OK, I know – I’m starting to seem obsessive about this story. But I think it’s really important for lots of reasons. So here goes.
Thanks to alert commenter timw, who posted on my most recent Ameriquest post a very interesting column from yesterday by Herald columnist Wayne Woodlief (reg. req’d). Woodlief talked to both Reilly and Patrick, and got both of them to say some pretty interesting things.
Woodlief’s basic take is that Ameriquest is a good story for Reilly, and leaves Patrick with some explaining to do. That’s fair enough – I thought the same thing, though I now think that Patrick has gone a long way toward doing what he had to do.
But what’s more interesting about Woodlief’s column is that what he says in his first paragraph is absolutely true:
The way Tom Reilly and Deval Patrick have handled the predatory lending lawsuit case against Ameriquest Mortgage Co. shows the contrasting styles the Democratic rivals for governor would bring to the Corner Office.
The styles grow directly out of both men’s background in the law: one a career prosecutor, the other with a more varied legal background including a lot of time as a corporate lawyer. Reilly, as Woodlief notes, “is a passionate moralist, quick to righteously go after the black hats with all his might.” He attacks every problem with the certainty of a long-time prosecutor: he knows he’s doing the right thing, and nothing’s going to get in his way come hell or high water. That trait can be a good thing – it served him well in the Ameriquest settlement (reportedly he and New York’s Eliot Spitzer forced the company into coughing up $40 million more than they wanted to). It can also be an Achilles heel, as it was in the “call to Conte” fiasco.
Patrick, on the other hand, is a problem solver – as one might expect given his lengthy corporate background. He seems less interested in the white hat/black hat approach to issues, and more interested in figuring out how to reach a resolution that lets everyone walk away happy. I like Woodlief’s description: “Patrick is smooth, as familiar with boardrooms as Reilly is with courtrooms. Like Reilly, he had a hard-scrabble upbringing. But unlike the AG, he doesnât pound on those doors of privilege so much as pry them open.” And, as Patrick notes, the Ameriquest situation is actually not so simple – he told Woodlief that “these institutions lend to people the downtown banks wouldnât touch,” so there is real value in keeping them in the game rather than just screaming epithets at them (Reilly: “This is a bad company, a bad company”).
We need both of these kinds of people in public service. The passionate crusaders serve a very valuable function, as do the problem solvers. The question is which one belongs in the Governor’s office. We’ll all have to think hard about that one in the months to come.