Joan Vennochi

Brown’s glossy veneer conceals misleading campaign

By Joan Vennochi
Globe Columnist / January 14, 2010

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MASSACHUSETTS VOTERS have a serious choice to make.

They can fall for the frisky, truck-driving guy in a TV commercial - and end up electing a US senator who blocks much of President Obama’s domestic agenda.

Appalled at arrogant Democrats, Wall Street bankers, and terrorists who sport attack underwear, voters can turn their anger into an excuse for replacing Ted Kennedy with a state senator who is running a clever, but ultimately dishonest campaign.

It is “the people’s seat’’ as Republican Scott Brown said during his debate with Democrat Martha Coakley. And for 47 years, the people of Massachusetts elected someone who stood for political principles that are the opposite of what Brown represents.

Strip away Brown’s pretty packaging - his Massachusetts National Guard combat fatigues, his “American Idol’’- contending daughter, his warm and fuzzy ads - and this is what you get.

He is allegedly for health care reform, except he doesn’t support the historic health care reform legislation that is on the brink of passage in Washington and was Kennedy’s life quest.

He supports Roe v. Wade, except that a prominent anti-abortion advocacy group backs him as a “pro-life vote in the Senate.’’

He dispatched his 21-year old daughter to attack Coakley for stating the truth: In 2005, Brown sponsored a legislative amendment that would have allowed medical personnel to deny emergency contraception to rape victims if it “conflicts with a sincerely held religious belief.’’ The amendment didn’t pass, but Brown owned it. It was attached to a bill that he ultimately voted for, which required emergency rooms to provide contraceptives to rape victims.

Recently, Brown told the Boston Herald that gay marriage “is settled law. People have moved on.’’ Not long ago, though, he wanted to put it up for a referendum.

Brown bristles at Coakley’s persistent efforts to tie him to the Bush-Cheney years. But, he supports Bush-Cheney policies, from taxes to torture.

And he’s willing to tap into that familiar Bush-Cheney fear factor, which paints Democrats as soft and weak “I have to be honest with you, folks. . . I’m scared of some of the policies I’ve heard,’’ he said during Monday night’s debate.

You want scary?

Brown’s a lawyer. But he uses the term “lawyered-up’’ as an insult, instead of what it is - a principle that makes America different from - and better than - the rest of the world. Under the Bush administration, Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a transatlantic flight with explosives planted in his shoe, was tried in a civilian court; he will, as Coakley repeatedly points out, spend the rest of his life in prison.

Brown is also a judge advocate general, sworn to uphold the Geneva Conventions, who insists water-boarding is not torture. With that strange argument, he clashes with John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee who endorsed him.

Brown and Obama agree on the need to send more troops to Afghanistan. Yet in his book, “True Compass,’’ Kennedy wrote that his proudest vote was the one he cast against the invasion of Iraq. Kennedy was a passionate Obama supporter, and no one can project what position he would embrace regarding Afghanistan. But it’s fair to conclude that on matters of war and peace, Kennedy would do what he always did: ask tough questions, as Coakley pledges to do.

Coakley has a record that should matter to voters. She cracked down on Wall Street. She won hundreds of millions of dollars for taxpayers by taking on Big Dig contractors. She prosecuted Neil Entwistle, who murdered his wife and baby, and ex-priest Paul Shanley for child molestation.

She has run a dull Senate campaign, and she doesn’t talk in quotable sound bites. But if voters are truly tired of “politics as usual,’’ why choose artifice over a candidate who isn’t trying to be anything but herself?

She represents change, too. Coakley would make history as the first female senator from Massachusetts.

Brown represents a different kind of change. He wants voters to forget what he stood for in the past and accept him for the positions he now embraces.

Believing him is a risky choice for Massachusetts.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at

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