A WBUR poll this morning about who might run to fill John Kerry’s Senate seat if/when Kerry becomes Secretary of State showed an overwhelming preference for Scott Brown over former Governor Bill Weld for the GOP nomination. A valedictory op ed by Senator Scott Brown in a recent Boston Globe shows why the decision shouldn’t even be a close one. For all the differences I’ve had with Brown on issues, he really does seem to take the office seriously and is willing to work hard. That is definitely not Bill Weld. In his valedictory speech in the Senate, Brown hinted strongly he could be back. But, even if he passed on a Senate race to run for governor, there are better choices for the GOP than Bill Weld.
Some in the media, including – or, should I say, especially – Globe columnist Scot Lehigh (with whom I often agree) have drunk the Weld koolaid. It’s true, as Lehigh posited, that Weld is a “bigger, better thinker” than Brown and may even have a more engaging personality. But that’s personality in the abstract. Weld is indeed the kind of guy you might want to sit down and have a drink with. But, as governor, after he took care of the fiscal deficit at the beginning of 1991, he was more often found on the squash court than the corner office. His inclination toward all-day partaking of the “amber liquid” made him a joke among visitors and press alike. (Lehigh reports in all seriousness that Weld “has given up spirits in favor of wine.” )
Weld ran against the “walruses” in state government and disdained those who chose public service as a career. He even seemed to take his own role as a joke. Can anyone forget the year that, as the state’s top official, he stood next to Senate President William Bulger at the microphone at the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast in Southie, and made jokes about notorious crime boss Whitey Bulger, now facing charges of 19 counts of murder? Joan Vennochi has written of Weld’s “state of perpetual bemusement.”
Yes, he can take credit for cutting taxes, but, as did Governor Mitt Romney, Weld raised plenty of fees. There is, after all, a Constitutional mandate to balance the state budget. And he certainly can take credit for bringing top-notch people into his administration (Peter Nessen, Charlie Baker, Gloria Larson, Mark Robinson, Kathleen O’Toole come to mind as does his Supreme Court nomination of Margaret Marshall). But, with the exception of legendary Ted Kennedy staffers, it’s not the staffers whom we remember as key to the senatorial process. And Kennedy himself grew to be an epic work horse.
Bill Weld had such an aversion to hard work that, when North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms deep-sixed Bill Clinton’s nomination of Weld to be ambassador to Mexico (both because his pal Attorney General Ed Meese disliked Weld and because he didn’t think Weld would take seriously enough the US-Mexican drug trade), Weld refused a fall-back offer of an ambassadorship to India. That would have been a more challenging and more important position but clearly more work.
So the dabbler-in-chief took off for New York, ran a pathetic campaign for governor there, and now has parachuted back into Massachusetts, working at Mintz Levin and ML Strategies with his old bud Steve Tocco. his former economic affairs director.
There’s a lot I don’t like about Scott Brown: his stands on many issues, his quickness to dodge the media, his intermittent self-aggrandizement (“Every day I’ve met with kings and queens”), his anti-intellectual patronizing of “Professor Warren,” his centerfold celebrity tastes and probably more. But what came through in his valedictory message in the Globe was a genuine appreciation of what an “honor and privilege” it is to serve the people of Massachusetts. That concept seems alien to Bill Weld, who has an air of entitlement and who really couldn’t care less for the working stiffs of Massachusetts, who show up every day, put in their time, and don’t have trust funds to fall back on.
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