Joanna Weiss

Fighting to leave the past in the past

By Joanna Weiss
Globe Columnist / October 26, 2010

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‘NOT EVERYTHING in Massachusetts is bad!’’

That was one of Deval Patrick’s final statements in last night’s debate, and it may be a futile cry in an election year — or, at least, the election year that is 2010. Four years ago, a guy could legitimately run on hope and togetherness. This year, it’s “I tried my best to staunch the bleed — honest!’’ And saying your most valued personal quality is “compassion’’ makes you immediately suspect as a tax-and-spend guy.

Everyone else is running on the apocalypse, and Charlie Baker is so eager to spread the gloom that he once raised his hand to answer a question. (An even odder moment came when he said his most valued personal quality was “patience.’’ He seemed much more sincere when he declared “loyalty’’ overrated.)

Baker has played the part of chief doomsayer this year, and that’s how he’s now trying to spin the 1998 memo he wrote as Paul Cellucci’s budget czar, complaining that Big Dig financing was “starting to feel surreal.’’ Now, Baker says he was being responsible at the time. “I certainly hope someone’s writing a memo to you,’’ he told Patrick.

But the Big Dig is Baker’s “Together We Can’’ — a past note of triumph gone sour — and even Patrick couldn’t help but get snide last night: “I am very reluctant to take fiscal advice from the architect of the Big Dig financing plan.’’ Tim Cahill had one of his best moments when he contrasted his relative transparency with school construction funding.

Still, Baker is probably right when he says people don’t care about the Big Dig anymore. That was the past, and today’s traumas are more vivid. Patrick is actually the one who’s preaching patience, and Baker wants to convince voters that’s an overrated virtue. If he can, he still has a shot at victory.

Joanna Weiss can be reached at

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