Image by Tak Toyoshima
A little more than a week ago, on a gross and sticky day not unlike that through which you are now suffering, something spectacular happened. Finally removed from the dark shadow cast over the region by tandem naive hope and growing despair over a Boston 2024 Olympics, out in the real world beyond Mass for a change, I saw the larger grand old political planet in action, and have returned with some observations from my plunge into the sea of perpetual stupid.
It’s unclear whether the national GOP brand has cheapened since legislative localvores like me stopped paying attention to much national noise, or if stains like former Texas Governor Rick Perry just seem that much more depraved compared to the Massachusetts spectacles which I have primarily attended to for over a year now. In any case, with or without Donald Trump waving his junk around, it’s worth ogling the Republican dolts who are vying to succeed Barack Obama as president—as they crisscross New Hampshire, appear on your radio, wherever.
At the very least, as seen on Monday in the first GOP candidate forum of the current election cycle, some 2016 hopefuls are hideous enough to make even curmudgeonly Massholes appreciate their neighborhood pols for a change. You think that your state rep is a goon? Just wait until you get a load of Pennsylvania punchline Rick Santorum, who in his turn boasted about his chilling implementation of “welfare reform” and about spiking entitlement programs for poor people. Such comments were par for the (pun intended) coarse; hosted by the Union Leader, Manchester’s daily and a conservative staple in the quadrennial primary process, the theatrics offered an interesting if not harrowing look at the madness that’s transpiring across the border.
It’s no coincidence that most bigwig Republicans blend into the New England fabric. Whereas candidates chew nails and spit tobacco when they pander in Iowa, unless they’re in the rural throes of northern New Hampshire, pols slumming in these parts tend to show up decked in casual prep gear, which is generic enough to mix in with constituents across the socioeconomic spectrum. It’s worth noting that a lot of hopefuls should have no problem assimilating; despite their proud anti-intellectual postures, many conservative honchos maintain strong area ties through Ivy League roots—from double-Harvard grad and Texas Senator Ted Cruz to former New York Governor and Yale alumnus George Pataki and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who attended Brown University. Superficiality aside though, substance did play some role in the forum, as radio talker Jack Heath, the event’s moderator, dove into a range of issues powering the conversation over 2016.
Free of all prestigious alma mater links beyond those of his ex-president brother and father, in his chance facing Heath, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush skipped any pretense of Yankee civility and beat the drum for violent conflict loud enough to give Dick Cheney his first boner in months. Though he refrained from unbuttoning and pounding his pectorals, Bush nonetheless declared war against “barbarians” who threaten our civilization and said America should hack away at civil liberties for love of homeland (without so much as a sneer from the Granite State gallery).
Are you inspired yet to hug a Massachusetts politician? You may want to thank Joe Curtatone for not being like Jindal of Louisiana, whose crusade against sanctuary cities and immigrants recently caught the ire of the Somerville mayor. I am a longtime critic of Curtatone, but since the Boston Herald marinated beef between him and Jindal over the latter’s dishonest characterization of municipal sanctuary, I have no choice but to go with Joe. I guess that’s how politics works, at all levels. Whether you adore or loathe Obama, for example, chances are you’d rather hang with him and Hova than with Kim Jong Un and Dennis Rodman. Curtatone has his faults and seems to favor certain deep-pocketed supporters, sure; Jindal, on the much more extreme side of things, told Heath on Monday that Americans should ditch their racial and ethnic identities.
I haven’t been enthusiastic about Mass Governor Charlie Baker’s new budget, or about his appointing business interests to steer the state Department of Education; but at least he’s not Rick Perry, who all but told the audience in Manchester on Monday that he would personally deploy to snipe Mexicans at the border if needed. Similarly, Baker may have ties to New Jersey sleaze Chris Christie, but unlike the Garden State governor, our guy doesn’t resort to perverted histrionics in claiming to have thwarted terrorist activity. In Manchester, Christie had the balls to blame the Obama administration for the state of VA hospitals; in comparison, now that he’s in office, Baker rarely even reminds us that his Democratic predecessor left our state Health Connector in bureaucratic shambles.
Billed as a more inclusive alternative to Thursday’s Fox News debate, which will feature only 10 of the 17 or so Republican contestants, the Union Leader forum aimed to “give voters a chance to see the larger field of candidates” and to “give the voters a chance to have their issues addressed.” I don’t know about any of that, but I did learn that South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham grew up in the back of a liquor store, and that Dr. Ben Carson, an author and retired neurosurgeon who has captured pro-life hearts with his passive-belligerent rhetoric about healthcare, would use the Bible as the base of his tax policy.
In the middle of a spiel by Carly Fiorina, the business executive in the race with a particular vendetta against Hillary Clinton, I started questioning my intended return to national consciousness. If reality is Fiorina saying she would defund Planned Parenthood in the same breath as proclaiming a responsibility to care for citizens, then I’m happy to live in a Bay State bubble. As pundits remind us every four years, Massachusetts plays no real part in picking the president anyway. I can’t speak for all voters, but with candidates like those to choose from, my attention’s probably better spent trying to keep relatively benevolent Commonwealth politicians in check.