WASHINGTON—Sure, Jay Carney faced a sea of hostile questions about President Obama’s health care plan and the Senate’s latest rejection of a presidential nominee. But the White House spokesman swaggered to the microphone with the confidence and pride that can only come from Washington’s most valuable prop of the moment: his blue Red Sox cap.
“Take my picture,” he said. “What a great night, and I was up late with my son.”
Politicos of all stripes clung to New England’s newest champions on Thursday, fulfilling the bipartisan obligation to pander in the name of sports.
Senator Edward J. Markey took to the Senate floor to introduce a clean energy bill, his first major policy legislation since he was sworn in this summer.
“But before I do so, I’d like to talk about another win last night in Massachusetts, and for Red Sox Nation everywhere,” the Massachusetts Democrat said.
He then launched an oratory so reverent he might as well have lumped Big Papi in with the nation’s Founding Papis.
The state’s other Democratic senator, Elizabeth Warren, also gave an important speech, trying to head off a filibuster for Obama’s nominee to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But Warren too began her remarks with an homage to the “scruffy beards” of a team that will be remembered both “for its heart and for its success.” She followed up with an email to her supporters, titled “Woo-hoo!”
Warren, as much as anyone, knows she has to cover her bases. During last year’s campaign, former Senator Scott Brown ran several sports-related advertisements, making hometown teams a central facet of his campaign image, as his fellow Republicans tried to paint Warren, an Oklahoma native, as an insincere Boston sports fan. Opposition research included prior statements she had made in support of the Houston Rockets, before she was in politics, of course.
Alas, there was bipartisan goodwill on Thursday, at least as it related to sports. Senator John Cornyn, the Senate’s number two Republican from Texas, smiled at Markey and congratulated the city of Boston when he took to the Senate floor—then got back to business as usual, a speech accusing Democrats of an un-democratic attempt to pack the nation’s appeals courts.
Massachusetts House members were mostly absent from Washington in the afterglow of the World Series win, as part of a long recess. But several still found ways to bask in the team’s success on their Twitter feeds.
Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, a Brookline Democrat, posted a series of Sox Tweets Wednesday night, including a picture of the Prudential Building, lit up with a giant “Go Sox” sign.
Representative Niki Tsongas may have one-upped him. On Thursdays, the Lowell Democrat likes to Tweet fun facts about the towns in her district. This week, she was able to tie in the Sox, including this gem: “Ivers Whitney Adams, founder and President of the Boston `Red Stockings,’ Boston’s first baseball team, lived in #Ashburnham!”
Not all of the tributes were so lighthearted. Markey, Warren, Kennedy, and even Carney alluded to the team’s role in unifying the city after the Boston Marathon bombing.
And even if there is political value in praising a winner, some of the politicians come by their allegiance quite honestly. Markey, who used to sell ice cream from a truck outside of Fenway, has held onto his standing-room ticket stub from a 1967 World Series game all these years.
But not everyone shares those bona fides. During the White House briefing Thursday, some reporters grew skeptical of Carney, the president’s spokesman, a Washington D.C. native.
They demanded answers: Aren’t you a Nationals fan?
Carney appeared to stumble, veering into a tangent about Baltimore’s team as he pleaded for the nation to remember a time when Washington did not have its own team.
“I mean, I have great respect and admiration for the Orioles, but didn’t go—you know, it didn’t work for me,” he said.
He then offered up his family ties to Boston, tried to split hairs with an acknowledgment that the Nationals are his favorite National League team, and told a romantic story of how he fell in love with “the pathos” of the 1986 Red Sox team.
The pathos is long gone. Now, it’s all about gloating.
“It’s been a great decade,” Carney said. “Great decade.”