Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Some Thoughts On Martha Coakley

In the middle of October, I received a call from a reporter for a major local publication. He had seen this post and seemed to expect that I would have bad things to say about Martha Coakley, who at that point had not yet won the primary election. Coakley, remember, had a rough time when she argued in front of the Supreme Court, at one point not knowing the answer to a predictable question and at another misstating the record and being corrected by the Chief Justice.

I was reluctant to criticize the Attorney General, in part due to cowardice and in part because arguing in front of any appellate panel is an immensely difficult skill to master. Much less the United States Supreme Court. So I wouldn't give this reporter the juicy quote he unabashedly sought and he moved on.

But I had misgivings. The Attorney General's performance before the Supreme Court was a signal that something was amiss. Perhaps it was a lack of diligence. Or an inability to engage in complex strategic thinking. Perhaps it was a lack of respect for an important institution. Or all three. Or something else. Whatever it was, I was spooked. My vote in the primary reflected that.

There are smarter, snarkier, more eloquent folks than me spilling bytes and barrels of ink about HOW ON EARTH THIS HAPPENED. It could have been a wave (maybe) or sexism (maybe) or tepid support from the party (er, probably not). I find myself returning to that Supreme Court argument. You don't back into a seat in the United States Senate. If you don't work for it -- I mean put every ounce of your being into it -- and you don't understand the strategic significance of looking like you're not working for it, people are going to think that you don't respect them and vote for the candidate who *is* working hard. Which seems to be what happened.

As for Scott Brown, well, he's to be congratulated. I can't restrain myself from providing one word of unsolicited advice to our new Senator: you probably don't want to join Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn's Ayn Rand book club or anything. You are, after all, a Senator from Massachusetts, not Oklahoma. You'll want to have that in mind as you make your way.

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