Friday, February 12, 2010

Will The Real Scott Brown Stand Up

I lay claim to being the only political observer in America who took the election of Scott Brown to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts with a grain of salt.

I chalked up his victory as impeccable timing in a strong Democratic stronghold because of disenchantment of voters and a Democratic challenger who ran an inept campaign. Nor was I moved Brown would join a filibuster crazed Republican Senate as its 41st member. He couldn't screw up the supermajority rules any more than they already were.

But, when Republican operatives launched a whispering campaign that the handsome Senator-elect, who once posed nude in Cosmopolitan, was presidential timber, I couldn't restrain myself with one huge guffaw.

Who is Scott Brown?

I don't mean his apparent dolting fatherhood telling the faithful at his acceptance speech one of his daughters was available.I liked that. It's something dumb my father would say if he had a daughter.

No, I was more interested in the meat and potatoes of his decade in the state legislature. Thanks to the Washington Post, we now have a clue. The guy's a cream puff, but with an asterick attached.

In the Massachusetts Senate, Brown was the junior member of only five Republicans. He deferred to his seniors. But he represented his district with vigor with such mundane things as getting a liquor license for a local pizzeria.

Only one of 180 bills he introduced became law. That was a $1,000 "gift" veterans could claim after returning home from service.

The Post said it examined every roll call vote cast by Brown in his 11 years as a representative and senator.

Brown, a self-described fiscal conservative, found himself voting in favor of spending for his pet projects such as on energy, the environment and his National Guard units, according to the Post analysis. He voted with the Republican minority 90% of the time.

I found it quite revealing in this quotation from the state's taxpayers association:

"Scott's going from a position in which [he] didn't have much impact," said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a nonprofit policy group that often advises the state legislature. Widmer said he had "very little" interaction with Brown, despite his concern about taxes: "In all my years in and around government and politics, this is one of the most breathtaking transformations of role." 

Brian P. Lees, former state senate minority leader, described Brown as diligent and "a really likable guy."

State Senate President Therese Murray, a Democrat, recalled that Brown advocated successfully for a measure setting penalties for sex offenses. "Other than that," Murray said, "I don't remember him taking the lead on anything at all." 

A lawyer, triathlete and National Guard officer, Brown, 50, arrived in the gold-domed statehouse in 1999, winning a seat in the House after holding two municipal offices in his home town of Wrentham.

The Post:

Over time, Brown increasingly reintroduced legislation that had failed -- about two-thirds of his bills were repeats. 

His history, including on issues relevant to Congress, is mixed. 

Calling himself a fiscal conservative, he repeatedly introduced legislation that would lower the state income tax and voted against the Democratic majority on taxes more than half the time; yet he simultaneously opposed many efforts by governors to curb state spending. 

He has also shifted his stances on certain polarizing social issues. Most recently, he backed away after his election from his longtime support for the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which prohibits openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military, telling a television interviewer that he wanted first to ask generals what they thought. 

Apparently, I'm not alone asking: Will the real Scott Brown stand up?"

"Nationally, people are saying, who is Scott Brown? Is he an ideologue, an opportunist -- in fact, the open-minded thinker he claims to be?" said Paul Watanabe, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. In Massachusetts, he added, "we have these same questions."

I doubt Scott Brown will be much of a wildcard in the U.S. Senate. Otherwise, he's got a lot of  'splaining' to do as Desi Arnaz would tell Lucy.

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