I wasn't sure how the cancellation of the final Senate debate would play with the public -- until I saw the Boston Herald this morning.
See, the events and wording were vague enough that it could have looked like it wasn't anybody's fault in particular. The statement from the media consortium was, shall we say, diplomatic about it. So people could easily have chalked it up to general difficulty working with everybody's schedule.
But the Herald made damn sure, in today's cover package, that everybody understands that it is entirely Brown's doing -- and that it has nothing to do with storm or schedule, and everything to do with ducking the debate.
"Scott Brown canceled the debate," Howie Carr trumpeted. "This was a no-brainer for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown," Joe Battenfeld proclaimed.
Well, OK then.
I mean, I saw it that way. I just didn't think Scott Brown wanted people to see it that way.
The Herald writers are praising Scotto for this decision, which isn't surprising since A) the Herald has taken Scotto's side in everything throughout this campaign, and B) the Herald doesn't much like the Globe, which is part of the consortium hosting the debate.
And many will agree. But some out there think that this was not the best result -- they feel that there should be at least one debate during the final four weeks of the campaign -- and now those people have no doubt as to why the debate isn't happening.
Because Scotto is a Scaredy-Cat.
I mean, what other reason is there? Because he's too busy meeting with voters? Check his super-biz publc schedule today, with its single public appearance. Because it's not "appropriate" after the hurricane? If it's appropriate to try to sway voters with a constant barrage of ads, it's certainly appropriate to do so in a moderated discussion.
Look, from the beginning Brown maneuvered as best he could to minimize the number, scope, and relevance of debates. He agreed to four. The most important of the four -- the only one close to the election, the one carried by the most media to the most voters -- was this week's, hosted by the Boston Media Consortium. And now, Brown has grabbed onto a convenient passing excuse to duck out of it.
Let me put it another way: Brown has always wanted this election to be decided by tens of millions of dollars in TV and radio ads. This debate is the only opportunity -- the only chance in the final four weeks of the campaign -- for the media to cut through that onslaught (from both sides), and force the candidates to actually answer for themselves in front of the public.
For instance, without debates you can run a gazillion ads insisting that you are good on women's issues. But, as we've seen, in a debate you have to be confronted with a litany of votes you've actually taken that some women dislike.
This becomes all the more important at the end of the campaign. Not just because voters are paying the most attention, but because deception and obfuscation are very difficult to counteract in the final days.
This is why, on a larger stage, Mitt Romney has not spoken to his traveling press for three weeks, while his campaign blasts away with blatantly false and misleading ads. And it's why Brown wants to end the campaign with controlled, paid messaging, rather than actual public interaction.
But people don't like that. Which is why Brown tried to pretend that he wanted to do the debate, and it isn't really his fault that it's cancelled. Which isn't true. As the Herald has helpfully made clear.