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SCOT LEHIGH

New gig for old political hand

THE LAST YEAR has been a time of trauma and transition for Michael Goldman.

After bumping his shin on a plastic crate last July and apparently lodging a sliver in his right leg, the hyperkinetic political consultant lay in the hospital for long weeks at real risk of losing the limb. Draining and treatment with intravenous antibiotics finally arrested a severe infection that had spread from just above his ankle to over his knee, swelling the leg to twice its normal size. Even after being released from the hospital, Goldman was confined to bed for another four months.

Finally recovered, he is now revving at about three-quarters speed. But after more than a quarter-century of political combat, Goldman, who cut his teeth as a top aide at the old Metropolitan District Commission back in the first Dukakis administration, is leaving politics for a new opportunity: a six-days-a-week talk show on Bloomberg Radio.

The show, "Simply Put," is co-hosted by Goldman and former MetroWest Daily News columist and author Tom Moroney. Currently a weekend affair, in mid-July it will be become a regular week-day show on WBBR-AM in New York City, a station whose signal reaches as far southwest as Philadelphia and as far northeast as Worcester and that also covers the Cape and the Islands. "Simply Put" will also be carried on the XM, the Sirius, and the World Space satellite systems.

In a medium that often resembles a partisan food fight, with bombast and insults crowding out insightful discussion, Goldman, a diehard Democrat, wants the show to offer a different sort of listening experience.

"We're not looking to do liberal or conservative," he says. "The trouble with talk radio is that they have come to believe that the only thing people want is to hear their most extreme positions -- with neither side acknowledging that the other side has any validity to its arguments -- when what people really want is smart, balanced talk."

Goldman, who has done several weekend shows for WRKO over the years, says he hopes listeners will come away feeling as though they have heard a truly intelligent discussion and have learned something new from it.

Although he is obviously relishing the new opportunity, the full-time radio job also means ending his work for political candidates. For someone who has been talking to Goldman about campaigns and politics for two decades, it's hard to imagine an election season without his strategic perspective, his irrepressible energy, his imaginative spin -- and, yes, his deep-on-deadline calls that are nigh unto impossible to end. Teased about the latter, Goldman laughs good-naturedly. "Well," he says, "you have to take the bad with the good."

There has been plenty of good. The 55-year-old consultant has been a fixture in Massachusetts politics for a quarter century. In 2002 he was instrumental in Bob Reich's late-starting gubernatorial campaign; in 2000 he worked on Bill Bradley's presidential bid. He was the strategist behind Phil Johnston's underdog congressional run in 1996, a long-odds apparent upset that was later overturned by the courts.

In 1986 he nudged a bumbling Joe Kennedy out of the pages of Paris Match and into the local papers in the Eighth District. He labored long to help George Keverian of Everett unseat then Speaker Thomas McGee in a legendary legislative leadership fight in 1983-84 and worked for Scott Harshbarger in his successful primary challenge to sitting attorney general Jim Shannon in 1990.

And he was Bill Keating's right-hand-man for his failed challenge to then Senate President William M. Bulger in 1993-94. Indeed, as he sits at his desk telling old war stories, Goldman can't help chortling about the way Bulger described him in his 1996 memoir: "He was able, ambitious, intelligent and the practitioner of an utterly ruthless calculus." Now, being called "utterly ruthless" by Bill Bulger is a little like being labeled a carnivore by a coyote, and Goldman is still tickled by the irony.

Ruthless? No. Hard-charging? Certainly. But there has always been about the man a generosity, a loyalty -- and, it must be said, a volubility -- that is unusual in a trade of political hired guns.

"He is a wonderful person," declares Johnston, now the state Democratic Party chairman. "He is ferociously loyal to his clients and his friends."

Which is why, as he embarks on his new career in radio, and leaves the world of political consulting behind, the many who count Michael Goldman as a friend will be wishing him well.

Scot Lehigh's e-mail address is lehigh@globe.com. 

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