Scott Brown’s very bad — no, very good — day

Scott Brown

Monday started out looking like a very bad day for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown. But it turned out to be quite the opposite, as two media outlets backed away from reports that were embarrassing to Brown, and Brown himself smartly broke with the Republican Party over Medicare after seeming to have dithered. Let’s take them one at a time.

The handshake. On Sunday night, WBZ-TV (Channel 4) aired video that appeared to show Brown declining to shake hands with one of his Democratic rivals, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, at Newton’s Memorial Day parade earlier in the day. That’s how the report itself described it, and it appeared to be a small but classless moment for the senator. Brown’s supposed snub was the talk of local political blogs (including Media Nation) and Twitter feeds.

By midday, though, the Warren campaign was spreading the word that the mayor and the senator had already shaken hands before the video was shot. In an email to Media Nation late Monday afternoon, Channel 4 spokeswoman Ro Dooley-Webster acknowledged that “both campaigns confirm that Senator Brown and Mayor Warren greeted one another and shook hands earlier in the day.” Oops.

The incoherent quote. Late Sunday afternoon, the Boston Globe passed along an entertainingly incoherent Brown quote that he supposedly uttered in front of a business group:

“When I said last week that I was going to vote for the House GOP’s plan to abolish Medicare what I really meant was I was going to vote on it — and I have no idea yet which way I’m going to vote,” the Massachusetts Republican said in comments reported by Talking Points Memo.

Unfortunately for the Globe, that quote was a TPM parody of Brown’s position, not an actual quote. Though the faux quote does not appear in quotation marks, I can see where it would be a little confusing to a blogger in a hurry. On Monday afternoon, the Globe posted a correction and removed the Sunday post from its Political Intelligence blog. You can still read the cached version here.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jessica Heslam, the incident prompted Brown to write to Globe editor Marty Baron complaining about the use of “a manufactured quote” and saying the matter “could have been cleared up with a simple phone call to my office.” (Note: She tweaks Media Nation as well.)

The party pooper. Until Monday, Brown had been unclear on whether he would vote for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher system that would be called — voilà! — Medicare. The Ryan plan has proved to be a poisonous issue for Republicans. In western New York, for instance, a Democrat may win a congressional seat for the first time in many years because of the issue.

Then, on Monday morning, in an op-ed piece for Politico (very interesting that Brown chose neither Boston daily), Brown declared he would vote against the Ryan plan because “as health inflation rises, the cost of private plans will outgrow the government premium support — and the elderly will be forced to pay ever higher deductibles and co-pays.”

Brown’s commentary includes the requisite amount of Obama-bashing and praise for Ryan. The bottom line for Massachusetts voters, though, is that they don’t have to worry that Brown will support dismantling a key part of the social safety net.

As Channel 4 political analyst Jon Keller observes, “Scott Brown understands the politics of survival in a staunchly Democratic state.”

It’s too soon to proclaim Brown the winner of his 2012 re-election bid, as Boston Mayor Tom Menino sort of did the other day. But state Democratic leaders know they’ve got their work cut out for them. The New York Times reports today that the party is stepping up its efforts to talk financial-reform crusader Elizabeth Warren into running.

Elizabeth Warren would be a formidable candidate, at least in theory, but it’s by no means certain that she’ll run. And it’s clear that top Democrats have real doubts about Setti Warren, Alan Khazei, Bob Massie and Marisa DeFranco, the Democrats who’ve gotten into the race already.

Scott Brown gives Setti Warren the brush-off


You’ve got to see this WBZ-TV (Channel 4) video of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown declining to shake hands with Newton Mayor Setti Warren, one of his Democratic challengers, at a Memorial Day parade in Newton yesterday. I’m not sure Brown knew who Warren was. But doesn’t that make it worse?

Update: Brown spokesman Felix Browne tells the Newton Tab that the senator did, in fact, shake hands with the mayor, saying they “had already shaken hands and exchanged greetings” just before the moment captured by video. I’ve emailed Channel 4 spokeswoman Ro Dooley-Webster, and will report back when she responds.

Update II: The Warren campaign tells Blue Mass Group that Brown didn’t decline to shake Warren’s hand. Rather, he waved off a chance to meet some veterans who had been marching with Warren. “We’re not concerned or worried about this, and Mayor Warren greatly enjoyed his time out at the parade yesterday,” the Warren staffer wrote.

Update III: I received the following statement from Channel 4 spokeswoman Ro Dooley-Webster a little before 6:30 p.m.: “We reported in our noon newscast that a representative for Mayor Warren confirmed that Senator Brown didn’t make time for the mayor when he approached him after the parade to introduce the senator to some veterans, but both campaigns confirm that Senator Brown and Mayor Warren greeted one another and shook hands earlier in the day and that the Mayor is not at all upset.”

Conflicting reports on a possible Brown foe

Setti Warren

Is Newton Mayor Setti Warren saying different things to different reporters about his future political aspirations? Or does it come down to a matter of emphasis and interpretation? That’s what folks at the Newton Tab want to know.

After Matt Murphy of the State House News Service reported that some Democrats were hoping Warren would challenge Republican Senator Scott Brown in 2012, Warren told Tab editor Gail Spector there was nothing to it.

But Warren didn’t come off as quite so emphatic in a Boston Globe story today by Alan Wirzbicki, who wrote, “Warren said he was focused on his job, but did not rule out a run and attacked Brown’s record.”

Lacking the full transcript of either interview, it’s hard to know what’s going on. Warren’s quote in the Tab — “My intent is to finish my term” — isn’t exactly a denial. And the Globe quotes Warren indirectly, so we don’t know what he actually said.

My guess is that both stories are right. And that Warren will soon be issuing a clarification.

More: The Tab’s Spector follows up with Warren. And he won’t be pinned down.

Photo via the City of Newton’s website.