Friday, October 20, 2006

Snarling, Sniping Would-Be Governors

TV is supposed to be about entertainment and last evening's four-way gubernatorial debate was a decent comedy even if it didn't rise to good drama. Let's think a frenetic Looney Tunes featurette but not House. We had a lot of slapstick but no cures or big resolution.

Read-All-About-It: What, your TV and radio simultaneously punked out? You had to take meals to invalids yesterday evening? You don't need a reason or excuse. If you missed the debate, you can't capture the emotion, but you can read the transcript here. If you want every nuance, see and hear the video here.

You could smell and touch the desperation pouring out of Republican Kerry Healey. Despite Democrat Deval Patrick's I'm-smart-but-still-nice compromiser persona, her response throughout was to overplay her entitled, rich lady self. Too bad for her. Even when she was making decent points, she came across as strident, rude, and well, a bully. She was the stereotype of the ill-behaved male politician.

Disclaimers: We endorsed Patrick in early spring and continue to see him as the best hope in that office. We also spent enough of our childhood where good manners are important to find Healey increasingly offensive, enough to question whether she could deal effectively with legislators or others in the executive branch.

The rush reviews are telling:
  • Over at the Herald, Ste. Kim Atkins scored it a tie. "Both Healey and Patrick landed solid political blows -- Healey questioning Patrick'’s tax arithmetic and the aforementioned 'come down off your high horse'” zinger Patrick launched." Kim promises a story today.
  • The Globe lead editorial is not favorably impressed with Healey debate performance or before. "We believe that Healey's negative attacks will backfire, and the tension was evident last night between her desire to tear her opponent down and her need to establish a positive reason for people to vote for her."
  • Both the Globe and Herald editorial writers agree with the other three candidates that Patrick alone has stuck his neck out of property tax reduction, so he alone has to be more specific.
One way or another, the bulk of the debate was about money, money, money. If it was education, how were we going to get enough cash in for decent school and afford to fund more charter ones? All four accused each other of making unfunded and unfundable promises.

The evening's Zeitgeist was unlike previous ones. There was tension, hostility and defensiveness.

Mihos is the (very effective) jester, who seems to pride himself on pushing his couple of points (he's here for the long-haul, he knows how to create jobs, and has that Proposition 1 to increase local aid). It's not much, but his delivery is great, particularly calling the other candidates on what he sees as contradictions.

Green/Rainbow Grace Ross has hit her stride. These are the scrapbook days. She was cocky and had the air of a peer with the others. Her funding scheme seems wildly unrealistic, but that didn't stop her from pig piling on Patrick when the others claimed his tax-reduction plan was not displayed in sufficient detail.

That was a key skirmish of this debate and the one we'll likely hear the most about from the three also-runners in the next couple of weeks and at the November 1 final debate.

Last spring, Patrick took a mega-risk with a fully fleshed out platform. The other three still don't offer those. (Witness the very recent answer from Healey -- a 50-point, toilet-reading set of short idea-ettes. Pooh.)

By offering his platform early and in unusual detail for a governor's race, Patrick opened himself to such sniping, stealing, denigration and nitpicking. It took the others a surprising time to do all of that, even when they could not offer anything as complete or promising. Patrick put his pies in the window sill and the knaves are feasting.

To us, Healey was an absolute ass last night. She talked over and shouted down others, concentrating on Patrick. It is the hallmark of those with the weakest position to be loud and repetitive. That works in prep school debates (she must have pick that style up on the banks of the Charles). Instead here, she came over in what is apparently her true personality, one not suited to getting legislative tasks done.

Stealth Meme

Healey gave birth to a full-blow monster yesterday. It will be voter buzz. Those who found Patrick vague, Ross utopian, and Mihos one-trick will continue to do so; no minds changed there.

Healey got a big gooey cake from NECN's Allison King who asked her to distance herself from Romney's trash talking of the commonwealth. Healey dropped it big time, messy big by refusing to answer.

The be-pearled North Shore Dame, who tries to browbeat Patrick with the idea that is hers -- a no-new-taxes pledge, refused to take her best chance to distance herself from our POTUS-envying governor. Big and messy.

The exchange reveals plenty:

KING: Ms. Healey, in his frequent out-of-state travel. Governor Romney has often made Massachusetts the butt of jokes. These are comments that many feel have not only disparaged the state but may also hurt the state's ability to attract business and new citizens. Would you take this opportunity to publicly criticize Governor Romney for the potential harm he's done to the state and would you call on the governor to cease and desist?

HEALEY: Let me just say that I love Massachusetts. I love it in a way that someone who chooses their state loves it. And I came here back when I was going to college. I had the great opportunity to come here to go to college and I have to say that it impressed me as a place that has fantastic history looking at this hall. You can see and feel the history of this state. It has families where generation after generation live in the same town, stay together. I love Massachusetts. I'm going to work to make it a better place and I will never criticize it.

KING: And would you call on the governor to cease and desist.

HEALEY: I think he's probably heard your message loud and clear.

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