Friday, September 18, 2009

Da Mare's in Clover

Attrition in the Boston mayoral race has dulled the edge of outrage. Sixteen-year, longest-serving ever Mayor Tom Menino was supposed to be in biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig trouble for avoiding public debates, as has been his wont. He seems to have yielded just barely enough to stay in pasture and eat his political fill.

Even this blog joined in early on the demands for hard talk on hard issues, like here. While he admits and seems to embrace in a folksy way that he's not a fancy talker, Da Mare got a huge load of duck again, as he's ducking debates, like four years ago.

Also like four years ago, he seems to have hummed and muttered his way through. I conclude that so long as voters aren't shut off from all debate, a snack of opinion and information is all they need. The banquet to satiation is of little interest.

Today as one indicator, even the two mayor dailies are in line with his program. He skipped the final public forum last night at English High. The Globe runs a story on that — in its section two (Metro) on page five and not at the top. Even the head is passive for him, not that the mayor ducked the show, but "Mayoral candidates take aim at Menino", almost like he's a victim here. Likewise, the Herald tucked its Where's Mayor Menino this time? well inside. Neither paper teased the piece on its front. In the Herald instead, its first page had:
  • Fall Real Estate Extravaganza
  • Jets trash talking the Pats
  • Fall TV shows
  • Boston Home Show preview
  • A big lead with two pix of murdered youth Jeffrey Curley's dad furious at efforts to furlough the killer
I guess this is what we call editorial judgment, eh?

Menino, likely with staff advice, has racked up enough public points to stay in pasture. He was on a couple debates and forums. So there.

Perhaps this is like how we say we want lots of choices. Then at the grocery store when we can't find the damned cornflakes in the cavalcade of cereal boxes, we're annoyed. We want what we want, but not too much, please.

If I had the time and lacked family obligations, I could willingly career from one debate and speech to another. That's sick, but it's my bent. Understandably though, most voters have a pretty low hunger for frequency and depth in discourse.

Thinking back to the Ray Flynn/Mel King mayoral fight (that would be 26 years ago), those were grand times for public airing. The pair mirrored Flynn's chasing of fire trucks and patrol cars to emergencies. They ran together like harnessed sled dogs, stopping to bark it up in every neighborhood, answering all questions from all comers. We haven't seen the like since.

Maybe we're tired, worn by money fears and terrorist thoughts, as well as myriad local issues. Maybe things here just aren't bad enough to demand non-stop debating. Maybe we are more unified behind citywide issues and less focused on sub-neighborhood ones.

Whatever the causes, voters are not screaming for Menino to stand up to his three challengers at every call and dare. To me, that's still a pity, but let's invoke the ghost of comic Lenny Bruce, who often said, "Reality is what is. What should be is a dirty lie."

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