Scot Lehigh

Random thoughts on the election

By Scot Lehigh
October 29, 2010

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LINGERING THOUGHTS after a long campaign:

■Did Republican gubernatorial nominee Charlie Baker mishear the question during Monday’s debate? Moderator Charlie Gibson asked the candidates what they considered the single most important virtue in a human being. “Patience,’’ Baker replied. Patience? This from a man whose regular debate demeanor has been barely restrained exasperation? Perhaps Baker thought Gibson had asked what virtue he lacked.

■If you were running for governor as an independent-minded maverick, wouldn’t you try to buttress that image by putting some gutsy reforms on the table? Not Treasurer Tim Cahill. He’s actually outdone his rivals in courting institutional interests. Indeed, one reason the State Police Association of Massachusetts didn’t endorse Cahill is that he made too many promises, not too few. That left the staties doubtful that he could deliver on them all. “Everything we asked, it was yes,’’ said union president Rick Brown.

■Gov. Patrick regularly — and correctly — points out that Baker’s budget and tax cut promises just don’t add up. So it’s odd that Patrick himself hasn’t provided any real details about how he’d approach next year’s structural budget gap of some $2 billion. When CNN’s John King asked the candidates that question during the Sept. 21 debate, the Democratic incumbent had little to offer beyond talk about growing the economy. As a short-term remedy, that’s more evasion than answer, however. Yet when Baker pressed Patrick on the same issue during Monday’s forum, Patrick still didn’t have a persuasive response. That’s an obvious failing — and one that has given Baker an opening to exploit in the campaign’s final days.

■Could someone remind me again why we had to include Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein, who holds no office and is barely an asterisk in the polls, in so many of this year’s debates?

■In response to a Globe report revealing that she and her husband were receiving property-tax treatment meant for primary residences in both Great Barrington and Boston, Suzanne Bump, the Democratic nominee for state auditor, said she had double-checked with officials in both places, and that they had confirmed that everything was hunky-dory. But how could that be, given that Boston revoked the residential exemption — and accepted repayment of the $5,875 it had saved the couple since 2007 — shortly after Bump, in damage control mode, requested a formal review?

Queried on that point Monday, Bump said that when she double-checked, she didn’t talk to Commissioner of Assessing Ron Rakow, who later revoked the exemption, but rather to an aide. Yet despite the tortured and self-serving distinction she originally drew between her “primary’’ and “principal’’ residences and her erroneous assertions that getting favorable tax treatment in both places was appropriate, Bump seemed offended that a reporter would question the extent of her due diligence. Why?

■Pettiness, thy name is William M. Bulger. Once out of office, most politicians mellow enough to show a little grace toward old opponents. Not Bulger. In a recent Globe profile of 10th District congressional candidate Bill Keating, who ran against him for the Senate presidency in the mid-1990s, Bulger had this to say: “I don’t want to describe Keating as a gnat but it was kind of like that.’’ (Translation: I want to describe Keating as a gnat, while pretending I don’t.)

That disdainful tone won’t surprise anyone who has read “While the Music Lasts,’’ the former South Boston senator’s memoir; in that long love letter to himself, Bulger displays the same disdainful tone toward any number of former foes. Still, it’s truly pathetic that a man as intelligent as Bulger remains so small-minded after all these years.

■Lastly, one terrific addition to the coverage of this year’s campaign has been NECN’s “Broadside: The News with Jim Braude,’’ which has presented a lively and informative array of candidate interviews and debates. Fast-talking, fair, well-informed, and funny — and willing to cut a bloviating guest off in mid-sentence — Braude has made “Broadside’’ a regular stop for political hopefuls and a must-watch for political junkies.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at