increases by calling them 'fees', 'faked' his position on reproductive rights, and broken countless campaign pledges.

For the sake of argument, let's say that Romney doesn't turnaround on his promise to Healey. This is good news for state Democrats, for many reasons. For one, Healey is a much weaker candidate than Charlie Baker. Though Baker has no electoral experience, he at least has some executive experience, and Healey has been a complete non-entity these past few years. Sure, if Romney bails (which is looking more and more likely) he could give her a bit more to do, but remember that she'll be campaigning at the same time. The other thing is that Romney's support for Healey pratically guarantees a Republican primary for governor. If Romney had tapped Baker instead, I think that would have been too big of a blow for Healey to recover from, and she might have just tried to keep her job as gubernatorial sidekick. Though both Healey and Baker have gobs of money to spend, it's better for Democrats to have them focused on each other while we're sorting things out in our own primary.

[Update] Chimes at Midnight reminds me that Romney also pledged not to run against 'a sitting governor,' all the while elbowing Jane Swift out of the GOP nomination. The same could be said about Patrick Guerriero, Swift's choice for Lt. Governor. The moral of ths story: Mitt's only reliable promise is that he will do what's best for Mitt. If it becomes politically expedient for him to drop Healey, he'll do it in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Globe On the Housing Crisis

More evidence from Sunday's Globe that you can't solve the state's job crisis without addressing the housing crisis.

[T]he biggest problem in Boston is not pay but housing. In other words, companies can't pay employees enough to compensate for the area's ultra-high housing prices. The Massachusetts Medical Society's most recent economic survey identified housing costs as a major deterrent to bringing new doctors to Boston and keeping old ones from leaving. Doctors here actually earn less than they do in other parts of the country, but have to pay far more for housing, the survey found.
Housing prices are a double negative. They create affordability issues on their own and they push up salaries as employers try to compensate workers for the region's high cost of living.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Faking It

It looks like "Ben" was right all along, Romney is a fraud. Count me among the unsurprised.

One of Romney's aids uncorked this gem during an interview with the National Review (as reported by the Boston Globe)

"He's been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly," Romney adviser Michael Murphy told the National Review in a cover story hitting newstands today titled "Matinee Mitt."
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a perfect example of Howard Dean's definition of a gaffe: when somebody tells the truth when they really shouldn't have.

I've twice commented now on Mitt's rhetoric on reproductive rights, and it just seems to get murkier and murkier for the governor. Now that it seems that Romney was being dishonest with the people of the Commonwealth when he claimed to be pro-choice, one has to wonder just what else has he been dishonest about? We know, of course, that he was for stem-cell research before he was against it. Could it be that he's faking his enthusiasm for the death penalty? Tax cutting? Insurance reform? How can we trust him?

In his defense, Romney says the following:
I am opposed to abortion, but I indicated that I would maintain the laws as they exist in Massachusetts, and I've done exactly that.
That's all well and good, but I've got news for the governor: if you don't want to change the laws you are pro-choice. One's personal feelings about abortion do not enter into the equation -- if you think abortion should be legal even if you don't think anyone should ever have them, you are still pro-choice. If you are, let's say, elected governor and you believe that abortion should be outlawed, but you tell everyone you won't fight to change or even restrict access, you are either a liar, a coward, or pro-choice. I'll let Mitt take his pick.

Blue Mass Group and Chimes at Midnight have their reactions, and the Mass Dems are having a field day.

A Clue From the Weekly Standard?

Thanks to Dan Kennedy for pointing out the Weekly Standard Cover Story on Mitt Romney. The bulk of the article focuses on Romney's religion and whether it would be a liability in his presidential campaign (although they also manage to fit in the requisite dig at Ted Kennedy). I think they underestimate the problems that Romney will have because of his being a Mormon in some of the Southern primaries, particularly against a Frist or a Santorum, but most interesting to me was the brief discussion of 2006 which preceded the religion talk.

Romney says he's been told "the demands of running for national office today are such that the two years prior to the general election you are basically running full time. There are probably some states where the people would say, 'Hey, we are going to elect you as governor and we don't care if you do something else full-time for two years.' But Massachusetts isn't one of those states, New York isn't, Michigan isn't, Ohio isn't." (Texas is one, where George W. Bush ran for reelection in 1998 having told voters he might run for president in 2000.) Romney also has noticed that some rumored 2008 candidates wouldn't be constrained by obligations of office--Bill Frist, who's giving up his Senate seat in 2006, and Rudy Giuliani, who has been the former mayor of New York City for over three years now. "If we look back in history," says Romney, "Ronald Reagan wasn't a sitting governor" when he ran for president, "Howard Dean wasn't a sitting governor. They had finished their responsibilities and were able to focus on the race." Romney also happened to criticize John Kerry for not resigning as senator while he ran for president. "My guess," says Romney, "is that if I were to try that, someone would notice what I'd said before."
It would appear, then, that Romney is at least aware of the problems he'd have running for Governor of Massachusetts and President at the same time. Not only that, but his competition will be free at that point to campaign full time, while he will be stuck in Massachusetts (as much as he ever is), should he be re-elected. It seems that starting his run for president might cost him the governorship, but winning re-election puts him at a disadvantage when seeking the presidency. Given that, it seems unlikely to me that the ambitious Romney would seek a second term. There's just too much at stake, and the payoff -- an extra half-term as governor of a state where the legislature will try to trip him up at every turn -- isn't worth it. If I were a Republican now, I'd start raising my public profile because as the Romney for President buzz increases, so too does the likelihood that he will abandon his post.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Jacoby and the So-Called Liberal Media

The ever crapulent Jeff Jacoby defrosts the old 'liberal media bias' canard in today's column. He spends the entire column describing how liberals like Kerry, Gore, Hillary Clinton and Eric Alterman are just whiners because they think the media tilts conservative. Everyone knows, Jacoby claims, that reporters are liberal, therefore the media is liberal and anyone who says otherwise just can't stand a diversity of views. Of course, Jacoby does not bother to explain why, if liberals can't stand conservative viewpoints, he himself is allowed to spew forth right-wing talking points in a supposedly liberal newspaper, but I imagine irony was never taught at the Leadership Institute. From the column:

Kerry, Gore, and Clinton, by contrast, benefit from a news media that is overwhelmingly liberal, as countless surveys have shown. To cite just one: When a New York Times reporter polled journalists covering the 2004 Democratic National Convention, those from around the country favored Kerry over Bush by a ratio of 3 to 1. Among the Washington press corps, the results were even more lopsided -- 12 to 1 pro-Kerry.
Okay, so what if reporters voted for Kerry? No study has ever definitively proven that they gave any personal bias to their news stories or news coverage in general. In addition, it is the editors who make decisions about which stories get covered, and they are more likely to be concerned with how advertisers are going to be affected by content. Of course, to say that Clinton benefited from a liberal news media is to ignore that his administration was hounded by that same so-called liberal media from day one. Clinton's entire presidency was plagued by fake scandals trumped up by so-called mainstream journalists and opinion writers. I mean, Travelgate? Even the whole Monica Lewinski scandal was uncovered because Ken Starr couldn't dig up anything on Whitewater. Meanwhile, President Bush has faked (or at least misrepresented) intelligence that lead us to war, Dick Cheney conducts energy policy meetings in secret, someone in the White House leaks the name of an undercover CIA agent, and countless other scandals but none of which have lead to any serious investigation by the press. Sure, there are articles here and there, but nothing like the frenzy when conservative commentators found out that Clinton let donors sleep in the Lincoln bedroom (something Bush also does -- just ask Mitt, he's stayed overnight at the White House).

In any event, when you leave the world of reporters and enter the world of commentary, you find that conservatives vastly outnumber liberals. Conservative syndicated columnists (of which Jaoby is one) outnumber left-leaning columnists. What about talk radio? I can count the number of nationally syndicated left-leaning talk-show hosts without taking my shoes off. On the cable TV talk shows, conservatives again dominate. There is no question, to my mind, that news commentary tilts conservative in both the opinions of hosts and the guests they have on.

The bigger danger is that people like Jacoby are trying to destroy the concept of objectivity. Their ultimate goal is to undermine not only the news media, but anyone who releases information they don't like. Just look at what's going on with the Deep Throat revalation -- Novak today says that Felt's motivation for leaking to the Post was that he was passed over for promotion, implying that he couldn't be trusted. This is just the most recent example of the "attack the messenger" tactics that have been used by the right against anyone who speaks out -- Paul O'Neil, Joe Wilson, Richard Clarke, General Eric Shinseki just to name a few high-profile examples. Attacking the messenger shifts the conversation from whether or not allegations are true to whether or not the source is trustworthy. What happens when no sources are trustworthy? Well, then people will be left to assume that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Romney Officially Irrelevant

In one of the week's least surprising moves, the state Legislature has overridden Governor Romney's veto of the stem cell research bill. Not only that, but Romney could only manage two votes against the override in the Senate and neither chamber considered any of his proposed amendments. That the Governor had no effect on the outcome of the most publicized act of the Legislative session shows that he has become completely peripheral to the process of governing in Massachusetts.

I've said it before, and I'll repeat it here. You can't claim that you want jobs in Massachusetts, but just not those kind of jobs. I'm not a scientist, so I can't speak to whether somatic cell nuclear transfer creates a viable human embryo and on some level, I'm not really interested in the ethical questions surrounding this research. All that I know is that this research is going on and is going to happen somewhere, and I want it to happen in Massachusetts. We don't have coal mines or oil fields here, and what factories that haven't already moved to cheaper states are just as likely to move to China as to stick around. What we do have are excellent universities, hospitals and biotechnology firms. Stem cell research -- or any medical research -- is a perfect fit here and it's unfair to handcuff Bay State firms while California and now Connecticut are ready to throw money at researchers to lure them to their states.