Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Tao of Deval

When is the former dynamo known as Deval Patrick going to step up? Or was his campaign an anomaly, and what we’re seeing now is the real Patrick? Boston Herald reporter Jay Fitzgerald has the latest. It’s a bit convoluted, and I suspect it speaks to Patrick’s lack of leadership rather than to anything more nefarious.

In a nutshell, the Legislature recently passed a law allowing employees to collect triple damages if they win a wage dispute with their employer. Patrick opposed the bill but, unlike his predecessor, Mitt Romney, declined to veto it. Instead, he allowed it to become law without signing it.

Naturally, this will be a boon for lawyers — including Patrick’s wife, Diane Patrick, who was one of six lawyers at Ropes & Gray to sign a letter to clients alerting them about this new legal hazard. (Question: Did R&G really need her signature to drive the point home? This would be less of a story without that angle.)

Nearly two months ago, then-Boston Globe columnist Steve Bailey reported that Patrick’s doomed proposal to build three casinos in Massachusetts would benefit Ropes & Gray, which has an extensive practice helping casino owners fight off gambling addicts and campaign-finance laws. Nice.

It’s all pretty remarkable and disheartening. In this week’s Boston Phoenix, Adam Reilly attempts the meta-take, looking at Patrick’s communications strategy. Reilly writes:

The problem is simple: while Candidate Patrick seemed to say or do whatever the situation required, Governor Patrick frequently does exactly the opposite — whether it’s picking fights with the media, neglecting his staunchest grassroots supporters, or making ill-advised decisions that complicate his job instead of making it easier.

Over at WBZ-TV, Jon Keller reports that Patrick’s approval rating continues to nosedive. According to a Survey USA poll commissioned by WBZ, just 41 percent of registered voters now approve of the job Patrick’s doing, as opposed to 56 percent who don’t.

By now it should be obvious to Patrick that the governor’s job is hard — hard to learn and hard to do well. So why does he keep stepping in it, over and over again

Gitlin responds

I don’t like it when other people try to summarize my position, so I’ll try to be careful in summarizing his: It’s OK for an opinion journalist to comment on matters involving a politician he supports even when readers are not informed of that fact. He calls my position “incoherent.” And he throws in a “metadiscussion” for good measure.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d call this incoherent:

Anyway, I’m not writing a column on Obama, I’m writing a column on Tim Russert. I’ve been writing about Russert for a decade or so. I was writing about him — critically, in the main — when I’d never heard of Barack Obama.

Yes. Me too. Since then, though, you and I have heard of Obama, and you’ve publicly endorsed him. Thus you’ve forfeited the right to evaluate Russert’s coverage of the presidential campaign without disclosing that fact. And if you do disclose it, fewer people will take you seriously. This is basic journalism ethics. Do you not get it?

Now read the whole thing.

In Middleborough, a curious candidate

All has been fairly quiet on the Middleborough casino front lately, but things may be about to heat up. It seems that former Brockton mayor Jack Yunits is a finalist for the $130,000-a-year town manager’s job. And it just so happens that he works as a consultant for the Liberty Square Group, the Boston-based public-relations and lobbying firm that has led the fight to build the world’s largest casino in Middleborough.

Oh, but not to worry, says search committee member Wayne Perkins, a former selectman and casino backer. Yunits may be taking money from a firm funded in part by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and the South African casino moguls who are behind all this, but his work with Liberty Square is “strictly” limited to lobbying for a power plant in Brockton.

But according to a Liberty Square senior vice president Amy Lambiaso, Yunits has also lobbied for a Verizon-backed group that seeks to weaken the control local officials have over cable companies in communities like, you know, Middleborough. So much for Perkins’ “research.”

And let’s not forget that town officials are legally obligated to say nothing but nice things about the casino proposal. I suppose that task becomes easier if they simply hire a town manager who’s already getting paid by the casino’s backers.

The Brockton Enterprise covers the story here; the Cape Cod Times here.

As always: You can’t make this stuff up.

The nothing primary II

Well, that’s what I ended up going with when I wrote my Guardian column last night. Clinton did really well, so there’s no reason for her to get out. But she didn’t win by the huge margin she needed to change the dynamic of the race. And on (and on) we go.

The nothing primary

Good grief. I’ve got to write something up for the Guardian in a few hours, and, right now, it looks like Pennsylvania’s going to count for nothing. Clinton is probably going to win by a blah margin — say, six or eight points. That’s enough for her to keep going, but not enough for her to have a realistic chance of winning the nomination, or to refill her depleted campaign coffers.

Here’s a theory. It strikes me that, over the last month, increasing numbers of Democrats have decided that Clinton has a better chance than Obama does of beating McCain in the fall. Yet it’s almost certainly too late for Clinton, and no one knows what to do about it. Thus we go on and on and on, and no one can say how it will end.

Mostly I’ve been watching MSNBC. Now Tim Russert and Harold Ford are drawing a line in the sand in Indiana. If Obama wins Indiana, it’s over. Unless it isn’t, of course.

Russert, Gitlin and Obama

This week the Columbia Journalism Review unveiled a new weekly feature called “Russert Watch,” to keep an eye on everyone’s favorite Beltway bloviator.

It’s not a bad idea. Tim Russert can be quite skilled at the art of the prosecutorial interview, but all too often his inquisitions devolve into “You said X in 1987. Why are you saying Y now?” Plus it ought to be a federal offense to have hacks like James Carville, Mary Matalin, Bob Shrum and Mike Murphy all on during the same week, as Russert does as frequently as he can.

But shouldn’t CJR have chosen someone other than Todd Gitlin to write the feature? Gitlin’s debut isn’t bad. But look at this: Gitlin publicly announced his support for Barack Obama back in February.

Gitlin is an academic moonlighting as a journalist. Yes, he’s a liberal opinion journalist. But even we opinion-mongers owe readers our independence.

I sometimes hear it said that journalists should say whom they’re voting for in the name of transparency. I disagree. Voting, and even stating your position on issues, is not the same as publicly supporting a candidate.

It’s not that you’re keeping your true beliefs a secret. It’s that it becomes much harder to evaluate someone honestly once you’ve identified yourself as a backer. Either you can’t bring yourself to criticize him, or you go overboard the other way so that you won’t be accused of being in the tank. Far better to keep it to yourself, even if your readers think they know how you voted — and even if they’re probably right.

Gitlin thought some of Russert’s questions to Obama strategist David Axelrod were unfair. So did I, given that one of them, as Gitlin notes, was based on the false claim that Obama had once refused to hold his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.

But Gitlin should not be doing this for the CJR, of all publications. Media Matters for America, maybe.

Cavalcade of responses. Gitlin responds. I respond to his response.

Gitlin photo by David Shankbone, and republished here under a GNU Free Documentation License.