Yvonne Abraham

A befitting indignation

By Yvonne Abraham
Globe Columnist / December 2, 2009

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Anger isn’t always bad.

Some people are chilled by Mike Capuano’s chippiness, put off by his pugilism, repelled by his riled-upedness.

I find his fire refreshing. I admire his take-me-or-leave-me frankness. I’m grateful for his outrage.

Because there is so very much for this US Representative and Senate hopeful to be angry about.

His colleagues are trying to gut meaningful health care reform. We’re sending thousands of our sons and daughters to risk their precious lives in a country ruled by a regime nobody trusts. We’ve let the hucksters who run our financial system get away with blue murder; we pay billions to bail them out, then they refuse to lend us money.

When Capuano talks about these things, he does it with a passion you know is heartfelt and visceral. You know this because he often looks like his veins will burst.

At an otherwise sleepy candidates’ forum on Monday morning, Capuano was consistently forceful, sitting forward in his chair, swelling with indignation. He lambasted tax cuts for the wealthy as having produced worse than no benefits for the rest of us. He called sky-high college loans “unconscionable.’’ He pummeled his Washington colleagues for turning blind eyes to Wall Street.

This was nothing compared to the time in a Somerville park a while back, when he brandished a baseball bat at an unleashed rottweiler who was scaring his then 9-year-old son (I have no problem with this. They are scary dogs).

And then there was the February congressional hearing, when he lectured apologetic bankers on the financial crisis.

“You come to us today, on your bicycles, after buying Girl Scout cookies, and helping out Mother Teresa, telling us ‘We’re sorry, we didn’t mean it, we won’t do it again. Trust us,’ ’’ he said, fairly spitting. “Well, I have some people in my constituency that actually robbed some of your banks, and they say the same thing. They’re sorry, they didn’t mean it, they won’t do it again. Just let ’em out.’’

Sure, he was grandstanding, but he was also saying things a lot of ordinary people wish they could say, too.

Now, it’s possible Capuano is angry about too many things.

His shoulder holds more chips than a Vegas poker table.

For example, he seems quite stuck on how people have kept him down - even though he managed to go from a working class Somerville upbringing to Dartmouth and Boston College Law School, get elected mayor of his hometown, and win a seat in Congress, where he’s a trusted and high-ranking ally of the speaker of the House. We should all be kept down like that.

And Capuano’s propensity to pop off sometimes gets him in trouble, like when he got all high dudgeon on Attorney General Martha Coakley for saying she would block a health care bill that included restrictions on abortion, then conceded the next day that he would do the same if it came back from the Senate with the restrictions intact.

He’s not one to avoid an argument - even with a voter he’s trying to win over.

He will differ with the man in a Milford tavern who is angry about illegal immigrants qualifying for housing, telling him compassion should trump law. He will accuse a woman who opposes health care reform in a Somerville diner of having a “the-hell-with-everyone-else’’ attitude. And he will sit in front of a room full of Suffolk University students and be the one Democratic Senate candidate who tells them he doesn’t see why the voting age should be lowered to 17.

Whether you agree with Capuano or not, he is undeniably himself out there. He is the most un-managed serious candidate we have seen in years, and certainly in this Senate race.

We used to have a lot of politicians like him around here - imperfect, scrappy, passionate - and we celebrated them. We should celebrate them still.

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at