Subject To Debates

I watched yesterday's Republican Presidential debate, attended (most of) last night's at-large Boston City Council debate, and read up on last night's 5th Congressional District debate. Just a few thoughts:

--I kind of feel bad for Jim Ogonowski; it's a lot to ask for a total political neophyte to turn himself into a top-notch campaigner in the short span of a special election. He needed to rely heavily on his staff to guide him, and I don't think they've done him a great service, as I partially outlined yesterday. I mean come on, if you're going to run as a non-partisan independent, you have to be prepared to cite a couple of the other party's bills you would vote for. That's just basic.
    Of course, I don't feel that bad for him -- for all I know, a week from today he might be a US Congressman, which is a pretty sweet gig. Good salary, great benefits, and VIP treatment everywhere you go. Of course, with that reward comes great responsibilities. Well, one responsibility, actually: when the bell rings, you have to go downstairs, take the subway car across the street to the Capitol building, walk to the front of the chamber, insert your special House member card, and cast a vote.
    Ogonowski continues to give the impression that he's not so comfortable with that part of the job. That's a real problem -- and seems to have contributed heavily to his losing the Lowell Sun's endorsement -- because aside from voting on bills, the only other thing that anyone in your district cares about (particularly for a minority-party freshman) is that when they get their chance to pose for a photo with you, you remember to wear pants.

--Mitt Romney has a challenger for champion Tin Man status: that is, the inability to display any hint of human compassion for other people. Fred Thompson, making his big debut yesterday, shrugged off the economic distress of Michigan, the state he happened to be standing in; shrugged off the "shrinking American dream," as the questioner put it, of those who lose their careers in the new economy; and shrugged off the notion of helping resolve the UAW/Chrysler dispute by implying that the auto industry is not economically important (again, he was standing in Dearborne).

--I was sorely disappointed, purely from an entertainment standpoint, with the also-ran candidates in yesterday's at-large city council debate. First of all, the two socialists didn't show up. And the other two were perfectly sane, calm, and rational. Neither one brings anything special, as far as I can tell -- Marty Hogan has a pretty standard-issue regular-guy shtick, and David James Wyatt has pretty uninspiring conservative views -- but they are both serious and well-spoken, and have perspectives worth listening to. What fun is that? Give me a bombastic liberal bomb-thrower with no grasp of how city politics works, or a Bible-thumping end-of-days preacher (where has Roy Owens gone?) blaming everything on the sins of the people.
    Without that, all there is to do is watch the five major candidates -- the four incumbents and John Connolly -- repeat their lines. You'll be glad to know that they all favor good schools and oppose people shooting each other.
    The one interesting thing, in my view, was what was missing from the responses to a question about how they would raise revenue to pay for, oh let's say good schools and fewer people shooting each other. None of them made mention of casinos or local-option meal and occupancy taxes. Sure, those are largely dependant on state government action, but it's perfectly appropriate for them to talk about it.
    Needless to say, most are still in favor of raising revenues by shaking down the non-profits for more payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT), just as they have been since time immemorial -- giving Connolly the opportunity, in a rare lively moment, to complain that he's tired of hearing the council talk about PILOT formulas and never seeing them do anything about it. And Sam Yoon got to talk about his nickel tax for public safety proposal (which as far as I can tell is a pipe dream, but at least sounds makes him sound like he's got ideas).
    Other than that, Felix Arroyo was good, as always; and Michael Flaherty and Steve Murphy were solid. Connolly was good, but I think he needs to develop some McCain-type one-liners to lighten up his diatribes. It's good for the challenger to get worked up and sound forceful about the need for change, but he also needs to be likeable. Crack a joke, John!

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