Monday, October 13, 2003

Clueless Brian Mooney

This morning's edition of The Boston Globe has what would have been an interesting piece about why former state and national Democratic Party chairman Steve Grossman is backing Howard Dean instead of John Kerry – had the author, Brian Mooney, gotten to the heart of the matter: ["For Grossman, decision has a winning look"].
A few points: First, Dean donated money to Grossman during his ill-fated attempt to become governor of Massachusetts last year while Kerry and others ignored him [I wrote a column about Grossman’s exit from the race - "Grossman proves loyalty, ideas don't matter" - which I will try and post later on tonight, when I find the link]. The buzz about Grossman possibly backing Dean – no pun intended since that is the name of the political gossip column in the Boston Herald – broke early last year. Dean also said some positive things about Grossman and the work he did on the national level for the Democratic Party. People forget Grossman came on when the DNC was millions in the hole, having been bled dry by the Clintons.
In 2002, as Grossman campaigned around the state, he found support lacking from a lot of people who owed him favors despite having an attractive message and good ideas. However, as a loyal Democratic soldier, Grossman paid his friend back. To not even mention it leaves a huge hole in the piece.
After all Grossman did for Kerry over the years, he should have paid the guy back with some assistance. But he didn't because that isn't how Kerry has ever worked. Kerry seems to have alienated anyone who ever did anything for the guy [This is one of the reasons I mentioned earlier that I would love to see how Kerry is polling in his home state]. People all over the state know all about his aloofness and ignorance of what most people in Massachusetts have to deal with. He is now shocked – shocked – to find out that he is out of touch with people in New Hampshire! I could go on about Kerry’s woes – including the fact that he is using a very old voter’s list for his mailers in N.H. – but I want to get back to Mooney’s problems.
Second point: Dean's wife and Grossman share the Jewish faith, something that Dean and his family have been able to use as an effective organizing tool. There is no mention of this connection in Mooney’s piece. Dean’s children consider themselves Jewish, according to an article in the New York Metro ["The Unlikely Rise of Howard Dean"], which some voters have found appealing. It shows that Dean, as a parent, truly believes in diversity or just didn't care about exposing his children to his own faith.
Sure, Kerry recently admitted that his grandfather was Jewish but later converted to Catholicism. And Joe Lieberman is running. But he is much more conservative than Grossman. I would guess that he would support Lieberman if he is the nominee but never in the primary with other contenders closer to Grossman’s ideology. Sometimes, talking about the faith of a candidate or supporters is considered the third rail of journalism. However, it is an important point to make because it is fact. The Dean campaign has used his wife’s faith to organize potential donors and volunteers. So why pretend it isn’t there? Grossman - a man of fundraising prowess and a place on the national stage - immediately helped Dean get credibility when he was going nowhere. It is a huge part of the story and Mooney completely missed it.
The third point: There is nothing worse in politics than a class bigot and connecting with the working masses is the path to victory in the Democratic primaries. Dean, Grossman, and Kerry are all elites. Dean was raised on Madison Avenue and vacationed in the Hamptons. He and his wife were educated at Ivy League Princeton and never had to worry about missing a meal. While Grossman’s father was a working class immigrant, he was also educated at the best schools and lived a life of privilege. Kerry was schooled at the exclusive St. Paul’s School and went to Yale with President George W. Bush. However, both Dean and Grossman at least attempt to understand what the regular folks are going through even if they haven’t lived it. Despite the up and down business of printing, Grossman has bragged that he has never had a layoff in his union shop. This was something that set him apart from the Democratic field in 2002, a business owner who actually had a heart. Kerry, on the other hand, has never seemed to understand this. He has always had an air of expectancy about him, like the presidency is owed to him because he is decent looking, was a war hero, and is a member of the exclusive gentleman’s club known as the United States Senate. I’m not saying Kerry is a class bigot and there is hope for him. But look at how the support is breaking so far. It is clear that Kerry isn’t connecting.
Grossman is smart; he knows how to read the writing on the wall. Early on, he saw Dean had the goods to bring the party to a different place – in tune with fiscal responsibility, liberal enough to hold on to the core, and away from the Clintons. Combine this with Kerry’s problems connecting with real folks and the move to Dean was a no-brainer for Grossman and many others who are backing him in Massachusetts.
The failure to mention any of these things in Mooney’s article shows that he continues to fail to grasp the real story behind a story, a required skill for all political reporters.
I personally have reason to criticize Mooney’s reporting since on two different occasions he incorrectly stated that I lived in the North End of Boston, albeit a great neighborhood but one which I have never had the privilege of residing in. However, after pointing this fact out, corrections were never issued by the Globe. Mooney continued to repeat the inaccuracy and took other cheap shots at me in the newspaper. My letters to the editor complaining about his behavior were never published and my complaints to his superiors about his inaccuracies were never acknowledged.
But his cheap shots and inaccuracies have always made me wonder why. Was it because I was Italian so therefore I had to live in the North End? That assumption is similar to a recent uproar when school officials in Wellesley assumed that a black boy was a METCO student and needed to be bussed back to Mattapan even though he lived in Wellesley!
Mooney used to be a good political reporter but like many at the Globe he has become tired, lazy, and misses so many important points in a story that would actually breathe life into his writing.
End of rant, Happy Columbus Day.

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