God help me, but I’m writing about Elizabeth Warren and the likability factor

Elizabeth Warren. Photo (cc) 2012 by Edward Kimmel.

A few very brief thoughts about Elizabeth Warren and whether she’s “likable enough” (to recycle an unfortunate old quote from Barack Obama) to be elected president — the subject of a front-page story in today’s Boston Globe as well as multiple other outlets.

First, yes, of course there’s an element of sexism to it, as there was when the same questions were raised over and over about Hillary Clinton. But let’s not get carried away — it’s not just sexism. Republicans used the likability factor like a sledgehammer against Al Gore and John Kerry, and it was effective. Their opponent, George W. Bush, was regularly described as someone you’d rather have a beer with, which always struck me as pretty odd given that Bush was an alcoholic who had given up drinking.

Second, in Warren’s case, “likability” is shorthand for something real — a lack of political adroitness despite her substantive strengths and despite being, as best as I can determine, genuinely likable. The whole Native American thing is ludicrous, and it seems as though she should have been able to put it behind her years ago when Scott Brown and the Boston Herald first tried to make an issue of it. Yet it’s still here, and it makes you think she should have handled it differently. Certainly the DNA test didn’t help.

Third, there’s something to the idea that she let her moment slip away. The news and political cycles are so accelerated now that 2016 may have represented her best chance. That has nothing to do with likability. The fact that Beto O’Rourke may be a serious candidate seems silly unless you view it in that context.

Finally, Warren’s likability is a phony issue because it’s about the pundits, not the voters. If she wins the nomination and is ultimately elected president, there’s the answer to your question: she’s likable enough.

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David Brooks’ semi-mea culpa on the war in Iraq

It’s easy to make fun of David Brooks’ semi-mea culpa on the war in Iraq. But let’s not forget that liberals like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton voted for the war, and if you think they did it solely for political posturing, then you’re more cynical than I am.

Personally, I was against the invasion, but I thought it was a close call. And if you go back to Bill Clinton’s presidency, you may recall that horror stories about sick and starving Iraqi children — a consequence of U.S. sanctions — led some liberals to call for a humanitarian intervention.

Finally, in 1998 Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which committed the United States to regime change.

Brooks was always the most thoughtful among the war’s supporters. What he has to say today is worth reading.

29 years later, Ed Markey resumes his Senate campaign

Screen Shot 2012-12-27 at 4.28.52 PM

It looks like U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, a Malden Democrat, has decided to run for the Senate vacancy being created by John Kerry’s appointment as secretary of state. (Via David Bernstein.)

This will not be Markey’s first Senate run. In 1984 he was one of several Democrats who jumped in after Sen. Paul Tsongas announced he would not seek re-election because of illness. Markey soon jumped right out and ran for re-election to Congress. (Kerry, of course, was the eventual Senate winner.) Trouble was, a former state senator from Winchester named Sam Rotondi, who was also running for Congress, refused to be a domino and decided to stay in the race.

I covered the Markey-Rotondi race for The Daily Times Chronicle of Woburn, and it went right down to primary day. If I’ve got my years right, Markey then had to beat a stronger-than-usual Republican, former Somerville mayor S. Lester Ralph. It was a fun campaign.

Republicans find another group to alienate: the disabled

Bob Dole in 2008. Photo (cc) by Kevin Rofidal and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.
Bob Dole in 2008. Photo (cc) by Kevin Rofidal and republished under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

It’s hard to imagine a more disgraceful moment for the modern Republican Party.

The Senate was voting on whether to accept a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled — a treaty that was reportedly modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the great accomplishments of President George H.W. Bush, a Republican.

Former Republican senator Bob Dole, 89, sitting in a wheelchair, was on hand to lend his support. Dole, of course, was disabled long before old age rendered him a wheelchair-user — a consequence of his heroism in World War II.

And Republican senators voted against the treaty, 38-8. Not a single Democrat voted against it. Sixty-one senators were in favor — five short of the two-thirds needed.

We in Massachusetts, at least, can hold our heads high: Sen. Scott Brown was among the hardy band of Republicans who voted in favor. And Democratic Sen. John Kerry delivered what the New York Times called “his most impassioned speech all year” in urging his fellow senators to approve the treaty.

After losing the election in part because they alienated African-Americans, Latinos, gay men and lesbians, you would think that Republicans wouldn’t be looking for another group to infuriate.

You would be wrong.

Sen. Kerry on Internet piracy

Last month I praised Sen. Scott Brown for his quick response to those of us who signed an online petition opposing draconian anti-piracy bills being considered by Congress. On Monday, I heard from Sen. John Kerry as well. Here’s what he wrote:

Dear Dan:

Thank you for your letter regarding the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP Act). I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

I have long championed the cause of innovation and an open Internet. Firms operating on and off the Internet strongly rely on intellectual property laws to help protect their investments and ensure a just return for their goods and services. Online piracy and copyright infringement hurts our economy and costs American businesses more than 200 billion dollars a year. Many infringers operate from foreign countries in order to avoid US law enforcement. As a result, under current law, American authorities are limited in what they can do to bring these rogue sites to justice.

As you know, the PROTECT IP Act was intended to protect American businesses from intellectual property theft on foreign websites. Among other things, the bill would provide the Attorney General with the authority to seek a court injunction against a foreign website that engages in copyright infringement. The court could also require U.S. websites to block access to websites found to be dedicated to infringing activities. For example, search engines could be required to disable links to the website that is found to be violating copyright of a US company.

However, there are a number of serious and legitimate concerns regarding the scope of the legislation, as well as the potential for abuse, censorship, or other unintended consequences. The authors recognize the legislation still needs work and I will oppose any proposal that would fundamentally undermine or impede the ability of people to communicate, compete, and innovate using the Internet.

I am pleased that Majority Leader Reid has indefinitely postponed Senate consideration of the PROTECT IP Act, and I will continue to review and work to improve legislation to both protect the intellectual property of American businesses and to ensure the web remains free and open. As I consider proposals to address these issues, I will keep your views in mind.

Thank you again for contacting me on this topic. Please don’t hesitate to reach me again on this or any other issue in the future.

“Can I get out of here, please?”

Today’s Boston Herald front is absolutely hilarious, as U.S. Sen. John Kerry scurries away from reporters who are trying to ask him about his tax-free, $7 million yacht. The Herald broke the story last Friday, but give Kerry credit: it is he who has figured out how to keep it alive.

Gradations of stupid

See if you can follow the logic here. Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr whacks U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s “breathtaking smugness” for saying that voters are too stupid to understand what President Obama and the Democratic Congress have accomplished. Carr then turns around and criticizes Massachusetts voters for being too stupid to understand they shouldn’t have sent Kerry to the Senate five times.

Is Howie even trying to make sense anymore?

Emanuel’s forced Hamlet act

Am I missing something? Or has the vaunted Obama team suffered a breakdown in discipline regarding U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., who’s been offered the job of White House chief of staff? Why is Emanuel publicly pondering whether to take it or not? What does this do to the eventual chief of staff if Emanuel turns it down?

I know there’s a lot of speculation out there about many of the positions President-elect Obama will be filling, including the possibility that John Kerry will be given the secretary of state’s job. But the way the Emanuel appointment is being handled is clunky, to say the least. If he turns it down, whoever winds up in the job will be seen as second-rate.

If exit polls were votes

Then Obama would be headed for a huge victory. Actually, he wouldn’t, as President Kerry would be standing for re-election. So let’s wait and see.

Kerry got the Patrick treatment

I didn’t realize how few viewers had a chance to see John Kerry’s speech last night. So let’s see — the pundits keep telling us that the Democrats aren’t attacking McCain enough; Kerry devotes his entire speech to a full-throated disembowelment of McCain; and the pundits don’t let us see it. Am I missing anything?

Josh Marshall calls Kerry’s “the best speech of the convention.” I don’t think it was quite that, but it certainly gave viewers (some viewers, anyway) the biggest helping of red meat they’ve had so far.