By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Keller on Obama and Patrick

I’m ridiculously late to the party, but if you haven’t read Jon Keller’s Wall Street Journal piece comparing Barack Obama to Deval Patrick, you should. It’s more timely than ever, given Obama’s emergence today as the all-but-certain nominee.

As Keller notes (joining many others), there are numerous stylistic and rhetorical similarities between Obama and Patrick, and he wonders what that portends for an Obama administration, given Patrick’s rocky stint (it’s now officially too late to call it a rocky start) as governor of Massachusetts.

Personally, I’ve thought for some time that the similarities between the two men are exaggerated, mainly because they’re both African-American. Their life stories couldn’t be more different. Obama, who deliberately chose the life of a community organizer and state legislator, knows his way around the streets; Patrick knows his way around a corporate boardroom.

Then there’s this nugget from an unnamed Republican analyst, dug up by Mickey Kaus and brought to my attention by Jay Fitzgerald: “Deval Patrick is an idiot. Obama is not an idiot.” Oof. Pretty harsh. But the evidence thus far suggests that there may be something to it.

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


Media Nation on NECN


The end of the media road


  1. mike_b1

    I think you’re right on with the “they’re black so they must be the same” refrain. What most of those armchair analyses omit is that Patrick had no real legislative experience — and no accountability to the electorate during his time as the Civil Rights AAG. Obama has run in several statewide campaigns and served as a legislator for nearly 12 years. That’s a huge difference in political experience.

  2. Anonymous

    There is something a little more than mildly obscene and agenda-driven in this comparison. (You have a much higher opinion of Jon Keller then I.) The WSJ just happens to publish an article comparing two politicians who happen to be Black and friends, especially when the one in executive office has been so unsuccessful. Would Mr. Keller have written it — and the WSJ published it — if Patrick were viewed as a success? And, of course, the racial factor is sly, convenient, and repugnant.

  3. Anonymous

    I take this is an example of the new Murdock WSJ?

  4. Anonymous

    About the only thing they have in common is their style and roots in Chicago politics.

  5. Anonymous

    To expand on what Anon. 9:51 wrote – would Keller have written that piece and would the WSJ have published it if Patrick happened to be white?Somehow, “black politician running for president has white friend flailing as governor of Massachusetts” doesn’t strike me as a story Keller and the WSJ would care nearly so much about.

  6. Anonymous

    EB3 here,Two white kids come from the same poorer neighborhood or projects in any city of Boston. Both come from nothing. Both work hard and end up going to Boston Latin. Both go to Harvard. Both have same politics and same friends and cliques more or less. Both cross each others paths personally and professionally through out their lives.Everyone associates them with the same group.One incompetent and one is not. The competent one knows the other is not too swift. The guys from the ‘ole neighborhood’ and the current clicks knows which is which.Although they have almost identical resume, including same mentors, the incompetence of one usually does not rub off on the other. IMO.Why is that happening here? I agree with that there is something that needs pointed out. Keller did a good job of pointing it out.But I see a hell of a lot more in Obama than the joke Deval has become.If they both were white, from the same neighborhood and followed same paths would this be noticed?I don’t know. I am just asking.BTW, what if Bill Clinton was Black. The first Black president. And he did everything he did. Could you imagine? A Black president chasing tail all the time. And white tail at that. Thank God. Gerry “Clipper” Callahan would have been bigger ignoramus on the air than he currently is. IMO

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 10:17: No. Keller’s been writing occasional op-eds for the WSJ for many years.

  8. Anonymous

    Anon 9:51 here.Let’s not be disingenuous. The issue isn’t whether Keller has had op-eds published in the WSJ. The issue is that he wrote a facile, agenda-driven attack piece on Obama by giving in to the too easy (and slyly racist) temptation to compare him with the disappointing governor of the state he resides in. One waits breathlessly for the equally gratuitous piece comparing the hot new white conservative with an abject failure of his acquaintance. And, of course, this op-ed will be published in the WSJ, National Review, or Weekly Standard.

  9. another face at zanzibar

    Dan,I think this is the convenient comparison for the mainstream media. It’s just superficial–kind of like Dirk Nowitzki being compared to Larry Bird.

  10. Anonymous

    In both the Obama and Patrick campaigns we’ve seen the David Axelrod campaign style – grassrootsy, hope, yes we can, etc. It’s good stuff. But in retrospect, when Massachusetts voted in Patrick, I think we were really voting for Axelrod, but ended up with Patrick. And Patrick hasn’t been as savvy as Axelrod about building coalitions to support his proposals, about public perception, etc.I’m hoping that Obama’s background in community organization and legislative work means that Axelrod’s campaign for him is closer to who he is. But how do we tell what is the consultant and what is the candidate?

  11. R

    Expect from an Obama administration about what we received from the 1st Clinton administration. Lots of confusion as new people jump into new jobs. Lots of pushing back and forth on priorities and learning what can and what can’t be accomplished. Lots of promises not met. If things go really poorly, expect a GOP voter backlash. It’s pretty much the expectation I would have for any fairly green politician who steps into a new executive role. Not bad, just the way it usually happens.

  12. mike_b1

    EB3,Consider Billy and Whitey Bulger. The former was lifetime politician/incompetent boob; the latter arguably the most effective criminal the Commonwealth has ever seen. Same neighborhood. Both white.I’d say they were noticed.

  13. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 9:51: I’m not being disingenuous in the least. I happen to like Keller’s work, but the WSJ editorial pages have been genuinely nutty for many years. Murdoch might improve them if only because he is more firmly rooted in reality.

  14. Sean Roche

    Dan,You are far, far, far too kind to your friend Keller (though, credit to you that you’ve been very open about it every time you post about him).A facile and odious comparison to introduce an irrelevant hatchet job on Patrick tied up by a weak attempt to return to the odious comparison. Black and they went to Harvard Law School. That makes them practically ideological and governing style twins! I think of my close connection to my also white law school classmate who happened to be a college swimming teammate. Same events, even. We, like Obama and Patrick, we’re practically soul mates.Somewhere there is a thoughtful commentary to be written about what we might and might not reasonably forecast based on some very interesting similarities between Obama and Patrick, but Keller’s piece was not it.I’m disappointed that you pulled punches in this post.

  15. Mr Punch

    “Obama, who deliberately chose the life of a community organizer and state legislator, knows his way around the streets; Patrick knows his way around a corporate boardroom.”Huh? Patrick grew up on welfare on the South Side of Chicago. Obama grew up in Hawaii, and moved to Chicago as a college grad. How on earth doers that make Obama more authentically urban?

  16. Anonymous

    Back to the ink blot test, people seeing what they want. Obama managed to graduate from Columbia without spending time in an urban environment? Growing up in Hawaii magically bestows a father on you?Patrick “grew up…on the South Side of Chicago”? Was he grown up prior to going East? When did they move Milton Academy to the “hood”? The point is NEITHER is “authentically urban” on a scale with, say, Ray Hammond. They took the money and ran.

  17. APM

    Too funny Dan. So despite both being from nearly the same neighborhood in Chicago, both being Harvard Law alumni, despite both have similar rhetorical and oratorical styles, despite both genuinely hoping for a change in politics, you are able to conclude that they are different because Obama was a community organizer while Patrick worked in Corporate America? What about Patrick’s years in the CIVIL RIGHTS division of the DOJ?Brilliant logic. Perhaps you just wanted to justify your “they are black” meme.

  18. Anonymous

    Patrick has his problems and I’m not a real fan of his, but this WSJ hatchet job, pegged to the fact that he is a buddy of Obama’s, has no real national relevance. Sorry, but Jon Keller wears on me too. He gets way too much facetime on BZ for his snarky, know-it-all “analysis.” (Let alone the fact that Barney Keller’s flakking for the Rep State Committee casts aspersion on Dad’s motives, perhaps unfairly, but still…). Dan, I think you’re a bit too close to Keller to be objective here. His act has become a bit tired, probably due to overexposure. Anonymous II

  19. Anonymous

    AnonII nails it. The blogosphere in general has a frustrating tendency to equate nice with credible. As a result loathsome partisan hacks like Peter Porcupine and Jon Keller get listened to instead of dismissed.

  20. Anonymous

    Dan, it’s your blog and you can write admiringly of your friends if you want to. But you seem to be alone here in your esteem for Keller’s work.

  21. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 1:28: And why would I mind being alone? I couldn’t care less.I do admire Keller’s work, but I would also point out that the post you’re so worked up about is one in which I disagreed with him.

  22. Sean Roche

    Dan,I admire your contrarian stance, but sometimes being the last man holding a position is a sign that you’re wrong.I’m not surprised that Anon 1:28 is most worked up on a post where you disagreed with Keller. I think your misjudgment about Keller is most evident in your mere tsk-tsking of a truly embarrassing piece of writing.

  23. Anonymous

    Dan, please read my post from 1:28. Do I really seem “worked up”? I’m just saying you are the only person I know of who even reads Keller.

  24. Dan Kennedy

    Then you really need to expand your circle. That’s the problem with this round of posts — all groupthink.

  25. Anonymous

    Not sure if you’re joking or not – if so, that’s a good rejoinder. If not, I guess it’s still a good rejoinder.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén