Friday, July 21, 2006

Government by Finger Crossing

The candidate took a general stand on an issue. Isn't that enough?


Crossing your fingers in hoping for the best while you watch is not enough.

The most timely example are the two anonymous comments on Gabrieli's Secret Identity. The second one encapsulated gubernatorial candidate Chris Gabrieli's capsule positions on several issue -- "And what is he hedging on? Gay marriage? For it. Death penalty? Against it." -- and more.

Yet, in the main, that is the problem with most candidates for this office. They timidly put out a generality and when it comes down to it, they wiggle their big toes in sand and hum distracted tunes.

Gabrieli is not the only one, but because his is the immediate case, let's start by quoting Boston Globe columnist Scott Lehigh, in turn quoting the AP:
Chris Gabrieli, who noted his opposition, simply refused to take a position, either during the debate or afterward. Trying to sidestep thorny issues is becoming something of a trend with him, as Glen Johnson of the Associated Press pointed out in a recent story. Here's the problem: Too much finesse can make a candidate seem awfully fuzzy.
And from Johnson, we see:
And over a series of preprimary debates, Gabrieli has managed to straddle or avoid firm positions on a series of political issues, be it rolling back the personal income tax rate, building a wind farm off Cape Cod or allowing State Police troopers to arrest illegal immigrants.
While this blog has endorsed Deval Patrick (and been slammed for it by Reilly and Gabrieli supporters), we are not blind to his areas of mumbling as well. He just is stronger in positions and more important what to do to fix problems than any of the other candidates. We obviously prefer that.

Do Nothing Legislature

This campaign tenor is vastly important because of our weenie legislature. A true irony in Massachusetts is the past, current and hopeful Republican governors campaigning, so far successfully, on keeping the heavily Democratic General Court in check.

Instead, what we have seen from the Sal and Bobby Show is, well, damned little. We contend that what we need now and have needed for a decade is a leader under the Golden Dome, which we have had neither in either house nor in any office in the executive branch. Somebody has to show some guts and take some responsibility if we are to get out of our stagnation. The lumbering DINOs in the General Court have not.

Let's use same-sex marriage as an example. Consider:
  • Civil-rights lawsuits were likely and then pending. For years, the legislature knew it had to act or permit chaos. Legislators could have led to SSM or civil unions. They did nothing.
  • An anti-SSM law got to a Constitutional Convention. The legislature didn't vote on it, kicking the hate hornets' nest and inspiring the current amendment drive.
  • Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Sal DiMasi chose not to lead on this, hoping the Supreme Judicial Court would act. Boy, did it ever!
  • Governor Willard Romney was for civil rights, including SSM, and after it passed and he got POTUS envy, against it.
  • Attorney General Tom Reilly was against SSM, and after it passed and he got corner-office lust, for it.
  • Kerry Healey is no friend of homosexuals. She opposes SSM, favors civil unions and is willing to let the amendment stop SSM while the legislature eventually gets around to civil unions.
  • After the SJC decision, the General Court was basically ordered to enable SSM by statute to prevent further confusion and such inane attacks on rights as the current amendment drive. The legislature did nothing and let events drive it again instead of driving them.
Those who could have navigated this issue -- before the SJC ruling -- did not act. This is apparently the wild, unpredictable legislature that needs a Republican governor to check it. Hardy har.

Time for Specifics

So what we need now is not candidates generalizing. Tell us what you will do with and beyond the legislature to make government work. Use specific examples, like the current anti-SSM drive to illustrate your approach, your leadership, your principles.

For example, it was sad indeed to see that all but one of the candidates wants a plebiscite on this amendment. Our favorite, Patrick, was the only one to raise principles of rights and freedoms. He said this was one of those issues that should never go to the public for a vote.

That is a guideline. It should lead to a fine-tuning of the gone-wild ballot-initiative process as well. Yet to get there, we need leadership, at least from the governor and more likely from the legislative big shots. If Trav and Sal need permission to show some courage and to take responsibility for their stands, let us all give it to them. Don't let us muck about in the results of your inaction and indecision.

To the current question then, isn't Gabby saying he supports SSM enough? Again, no.

Like Reilly and Healey, he would encourage the current amendment process to run its destructive, divisive course. After it resolved, if necessary, they each would work to patch up the mess.

The strongest statement from Gabby is on his campaign Website and certainly not in his recent TV interview. On his site FAQ, it reads:
Q: Do you support same-sex marriage or the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts?
A: Yes, I support same-sex marriage. And no, I strongly oppose the proposed constitutional amendment. Same-sex couples deserve all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage as heterosexual couples, and I will strongly oppose any proposals that seek to limit this right.
Unfortunately, his strong opposition has a weak action plan, according to the Globe -- "Gabrieli, also a supporter of gay marriage, was pressed for his opinion, but would say only that he would work to defeat the proposed ban if elected governor."

So for Gabby and other candidates, the need is to walk it like you talk it. If you are for SSM, say it loud. Don't be afraid to say you'll lead the legislature if necessary. Don't be afraid to say we need to get off the dime and not let special-interest groups drive ballot-initiatives.

Most of all, don't tell us you favor this or that. Tell us how you will make this or that happen.

Comment on Comments: We allow anonymous posting, although not identifying yourself even by description in the comment often cheats the other readers a bit. We wouldn't mind if a politician's campaign staff commented and pointed us to position papers or news that disagreed with our views. The only comments we have rejected have been 1) commercial announcements for things like wedding services, 2) personal attacks on other commenters, and 3) obscene and grossly insulting ones.

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