This Morning’s Radio (the podcast)

Here’s the podcast from this morning’s co-hosting on Boston Herald Radio (with Hilary Chabot) — Boston Olympics (and Juliette Kayyem); an interview with Mayor Marty Walsh; Bill Cosby; the nutty Harvard Business Professor and Sichuan Garden; Sex Assault on College Campuses; Elizabeth Warren 2016; Movies; Chris Rock; and Tom Shattuck’s legal troubles.

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Boston Herald Radio — nutty Professor versus Sichuan Garden

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Loren & Wally Podcast

imageHere is the podcast from my appearance this morning on the Loren & Wally show. We talked about inappropriate holiday party behavior and other things as well .. .

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Not again (next time has to be different)

Yesterday, the Commonwealth’s democrats came very close to electing Martha Coakley governor. We did it without enthusiasm, but with the kind of grim determination that comes from knowing, or at least remembering, what losing feels like. Ultimately, we fell just short. And, let’s be clear about it — we fell short because our candidate failed to excite the imagination of voters and failed to present a clear and meaningful answer to the question of why she would be a better governor than Charlie Baker. In four years, we need to be ready to explain why we will do better and we will need a leader who can make that case in a way that energizes a changing population of voters. The era of nominating the person who “is next” has to have come to an end with yesterday’s loss.

We lose the elections where we nominate the person who has earned the chance to run. Harshbarger, O’Brien, Coakley, and now Coakley, stand in stark contrast to Patrick and Warren (and even State Representative Dukakis, who was not logically next when he was elected). The Governor and Senator decided that they were ready to enter electoral politics — and then set out to persuade us (one small group at a time) that they were the right person for the job. Electoral victories depend, at least in part, on a candidate’s ability to generate passion in the electorate and thereby expand a party’s traditional base by reaching new voters and independents. Candidates who capture the imagination of the voters win by a lot. Candidates who do not, struggle and lose. And, for what it’s worth, it is really not that hard to identify candidates who have the potential to generate that kind of enthusiasm.

More than a year ago, Emily’s List worked to persuade Juliette Kayyem, a former state and federal Homeland Security official, to enter the governor’s race. They did so because they believed (correctly) that she would have been able to generate enthusiasm and, perhaps most importantly, reach a new generation of voters. Then Martha Coakley entered the race and Emily’s List worked to persuade Juliette to withdraw. She did not, because she believed we’d reached a point in time where competition between women was tolerable. It turns out that she was brave, but wrong; Emily’s List worked hard to keep influential women in Martha’s camp. Ultimately, at the Democratic convention in Worcester, Juliette fell just short of the 15% required to make the primary ballot. Many established political figures voted for her on the floor of the convention, but very few said aloud that they would do so. In another blog entry, I have argued for a change in the rules so as to prevent the party from denying its most promising newcomers the opportunity to compete for the nomination and have the voters, rather than the insiders, decide the outcome. Here, I want only to make the point that it was the state convention that closed the door to the possibility of a candidate who could have won the race against Charlie Baker.

Juliette managed, better than any candidate in this cycle, to talk to younger Democrats. The state College Democrats endorsed her candidacy. Governor Patrick energized newer voters. Senator Warren continues to do so. Juliette won a similar endorsement from a group of voters on the other end of the temporal spectrum. In both cases, the voters heard from all of the then candidates in person before making their choice. None of this mattered at the convention — where the party establishment shut the door on her candidacy (and on that of Joe Avellone).

As we get ready (and we need to be getting ready soon) to take on Governor Baker, we need to look for a leader who can talk successfully to voters of all ages. We need to look for a leader who can understand the plight of our Gateway Cities and the possibility of all of the intellect that comes to study here and can see a vital connection between the two. And we need to look for someone who has a leader’s mindset rather that a litigator’s(there’s a reason it’s hard to elect an attorney general). But mostly, we have to have courage to break molds and reach for change.

I do not imagine that there is only one person who fits the description above. But I know that my party failed this time to choose a nominee who had the potential to win. Martha Coakley did the best that she could possibly have done yesterday and it was not enough. It was never going to be enough. This race ended in Worcester. Let’s together make sure that the next race gets a boost from the convention, rushes to the primary, and ends on a happier evening in November four years from now.

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Martha Coakley for Governor (and here’s why)

Tomorrow morning I am going to hang door knockers on houses to remind people to get out and vote for Martha Coakley. Like many Democrats across the Commonwealth, I am going to do whatever I can in the next 24 hours to keep our party in the State House. It matters because when we elect a Governor, we elect a government and Martha Coakley’s government will be better for the people of this state than the government Charlie Baker will build.

In some ways, this election is a personal test of the strength of my political beliefs. For years, I have told my children that I would always choose the Democrat in a contested election — even if I thought (on a personal level) that I preferred the Republican. When asked why, I have talked to them about cabinet officials, about judges, and ultimately about the soul of the parties. At our core, Democrats believe in equality, opportunity, and freedom. We are a party of hope and togetherness. In our view, people do not face the challenges of life alone — they face them together and government is how we manage to do that. So, I tell them, voting for Republican leadership means voting against the protection of those less fortunate than we are and means also voting against the appointment of judges who will safeguard and expand the protection of civil rights. There simply isn’t a time when the essential nature of government isn’t on the ballot. It is never just about two people.

Which is a long way of saying that Martha Coakley is not my favorite candidate for public office. I continue to believe that she bears significant responsibility for making Scott Brown Senator the first time. And, if he wins in NH tomorrow, the second time. If he had lost the special election, Scott Brown would still be in the State Senate. I have a difficult time watching her debate — her answer on fees was shameful; not knowing the gas tax amount ridiculous; and her apparent notion that we should elect a Governor who will figure out where she stands after she is elected inconsistent with what I think electoral politics should be about. There is lots not to like about her — and lots of reasons to think that our party could have done better in the nomination process.

I say all that to say this: on her worst day, Martha Coakley is still a much better choice than Charlie Baker. In the last debate, Martha said that she stood on her record. She could do worse (and so could we). She has been a champion of equality. She has fought against banks that savaged vulnerable citizens of the Commonwealth. In the campaign, she has promised the same kind of advocacy as a Governor. If she wins, none of us need to worry about the causes that matter most or about whether the less fortunate will have a Governor who cares about what happens to them.

In contrast, if Charlie Baker wins, we will have succumbed to a deeply cynical campaign. Baker has spent 4 years trying to show that he is a nice guy. He went deep in the last debate to try to show us all how much he cared — crying at his own story of a fisherman who denied his children the opportunity to go to college that they had earned for themselves through athletic accomplishment. My friend Mara Dolan points out that, although Charlie claims that this story has brought him to tears for years, he never did anything to follow up with the fisherman or to try to help the boys in the story. It’s the opposite of what a leader does. Real leaders follow up. And people who really care remember the names of the people who have touched them. The story is Charlie in a nutshell; he wants you to believe he cares, it’s just that he really doesn’t (at least not that much).

And, of course, this is what makes clear that he is a Republican. In Charlie Baker’s world, people are not as important as numeric performance (this is what makes outsourcing seem like good business). In Charlie Baker’s world, government services are inherently suspect. In Charlie Baker’s world, a diverse room of people may look different, but they all share the same dream. The notion that there is one dream and that there are winners (like Charlie) and losers (those less fortunate) is the essential mistake of the Republican ideology. Electing Charlie Baker assures a government that cannot appreciate difference and that will not make the effort necessary to ensure that every one of us has the opportunity to succeed that should be our birthright.

All of this is to say that tomorrow matters. I will be up early to help Martha Coakley — and I will be up without reservation. Because tomorrow, in this Commonwealth, our soul is on the ballot. And that’s something worth fighting about.

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Charlie Baker Goes Fishing

In James L. Brooks’s Broadcast News, William Hurt plays an anchorman whose good looks and manner propel him to the top of his profession. On his way there, he reports a story about a sexual assault. In the middle of the story, the camera pans from the victim to the reporter and finds that he is tearing up. It’s very effective stuff and it helps Hurt’s character up the ladder. Later in the film, others find the rough cut of the piece. In watching it, they learn that Hurt’s tears were manufactured — an artistic flourish rather than a real reaction. The discovery costs Hurt a woman (the principled newsperson played by Holly Hunter), but not his career. In the end, Hurt’s cynical manipulation of his audience succeeds.

Earlier this week, Charlie Baker channeled this character as part of his campaign-long effort to persuade Massachusetts voters that he is really a nice guy who cares about people. After weeks of just telling us how much it bothers him that people don’t know how much he loves and worries about all of us, he showed us his heart by crying on television. Not just the dignified tears Hurt shed in the movie, but a whole sob show. It was powerful television. And the press reaction (at least initially) seemed to confirm that it had worked. Trends toward Baker in the polls solidified and Charlie’s campaign started to run a feel good, selfie-taking, ad thanking people (a closing argument / acceptance speech commercial).

The story Charlie could not tell without crying (because he is so empathic) is a tricky one to follow. A big (and he has to be really big to be bigger than the 6’6″ Charlie) fisherman comes off a boat. Charlie talks to him. And the man points to his two boys (who must be men) and explains that they both had scholarships to college because of their success in football at New Bedford High and that he would not let them go — he told them “you’re going to be fishermen.” And so, he told Charlie, “I ruined their lives.” Charlie then hugs (that’s right hugs) him. Charlie struggled through the telling — and cried as he talked.
But think about the story for a second. What about it hits Charlie hard? The poor parenting? The man’s pain? The plight of fishermen in this economy? It’s not clear. The father didn’t stop the boys from going to college because of over-regulation or because of some easily-identifiable parenting mandate — instead, he seems to have exercised inappropriate control over their lives in a devastating way. It’s more a Eugene O’Neill play than a statement about the fishing industry and it is sad as theatrical tragedy is sad — not sad in the sense that the protagonist (fisherman) is easily relatable.

From this place, then, the challenge is to understand why the story makes Charlie cry. That challenge grew on the day after the debate when we all learned that Charlie had told the same story during his last campaign for governor. He appeared not at all unsettled by questions about this — when he tells the story, he said, it feels like he is hearing it for the first time all over again. From Charlie’s perspective, the story is so moving that he can’t, even with the passage of time, get past it. Why not? Moreover, the timeline is unsettling if you care about candor. Go to YouTube and watch the clip — Charlie is very clear that he met this hulking fisherman in New Bedford during this election cycle, and we now all know that it just isn’t so.

The next part of the mess for Baker is the inevitable effort to find the fisherman. The story is just quirky enough so it should not be hard. One family with two brothers who played football and New Bedford High and were awarded college scholarships that they did not take. Notwithstanding the efforts of journalists and campaign folks alike, no one has found the hulking man or his boys — and they have not come forward.
Indeed, today’s Globe tells us that Charlie is not sure that they are from New Bedford and also not sure that he has the details of the story right. Indeed, he wants us to think, the fisherman may have manipulated him.

And that’s the thing — Charlie’s own effort to manufacture a scene that demonstrates his empathy was absolutely crass manipulation of all of us. It’s Broadcast News, but worse. Charlie Baker wants to be your governor and he is not going to limit himself to true stories in his effort to win your vote. The polls suggest that he is likely to succeed in his effort and it may be that his manipulative conduct is part of why. There is, however, still time to think and reflect on what it means that Charlie decided to tell a not-verifiable perhaps even untrue story during the most watched debate of this electoral cycle.

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Debate (and some politics)

Here is a link to my appearance this morning on the Mara Dolan show. We talked APDA debate and political debate –

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