Posts Tagged ‘Deval Patrick’

Farewell to Charles E. Doyle

October 17, 2008

Charles E. Doyle 

Occasionally this blog tells the story of the great personalities who comprise the fabric of the city, the ones who you won’t necessarily read about in the daily newspapers. One of those people died this week, Charlie Doyle of Brighton.

If I were forced to reduce Doyle’s life to headlines, which is always difficult, I’d describe him as the leader — the innovator really — of a vibrantly progressive ward committee in Brighton, Ward 21, a long-time city politico, having run the City of Boston’s Cable Office under a number of city mayors, a political visionary and a Bostonian’s Bostonian.

But I can’t really boil Doyle down to that, because he was much, much more. His story begins amid the simmering liberalism of the late 1950s and early 1960s — before it turned into the cauldron of the latter part of that decade. He graduated from the now-defunct St. Columbkille High School of Brighton and travelled down Commonwealth Avenue to attend Boston University. There he electrified fellow students with his encyclopedic knowledge of politics and history. Then he went even farther afield for a graduate program at Columbia University in New York City. New York, at that time, was a place of swirling intellectual and political foment. Charlie and I talked about that period in his life when I visited with him at the Cable Office in the mid-1990s. It helped power a intellectual engine, but he came back to Brighton to make a difference.

When he came back, Charlie put into practice his knowledge of the burgeoning field of political science. At a time when most ward committee work was limited to distributing political signs, Doyle was turning it into a science. He gathered detailed voter data, compiled demographic information, and kept the best data bases in the city.

My grandparents lived in Brighton for much of my life, and I thought I knew the neighborhood. That was until I called Doyle for a story. In painstaking — and delicious — detail, he broke down the differences between the liberal, but sometimes transient, Ward 21, and the more socially-conservative, Ward 22.

He was a skilled photographer. His work, which was on display at his wake, could serve as a pictorial history of Boston with vintage photos of Kevin White, Larry Bird and others. He was ahead of the curve on a trend that has become very popular today, bicycle riding. I remember on him tooling around his bike at Nantasket Beach in Hull. He remained a political junkie until the end, relishing WGBH’s Friday night line up of political shows, beginning with Greater Boston.

But, most of all, Doyle was the quiet creator of a political dynasty in Brighton. He took the two basketball-loving sons of his sister Mary under his wing and imparted to them everything he ever knew about politics. It was his gift. He bestowed it on the dogged and lovable Kevin Honan, who has become as reliable and earnest a representative as that neighborhood has ever had. And he delivered it to the charismatic, witty and talented Brian Honan, who served Brighton as a city councillor and then was running a rigorous campaign for district attorney, when he died suddenly and tragically at the age of 39 in 2002.

I can’t say that Charlie was the same after that. But who would be.

There was something awful about seeing many of the same faces at the funeral home on Chestnut Hill Avenue yesterday. Amidst the pain, people were talking about one of Charlie’s great final achievements. Back in 2005 and 2006 a former Clinton Administration official, little known in the Boston area, started making the rounds trying to meet people and build up a grass roots political organization. He was, of course, Deval Patrick. Most insiders met Patrick with indifference at best.

Doyle was different. He welcomed Patrick to a ward committee meeting. There he grilled the would-be governor. Why was he any different than any of the other great progressive candidates, whose candidacies failed after great fanfare? Patrick convinced many in the ward that he was different. He took 14/18 delegates at the caucuses that year.

With Doyle’s departure, like the death of Boston-chronicler Alan Lupo a couple weeks ago, the city is a poorer place, one more in danger of losing its character and characters.

Republican Infighting on the Eve of Debate

October 15, 2008

The backdrop of Republican infighting for tonight’s presidential debate is not good for John McCain. I was surprised to see such vocal and critical comments from William Kristol, a longtime John McCain ally, so close to the election. In case you missed it, here’s what Kristol said: “It’s a stupid campaign,” Kristol said in remarks reported in the New York Times. “It’s really become a pathetic campaign.”

Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter, answers Kristol in an op-ed today. While he doesn’t cite Kristol by name — another former Bush speechwriter, David Frum, and a New York Times columnist, David Brooks, have also be leveling complaints about the McCain campaign — read it and you’ll get the point.

John McCain has reached this stage of criticism among conservatives. Some attack him for “frenetic improvisation,” while others urge him to frenetically improvise. His campaign is in a “defensive crouch” while also being “obnoxious” in its “phony populism.” McCain’s running mate is a “fatal cancer” who should “read more books.”

This kind of cheap shot is, thank goodness, the prerogative of the commentator — an option I will doubtlessly exercise in the future. But having once been on the political side of the divide, I remember how truly obnoxious such advice can become. If only the candidate would fire his entire campaign staff and travel the country in a used Yugo, speaking in the parking lots of 7-Elevens, the gap would be closed. If only the candidate would buy three hours in prime time and give a bold, historic speech (which has been helpfully sent under separate cover), the entire election would be turned around. If only the candidate would finally highlight his opponent’s ties to Colombian drug cartels, the illuminati and the British royal family — or perhaps abandon all this suicidal negativity — the election could certainly be won. And yes, above all, the candidate must be himself.

McCain might benefit from shifts in strategy: a retooled stump speech has already been rolled out. But sometimes a candidate who is down in the polls is not an incompetent but a bystander. While America remains a center-right country, this may well be a Marxist election in which economic realities are determining the political superstructure.

The diverging political fortunes of Barack Obama and McCain can be traced to a single moment. In the middle of September, the net favorable rating for each candidate was about the same. By Oct. 7, Obama was ahead on this measure by about 16 points. Did McCain suddenly become a stumbling failure? No, the world suddenly went into an economic slide. Americans blamed the party with executive power, which is also the party most closely tied in the public mind to bankers and Wall Street. None of this was fair to McCain, who has never been the Wall Street type. But party images are vivid, durable and almost impossible to shift on short notice.

Previous to this economic free fall — and after his transformative vice-presidential choice — McCain was about tied in a race he should have been losing by a large margin. The public clearly had questions about Obama’s leadership qualities. But the McCain campaign also proved itself capable of constructing an effective narrative: Obama as lightweight celebrity, McCain as maverick reformer. Until history intervened.

Following the onset of the crisis, McCain was left with flawed options. He reasonably chose to work for a responsible bailout while hoping the markets would stabilize quickly. Instead, the bailout proved politically unpopular and the markets gyrated like the Pussycat Dolls. Then McCain raised Obama’s past association with William Ayers — a valid attack if properly raised. (Can anyone doubt that the past political association of McCain with a right-wing terrorist would attract some attention?) But this accusation naturally looks small compared to the nation’s outsized economic fears.


Here’s where I come down in this debate. I think Gerson’s spot on with the fact that something very much akin to a tidal wave hit the McCain campaign when the drastic economic downturn struck in September. Fair or not, as Gerson asserts, the party in control of the executive branch wears the after-effects of a major crisis.

But Kristol and company have a point too. The McCain campaign has compounded its problems by raising questions about Obama that do look small at a time like this (as Gerson acknowledges.) I know from my own reporting that McCain campaign operatives examined the Deval Patrick-Kerry Healey race in 2006. They saw how Healey’s tough law and order ads not only failed but also sent the campaign into a downward spiral. Those mean-spirited ads alienated independent swing voters and had no resonance in what was then very much a “change” election. Yet despite that knowledge they made the same mistake.

I’m not sure how you take a candidate who has been in the Senate for more than two decades and never seriously dealt with the economy and run him in the midst of an economic crisis. My sense is that if McCain had come out of his time-out with a serious and newfound commitment to the issue and made the case that he was the best man for troubled times, he would have had to be doing better than he is now. But, as I’ve said before, the tide is against him.

Obama and Patrick

August 5, 2008

Barack Obama’s appearance in Boston last night with Governor Patrick prompted me to write about how the governor’s performance might foretell an Obama presidency.

“In Massachusetts, where his friend and political ally Deval Patrick won the top office by campaigning in an eerily similar fashion to Senator Obama, voters have a Petri dish to examine what the Democratic candidate’s presidency might be like should he win in November.

Comparisons between the two men are in order once again. Mr. Obama celebrated his 47th birthday in Boston last night at a $4 million fundraiser with Governor Patrick at his side.

Like Mr. Obama’s campaign, Mr. Patrick’s was heavy on sweeping rhetoric and increased expectations. Advised by, among others, David Axelrod, who is also Mr. Obama’s chief strategist, Mr. Patrick offered state voters the prospect of great change.

In the first months of his governorship, Mr. Patrick weathered his worst political problems. After several months, he stabilized his position by bringing in an experienced team of staffers. Yet the extraordinary promise his campaign once offered has given way to ordinary political wrangling. For example, to help pay for his ideas, Mr. Patrick turned to backing the introduction of legalized casino gambling in Massachusetts. When it looked like the legislature would defeat the gambling effort — which it did — Mr. Patrick quietly headed out of state and scored a book deal in New York.”

I also point out some of the governor’s strengths:

“Since taking office Mr. Patrick has been a vocal proponent of Massachusetts becoming a national and international center of biotech research. He pushed for the passage of a $1 billion life sciences initiative and was named “Governor of the Year” by the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

His courageous decision to campaign on behalf of a controversial wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, Cape Wind (even when it was opposed by Senator Kennedy), has looked better with energy costs spiraling upward.

Mr. Patrick believes he can grow jobs in Massachusetts by making the state a haven for clean jobs. The governor signed his Clean Energy Bill last month, which, among other provisions, ties utility contracts to the funding of local clean energy companies.”

What’s Happening with Treasurer Tim Cahill

July 18, 2008

Local news reports are filled with speculation about the aggressive stance Tim Cahill has taken towards Governor Patrick’s budget. PolitickerMA weighs in with a story:

“Putting aside whether Patrick’s plan is reckless or not, the fiery exchange between Murray and Cahill (the Globe’s Casey Ross called Murray’s remarks ‘unusually heated’) has not gone unnoticed by political analysts who believe both pols are eyeing the governor’s mansion. In particular, Cahill’s injecting himself into the budget discussion, they say, is a way to stay politically relevant.”

Reporter Jeremy Jacobs, who’s rapidly catching the eye of Bay State politicos, also quotes me in the dispatch. ” ‘Tim Cahill appears to be using his position as the Commonwealth’s chief financial officer to raise his political profile,’ said Seth Gitell, political analyst and author of ‘Consistently underestimated, Cahill has shown himself to be a strong statewide office holder.’ Gitell said Cahill is in a unique position to capitalize politically on the struggling economy. ‘[Cahill’s] oversight of the budget — a top priority during difficult fiscal times — creates an opportunity for him to make headlines. This could pay dividends if either Governor Patrick eventually joins a Barack Obama administration or if the governor’s poll numbers plummet.'”

Interestingly, back in 2002, I was one of the few writers to write about the race for treasurer let alone take Cahill seriously. “Tim Cahill has raised the most money in the race. He also has the most radical ideas for changing the role of treasurer: ‘We should have these Harvard and Yale people telling us how to invest our money? The treasurer’s job is to have that responsibility and make those decisions.’ ”

Boston Celebrates Israel at 60

May 8, 2008

Turnout was big for Israel’s 60th Anniversary celebration at the John F. Kennedy Library last night. Governor Patrick, along with Myra Kraft and Israel’s Consul General, Nadav Tamir, addressed the crowd. 

Patrick, whose fortunes figure to rise with the tough times of Speaker DiMasi and the resurgence of Barack Obama, gave a brief, good speech. He pointed out that Massachusetts governors have a record of supporting Israel since William Russell attached his name to the Jewish cause in 1891.

He also announced that he plans to lead a trade mission on behalf of the Commonwealth to Israel. While I’d expect the papers to get on him for this as time away from the state, I think there are some natural synergies between our state and Israel where biotech is emerging as a major industry.

I’ll have more on this historic milestone for Israel later in the week.