Monday, January 30, 2006

Don't Blink

You'd figure I couldn't miss too much in the way of Democratic Gubernatorial primary news by going to a few classes on a Monday, then you have a day like this.

First, you have Chris Gabrieli remove himself from consideration for a spot on the ticket. Then word comes that AG Reilly has selected State Rep. Marie St. Fleur (D-Dorchester) to join him on a ticket.

Lots of questions come from all of this, so lets try to provide a few answers.

(1) Did Reilly ever offer Gabrieli a spot on the ticket? NO. Gabrieli's own words on this one say it all, ''But those discussions, though extensive, serious and productive, never turned into a formal offer to ticket." Was it implied, alluded to, and debated. Probably, but no formal offer, means no offer. This is politics, not horseshoes or hand grenades, so close doesn't count for anything.

(2) What does this mean for Rep. St. Fleur? As far as my knowledge of the process extends, and I profess lots of limitations here, St. Fleur will have to run against the four other candidates and give up her State House seat (opening a Ways and Means seat for go-getters under the Golden Dome). Nothing "undemocratic" about that at all. In fact, I'm pretty sure thats democracy in action. May the best candidate win.

(3) What does the selection mean for Reilly? I'm reticent to attribute too much weight to the role a ticket, or any candidate for LG, can play in the race for the corner office. St. Fleur will be a great partner for AG Reilly (or any democratic nominee for that matter), that goes without saying. And the selection, for good or for ill, has created a buzz over at Blue Mass Group, thats for sure.

Overall, I think the selection gives the Reilly camp some good news to roll into the town caucuses. While the blogosphere will throw up some righteous ire, the story throughout the mainstream media will be about the strengths of Rep. St. Fleur and her prospects, part of a ticket or not, in the crowded, exciting, and interesting race for LG.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Point of Clarification

Looking back on my post about the current debate surrounding running as a ticket, Reilly/Gabrieli, and my preference for LG, I realized that I was guilty of a pretty unfair judgment of Chris Gabrieli.

Gabrieli is a good Democrat, with a record of supporting progressive causes and progressive government. While he wouldn't light the world on fire, he would make a fine LG. In fact, I think any of the candidates, announced or otherwise, would serve well as a #2, whoever the Democratic nominee for the top spot may be. It's easy to stand on the sidelines, or behind a computer screen, and dissect the actions, motives, and machinations of elected officials and candidates for public office, but it is much harder to throw your hat in the ring and your beliefs on the line. As one of my favorite president's said,

It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat

Here's hoping that Gabrieli gets in the race (in one form or another). The more good Democrats we have seeking office and serving the public, the better off we, and the Commonwealth, are.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Never Forget

The Catastrophe is Not Over.

Words do not do justice to the yeoman's work being done throughout the Gulf Coast region, by thousands of volunteers, professionals, and residents. Honor their work by never forgetting and doing what you can to help.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Rumors, Whispers, and Theories ... oh my!

It seems the Bay State Blogosphere is all up in arms over the Boston Globe's report that AG Reilly is contemplating asking Chris Gabrieli to join a ticket to run for the Democratic nomination. This is, mind you, the same rumor that others (like David Eisenthal) have reported as early as December. In other words, its not a surprise, so the righteous furor of some, is a little bit misplaced.

This is not a defense of Gabrieli or the practice of running as a ticket (although there are arguments for and against, it's never right to change the rules in the middle of the game), rather, its a call for everyone to take a step back, take a deep breath, and get some perspective. Trial balloons aren't real balloons for a reason. In fact, Adam Reilly of Talking Politics, has a statement from the Reilly camp, seeking to clarify the AG's position. While it's not a denial, it makes it clear that any selection is far from imminent or automatic.

As to Gabrieli more generally ... well, I think underwhelming is the NICEST thing you can say about the guy. If I had my druthers, I'd be casting my ballot for the Reilly/Murray ticket come November. Sure, Mayor Murray may not have the access to money that consummate (loser) Chris has, but if Gabrieli has proven anything in his career, its that access to deep pockets can still leave your support skin deep when the going gets tough.

Money matters in politics, but its not the be all and the end all, even if that is the conventional wisdom. As eminent economist John Kenneth Galbraith (who coined the phrase "conventional wisdom") said, "We associate truth with convenience." It's a lesson we should all heed, whether it pertains to rumors, whispers, or theories.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Don't Call It a Comeback ...

Tom Reilly is not going to be compared to John Kennedy, or Bobby Kennedy, or Ted Kennedy for that matter. He is not a great orator, he is not the smoothest politician in the Commonwealth, but he is the best fighter, the most determined and the most relentless in his pursuit of what is good for the citizens of this great state.

There are times in every campaign, especially when you have professed support for a candidate, when you might question your decision. However, there are also times when it all clicks, when you hear the candidate speak, and others speak on his behalf. When it all comes together "like it should." Goosebumps moments. The moments that remind you why you follow and get involved in politics.

Last night, I had the privelege of attending the Reilly for Massachusetts kickoff and open house in Boston. Returning from a similair event in his hometown of Springfield, I expected the AG to be drained by the emotional return home, but was presented with the exact opposite. Maybe it was something in the Western Mass air or a renewed sense of purpose and energy derived from a return to his roots, but whatever it was, it worked.

Following the remarks of Mayor Menino, Reilly gave an impassioned call for leadership, vision, and determination. He spoke from the heart about his desire to move Massachusetts forward together. Not just as Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, but as fellow citizens of this great Commonwealth.

I'm sure supporters of Deval Patrick have had similair moments, and have come away with similair highs. It's a great feeling to believe in politics and the possibility of a better future for all, no matter how dark the storm clouds may seem somedays.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Harry Truman and My Trip to Mississippi

On Harry Truman's historic 1948 campaign, more than once during stump speeches, Truman supporters would yell, "give 'em hell Harry!" and he'd reply, "I never gave them hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell." In the spirit of one of my favorite Presidents and Americans, my first post-Mississippi post will be straight truth. No spin, no politics, nothing but what I saw, what I felt, and what needs to be done.

Simply put, the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is destroyed. Standing in the middle of "Beach Highway" (Rte 90) and looking east towards New Orleans, one is presented with an eerie dichotomy. To the left is the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico, with its incredible sunsets and pristine, sparkling seas. To the right, as far as the eye can see, is 150 -200 yards in land of complete destruction. Concrete slabs where hotels, restaurants, and houses once stood. Large chunks of sidewalk thrown nearly half a mile. Cars on top of cars, on top of more cars. Trees covered with debris from the storm that changed the course of history in this region, and this nation, nearly 5 months ago.

Wind damage from Katrina is evident 100 miles inland from the coast. Small, rural towns like Wiggins, Mississippi, sustained incredible wind damage, and are just now digging out of isolation. FEMA trailers are more common than kids on bikes and a blue tarp roof is the norm, not the exception in most neighborhoods. The magnificent coast town of Pass Christian, MS, has been reduced to rubble and replaced by a Tent City, erected by the Navy Seabees, maintained by the good work and dedicated staff of AmeriCorps. Churches, like the St. James Baptist Church of Gulfport, who we had the privilege of working with, are just now starting to rebuild, thanks to the efforts and faith of their congregates.

If you were to go to Mississippi today, you would think that the storm had occurred yesterday, not last summer. This, in large part, was due to the overwhelming need for resources in New Orleans. However, it does not excuse gross negligence in the relief and recovery efforts, at all levels and by members of all parties. Over the course of 7 days in Mississippi, I was not once asked my party affiliation, or who I voted for in the 2004 election. While I was exposed to a drastically different culture from that of New England, or even Washington, DC, I never once was made to feel unwelcome or unwanted. Rather, immediately after mentioning why I was in the area, I was repeatedly thanked and often told stories of how individuals had survived the storm, what they had lost, and how they planned on moving forward. The impressions these stories made on me will stay with me forever because they were so raw, so moving, and so free of any pretension or purpose. People just wanted to share and explain.

No matter the reasons for what happened in the Gulf, be they man made mistakes (the levees in New Orleans, erosion throughout the region due to development of wetlands) or almost purely natural phenomena (as was most of the Mississippi destruction), we, as a nation, are not doing enough for our fellow Americans in need. Throughout the Gulf their are good people, Republicans and Democrats, Christians and Jews of all types, young and old, working each day to help the region move forward and find a new sense of normalcy. These efforts, be they faith-based (as much of the work in the region currently is) or secular, need support from other parts of the country where we have been fortunate enough to be spared such suffering.

The images of days and weeks following Katrina, whether you watched them on CNN, Fox, or ABC, were burned into the conscience of the American public. Unfortunately, those images have been pushed to the background and have dropped out of the news cycle. While there may not be a way to maintain the level of coverage we saw in the wake of the event, the level of support must be.

In the coffee shops, bars, and fast food restaurants of the Gulf Coast, folks talk about just about every topic from A-Z. Despite this diversity, there is one question, one thought, that never comes up, and that is, "will the Gulf Coast ever be rebuilt?" Why wouldn't this seemingly central question be brought up, because the answer is so obvious. Yes. The Coast will be rebuilt. While there is room to debate how, there is no room to debate if. Even the most bungled, horrific, pathetic response to a disaster this nation has ever seen could not dampen the will of Gulf Coasters. Their spirit is a shining example of all that is right with America, and it should inspire us all to provide them with everything they need to rebuild their homes, their communities, and their region.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Idealism Without the Internet

I'll be in Jackson and Gulfport, Mississippi for the next week or so, doing a volunteer service project with some non-profits in the Gulf Region. No posts for a while, which is a good thing, when it comes to keeping perspective.

As for the Reilly/Conte/Southborough/Social Host episode, well, Brian McGrory gets paid to write and he says it a lot better than I could, "the public knows better."

Friday, January 06, 2006

Cartoon Culture of Corruption

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Abramoff, Reform, and the Next Step

At this time last year, I was sitting in a Capitol Hill office wondering aloud with my co-workers about what the upcoming year would bring. To say we were pessimistic about the immediate future of the Democratic party would be an understatement. However, now, one year later, and a semester of grad school behind me, I can say, with only slight hesitancy, that the trajectory of the Democratic party is an upward one (then again, when you can't go much lower ... well you get the point).

Democrats, progressives, independents, and disaffected Republicans, have an incredible opportunity in the next nine months. Thanks to the now cliche "culture of corruption" in Washington, D.C., more and more voters are looking for an alternate to the current governing party. They are looking for a Congress that puts principle before campaign accounts and leadership that puts the interests of all Americans before ideology.

While it would be easy for the Democratic message in the 2006 elections to become a laundry list of complaints, misdeeds, and outright lies of the Republican party, we cannot let this be the case. The American people are sick of petty politics and extreme partisanship. The American people understand that arguments and debate are necessary, but they don't believe that our differences are irreconcilable or that pragmatic progress is impossible to achieve.

So while the Beltway is abuzz over Casino Jack, Michael Scanlon, Ralph Reed, Bob Ney, and Tom Delay, the progressive community must define a positive vision for America. While certain groups and elements will want their issues at the fore, the more important aspect, the overarching theme, should be easy to agree on: REFORM. Education your big issue, we'll reform it and invest more in public schools at all levels. Taxes got you down, we'll reform the tax code too. No more loopholes for lobbyists. We want a tax code that rewards work and levels the playing field for all. Frightened about the mess at DHS. Yep, we thought it up, so we'll reform it. Make FEMA an independent agency, promote career professionals over partisans and appoint individuals with real expertise, not political ties, to run the show.

Much has been said, predicted, or prognosticated about what the 2006 Midterms could, should, might, and will be. But words, like faith, without deeds, are empty. Democrats must take up the mantle of reform and idealism. We must talk about just how great American can and will be. If anything, the Abramoff scandal has shown us that Republicans will take care of the rest.

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Year, Same Old (Flawed) Arguments

Since Tom Reilly announced his intention to seek the Governor's office there has been one argument against his candidacy (and success) that has absolutely baffled me. The argument, made by both supporters of Deval Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, goes something like this "Tom Reilly is an insider, just like Shannon O'Brien. Insiders lose, so candidate X should/will win." Fairly tight logic, if Tom Reilly were at all an insider. Problem is, he isn't.

The "insider argument," most recently (to my knowledge) cited by Ken of Dirty Water in his endorsement of Deval Patrick, would make sense if AG Reilly had served in the State Legislature. But he hasn't. Is he a career public servant? Yes, obviously. I don't think those who cite the "insider argument" would disqualify all career public servants from seeking higher office (and specifically the corner office), but thats where the logic leads.

Further, the "insider argument" cites the need for a gubernatorial candidate to appear/be independent from the Democrat controlled/dominated State House. Well, both AG Reilly and Deval Patrick have actively sought the endorsements of members of the legislature, so neither can claim complete independence. And Healey is wedded to the last 3 years for good, but mostly for ill, by the nature of her office. So the argument becomes a matter of degrees, not absolutes. Who is more independent? In this case, you have to go to the candidates' records, experience, and statements to try and predict what type of governor they'd be. It's clear that Healey would do as the higher ups in the Republican party said, as she always has, and with Patrick, his lack of experience as an elected official makes it a guessing game. As for the AG, he's shown the ability to stand up the vested interests (see: Church scandal, auto insurance and taking control of the big dig investigation, etc.) and act in the best interest of the Commonwealth. That's the definition of independence, which I agree with those who cite the "insider argument" is crucial to the electoral success of any candidate for the corner office. In the end, it's not the argument that baffles me, so much as the logic and the conclusions drawn by those who cite it.