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

Pundits on Patrick: Not a pretty picture

Gov. Deval Patrick’s politically clueless performance of recent days has brought out some sharp commentary from local pundits. A quick round-up — not meant to be comprehensive, just stuff that caught my eye:

  • Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe: “The Massachusetts governor is presiding over a local version of the larger, national disaster that is chipping away at confidence in government and the economy. But Patrick’s instincts for the symbols that enrage taxpayers are poor, and so, apparently, are the instincts of those who report to him.” Comment: Vennochi pretty much nails it. But it’s not just Patrick’s inept handling of political symbolism — it’s the lack of substance, too.
  • Jon Keller, WBZ: “It’s been a dismaying, demoralizing turn of events, coming at the worst possible time for the only thing that really matters, the ability of our state to deal with our crises in a way that protects and provides opportunity to the working classes. Things are bad out here, and no one wants to hear Deval Patrick whining about what a drag his chosen profession has turned out to be.” Comment: Keller’s pretty rough on everyone. Nevertheless, there’s a difference in tone here that suggests Keller thinks the governor has reached the point of no return.
  • The Outraged Liberal: “Patrick came to this job from the world of business, where executives got what they wanted by the sheer force of their will and personality. Some learn that politics is not the same environment and that accommodation is required…. But the biggest loser will be Patrick, who tried to strong arm the process and failed. In spectacular fashion.” Comment: Outside of Blue Mass. Group, Patrick has had no better friend in the local blogosphere than Mr. O.L. Very ominous.
  • Jay Fitzgerald, Hub Blog and Boston Herald: “Gov. Patrick’s ‘trivial’ comment is perhaps the single most stupid political remark I’ve heard muttered by a state or national pol in the face of genuine public outrage. It will stick with him for the rest of his years in the corner office.” Comment: I think Jay’s right.
  • David Kravitz, Blue Mass. Group: “It’s more than passing strange for this particular crowd to be so clueless about why stuff like this matters. No, the money at issue in the AIG bonuses, or Carol Aloisi’s job, or Marian Walsh’s special election, will not make or break the state or the country. But the damage these kinds of things do is, while less tangible, no less real.” Comment: If Patrick is losing one of the BMG co-editors, then he’s pretty much down to family and childhood friends.
  • Paul Flannery, Boston Daily: “Patrick has never bothered to take care of the little things — the car, the drapes, the chopper, the book deal while the casino bill went down in flames — and now the big things are slipping out of his grasp.” Comment: Call it the “broken windows” theory of politics.

We are now past the half-way point of Patrick’s four-year term. It’s pretty sobering — and discouraging — to realize that, without a major turnaround, we’re looking at yet another disappointment in the governor’s office.

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A no-class comment


  1. O-FISH-L

    What’s truly remarkable is not Gov. Patrick’s arrogance and ineffectiveness, but that educated people are somehow surprised by it. ps – Exactly one week after you correctly singled out an obscure journalist for inappropriate and hurtful language directed at little people, the POTUS goes on national television and makes a joke that, to quote his supporter Maria Shriver, “hurts millions of people around the world.” Not a keystroke of criticism of here. Wow.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: I called Obama’s remark idiotic or some such thing on “Beat the Press” tonight. A lot more people watch that than read Media Nation.I obviously have a special interest in dwarfism. Obscure journalist? Yes, but what he wrote appeared on the front page of the New York Times. Wholly inadequate response, by the way, which I’ll be writing about soon.What Obama said was wrong, and he was right to apologize. But if you want to try to make the case that I’m a hypocrite, you should note that I’ve never gone after Limbaugh or the RNC candidate for “Barack the Magic Negro,” either. There’s a lot of things I don’t write about, and it’s evidence of nothing.

  3. O-FISH-L

    I didn’t catch the first run of BTP tonight, which is unusual for me. I hope to catch the second showing at midnight. Good for you for condemning his remark. I’m glad it’s now here for the record too.

  4. Mark

    I am more than happy to say I told you so. I was one of the few people standing athwart and yelling stop in 2006. Deval Patrick ran on a campaign completely lacking any substance, and that’s what you got as governor. Running on catch phrases may work, but governing takes a lot more than rhetoric.

  5. Amused

    The tragedy of modern Massachusetts politics was the defeat of Frank Bellotti by John Silber in the Democratic primary in 1990. Since then we’ve had two governors who have formally quit, one who never had a clue and one who is quitting on us while still holding the job.Bellotti was butchered by news media that considered him just an old Italian hack and were more interested in promoting “Silber Shockers” than in actual coverage of that campaign. But look at how Bellotti transformed the attorney general’s office, which had previously been a dumping ground for lawyers who could’t make it — those reforms are still with us today and, like or dislike the attorneys general who have served since, the Bellotti reforms are still in place.He was the one pol in Massachusetts in the past 30 years with enough of an independent streak to have changed the culture. The 1990 democratic primary was the tragedy of modern politics in Massachusetts.

  6. Rob

    Your “broken windows” theory for politics is a very astute analogy. Patrick’s comments bother me only to the extent it weakens him as a messenger for his overall agenda. In a sense, it bothers me that so many people get upset about things like the AIG bonuses yet do not stop to consider the anniversary of the Iraq war passing this week – something I dare to say will have a much longer negative impact on our nation. Nevertheless, it is truly remarkable and almost unbelievable that Patrick does not seem to understand that as a public official, he has to be measured in his comments and not detract from his agenda through them. He gets the big picture (which I respect him greatly for) but cannot seem to handle the smaller details that many citizens focus on and that he can control. In a nutshell, his PR skills are severely lacking.

  7. Jerry

    Off on a tangent here, but I dispute Amused on the allegation that Ed Brooke and Eliott Richardson and Scott Harshbarger were “lawyers who couldn’t make it.” Not that every AG in Bay State history deserves a Hall of Fame slot, but let’s beware such glittering generalities.

  8. mcough4

    No argument that Patrick seems tone deaf about political symbolism. And Dan, I know you’ll never forget his support for casinos. But he has governed the state in a professional and competent manner, and more importantly has largely appointed competent officials to run public agencies (Senator Walsh aside). At the tail end of the 12 year Republican rule the bunch of hacks running the bureacracy was laughable. It will be a shame if Patrick’s political tin ear leads to a return to rule by a group of folks who don’t believe in the role of government.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    mcough4: People who follow state politics more closely than I tell me that Patrick’s appointments are his greatest accomplishment. Fine. But don’t tell me Walsh is his only bad one. Aloisi, to name one, is excruciatingly awful, and the only reason he has the job is that his predecessor was also not up to the task. And transportation is kind of important, no?

  10. mcough4

    Ok, we agree on three bad appointments out of hundreds. But I just want to pointout that Patrick didn’t appoint Aloisi’s sister to the no show job…that was your anti-casino hero Sal DiMasi who seems to have taken care of her before he left.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    mcough4: Sal is an anti-casino hero. Them’s the facts. This is Massachusetts — we get bad government no matter what. With Sal, at least we didn’t get casinos, too.You know, there was a time when appointing competent people to office would have been seen as the floor for a governor, not the ceiling. Patrick’s appointment record is necessary but insufficient if we want to consider him a good governor.

  12. lkcape

    A common thread in these comments is that Gov Patrick seems to be failing in his efforts at governing. I agree.What we, as the public, must be interested in is the SUCCESS of those elected in actually accomplishing the goal of managing the affairs of the city, state, or nation.Patrick’s campaign message of hope and change resonated with the liberal voter of Massachusetts. That his campaign lacked substance is a measure of how well his marketing effort succeeded at the expense of coherent plans and explorations of management skills.I fear that a more recent campaign of hope and change are foundering on similar rocks. Look to the selection of the dream team of economic advisers that controls our economy today, and ask yourself if there isn’t a touch of deja vu.Our society is in for a long siege. We need competence as much, if not more, than intellect.

  13. Bob Neer

    Great round-up Dan. You comment on David’s assessment was pretty funny. 🙂

  14. Rick in Duxbury

    mccough4:So Deval “has governed the state in a professional and competent manner” but Charlie Baker and people like him were “a bunch of hacks running the bureacracy(sic) (which)was laughable.” Contact Jay Leno; he may have a spot for you, you’re hilarious!(BTW, I believe what you meant to say was “folks who don’t AGREE WITH ME on the role of government”, no?)

  15. bogofree

    Chub Peabody and Jane Swift are a combination Abe Lincoln and Winston Churchill compared to this wreck we now have as an albatross for two more years. And knowing the wisdom of an electorate who gives the Free World Barney Frank we may be in for six years.PR wise he is firmly out to lunch. Nothing more to say… wing nut to moonbat the chorus is clear – just pack up and go to Washington.The tax proposals in this state are just beyond comprehension and Patrick seems to be the point man in this “It’s just a cup of coffee” blather.I have called his office numerous times and would be glad to take him on a tour to meet real people with real problems who can’t even afford a few dollars more. If this was 1775 he’d be tarred and feathered by now.

  16. NewsHound

    Comparing Patrick to previous governors or the governors in other states does not accomplish our objectives and aspirations for competent, devoted, dedicated state leadership. Regardless of the past, we need someone good in the job now, and in the future, Unfortunately, this has been tried in the past and proven difficult to succeed. Let’s hope we have better luck in the next election but that is dependent on the wisdom of the electorate.

  17. lkcape

    For an electorate whose track record is returning incumbents in elections marked by pathetic or non-existent challenge, I fear the wisdom of the Massachusetts voter may not deviate far from history.I’m for competitive elections, whether it is Democrat against Republican, or Democrat against Democrat, or geek against wizard. But those competitions MUST be subject to the vote of the entire electorate. Primary contests that disenfranchise a significant portion of the electorate do just that: they disenfranchise a significant portion of the electorate.(I see no outrage over this from the civil liberties exponents, but that seems like a he-who-makes-the-rules-likes-the-rules kinda thing here in MA.)One party rule and/or never-ending incumbency make a mockery of democracy. Dan has commented elsewhere that “folks…[have] lost interest in democracy”, and interest in journalism has suffered as a consequence. In granting his connection, we have to wonder if this one-sided scenario has played a part.Perhaps if the media took a proactive role in fostering real political competition, the interests in both democracy, AND journalism, might regenerate. Looking through the candidate’s marketing hype to the substance of his positions would be a good starting place.

  18. NewsHound

    The average, working, sacrifice-saving, middle class working person has virtually lost control of government and corporate America.

  19. Nial Liszt

    NewsHound– Even though the middle class have the numbers to do so, they have never “controlled” government. It is virtually a rigged carny game, co-opted by political parties.

  20. NewsHound

    Nial Liszt – you have a point. It reminds me though, of a man I know in his 80s who tells the story of working as a common mill worker and decided to run for city council. The president of the company called him to his office and had a generous check prepared for his campaign. He refused the donation but did win the election, went on to be a state legislator and continued in government service until retirement. He remained committed to serving the common, working person.

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