Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gabrieli Gets the Glad Mouth

So, a half hour with Chris Gabrieli leaves a question about this gubernatorial candidate. Is he just a private guy or is he simply not introspective?

Today's Boston Globe has the transcript of his NECN a-little-close-and-a-bit-personal, with a link to the soporific video. This is in a series of happy-face interviews, allegedly without politics. Deval Patrick is here, Tom Reilly is here, and Kerry Healey is here.

The effect of the softball interview was definitely evasive, unnecessarily so. We end up knowing that he enjoys his kids. He also has a great throwaway line about the legislature, a promising sign given our long list of humorless governors. Yet, he remains a file cabinet that shows the labels but not the content.

Most voters assume Gabrieli is of Italian extraction, particularly when they hear that his parents where immigrants. They also hear that he started his venture-capital career and fortune rescuing his father's failed business. That makes dad sound like quite the bumbler, which is not a fair assessment.

First, the dad. Elemér Gabrieli was Hungarian, with some undefined portion of Italian way back. Before his death in 2000, he had an illustriouss career as physician with three specialties in as many languages. His obits show that Chris far shortchanged him in the NECN interview. Elemér was the pioneer in computers for medicine, with an emphasis on information privacy. The company that Chris did such a good job organizing and making profitable was a sideline for this famous professor, a company he founded in 1991 in his early 70s.

Dad and his wife Lilla also pampered and put out for their two sons, one of whom is an MIT professor. Chris did mention in passing that they mortgaged their house a couple of times to get a Ph.D. and almost an M.D. sons educated.

All of that background makes Chris' comments stranger. The implication in both the interview and on his campaign site is that Chris saved his family from destitution. As his site puts it:
As a young man, Chris left medical school to help his father's struggling business –– GMIS, Inc., a software company focused on helping healthcare systems run more efficiently. Chris eventually took over and turned the business around. The result: GMIS became a leader in the industry, and created over 100 jobs.
Ego is necessary for a venture capitalist, as it is for a politician, but cut me a very thin slice here, please. It looks likely that dad probably had 20 IQ points on the little one, but at retirement age didn't have an obvious winner with a final company.

So, why was Chris so secretive about family, which he claims is very important to him? Does it not fit his primary PR of self-made millionaire? We don't know and he's not saying.

What we learn from smiley guys on TV includes:
  • He lives on Louisburg Square, the Boston address since Colonial times, and is a neighbor of John Kerry.
  • He and his kids love the greasy-plate Paramount on Charles Street for Sunday breakfast.
  • His former nanny won $197 million in the lottery seven years ago.
  • His kids go to toney, every-child-is-above-average private schools.
  • He admires Mark Warner, Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy for different political reasons.
Reader's Reward: If you have gotten this far, you deserve to see what he said after commenting that his kids would squabble about what to have for breakfast. To the question about whether that was good practice for being governor, he said, "I figure if you handle five kids yelling at you, you can handle the legislative leadership." This is likely the best quip by any candidate so far.

Chris rides the sad, gray horse of being forced, forced I say, by circumstances to leave medical school and become a multi-millionaire. How terribly sad.

That clearly was the right choice for him and we have to wonder if he was in the original field of study simply to be like his brilliant and accomplished father.

We'll likely never know much of substance if his future interviews are as spongy as this one. Thirty minutes later we have only glimpsed the faintest surface of the candidate and man. He exposed nothing about what motivates or excites him.

We can speculate that there must be more there than he shows. Maybe or maybe not.

Tags: , , , , ,


Ryan said...

Good write up, I enjoyed it.

massmarrier said...

Thanks. Let me know -- here or on your site -- if I'm missing something on him. I don't know Gabrieli and was hoping for some substance.

Anonymous said...

This article is so flawed I found it almost humorous. It is sad that Chris was unable to pursue his dream that had been his since he was a child. He is an amazing father to his children, something you obviously cannot fathom. Perhaps he is so secretive about his family because he wants to protect his children from the press??!!

massmarrier said...

Well, five years late, dumb as a post, and even too gutless to ID the the Pythons would have it, "Say no more. Say no more."