Jeff Jacoby

Patrick finds Baker’s Achilles’ heel

By Jeff Jacoby
Globe Columnist / October 26, 2010

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CHARLIE BAKER knew the question was coming.

As the state’s secretary of administration and finance in 1998, he wrote a memo to the file that described the financing of the massive Big Dig project as “simply amazing’’ and warned that its soaring bottom line would force “draconian’’ cuts on other transportation projects. Yet in his public comments to legislators and reporters, he insisted that nobody “could argue that the artery will be pulling money away from non-artery projects.’’ Why, moderator Charlie Gibson asked during the final televised gubernatorial debate last night, was he saying one thing in private and something else in public?

That was a question to which there simply is no good answer, so Baker tried to turn the tables.

“I hope,’’ he said to Governor Deval Patrick, “that somebody’s writing you a memo’’ on how to meet the state’s current fiscal crisis.

But Patrick was ready with a comeback of his own. Baker’s retort would have more credibility, he said, if he had actually “written that memo to someone, instead of just stuffing it in a drawer.’’

Tim Cahill was ready, too, reciting for the umpteenth time how as treasurer he had dealt candidly with burgeoning costs, and how “you have to be able to say ‘no’ when everybody wants you to say ‘yes.’ ’’

The moderator put the question to Baker again. Baker again tried to pivot to the current budget shortfall, and how he “sure hope[s] somebody’s writing a memo’’ explaining how to close it.

The issue took up just three minutes of the fast-paced debate. Expect it to take up considerably more of the week remaining in this race. For months the Patrick campaign has struggled to find their gifted opponent’s Achilles’ heel. In a 12-year-old memo to the file, they may have found it.

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at

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