Bob Massie may, or may not, win the Democratic nomination for Senate to take on Scott Brown next fall. But IMHO, of all the candidates so far, Massie has come up with the best tag line about Scott Brown: “the caboose of the Senate.”
The lowly caboose is, of course, the funny-looking railroad car that brings up the rear of a freight train. It’s the quintessential follower, dragged along on its course by the powerful engines in front of it. By definition, it cannot lead, and it cannot deviate from the course that others have put it on without derailing.
And that pretty well sums up Scott Brown’s career in the Senate so far, don’t you think? On big issue after big issue, Brown says he has to think about it. He hems and haws for a while. And finally, after a careful assessment of where public opinion is moving and what would be the best way to further his own reelection, he takes a position.
Brown’s epic flip-flop on Paul Ryan’s Medicare Destruction Act is perhaps the best example. He backed it, then he wouldn’t say where he was, and then – the day before Kathy Hochul won her upset victory in the NY-26 special election by running against Ryan and for Medicare (the timing was sheer coincidence, I’m sure) – he opposed it, almost certainly IMHO because he belatedly realized that failing to oppose it would hand a tremendously powerful weapon to the Democrat seeking
his the people’s seat in 2012. Brown’s decision to go along with GOP leadership and filibuster a jobs bill that he himself had co-sponsored was another fine example. That’s bravery, right there.
Even on health care, the issue that, probably more than any other, put Brown in the Senate as “#41” to vote “no,” Brown couldn’t pull the trigger. Remember this from last March regarding the health care reconciliation bill – the bill that put much of the health care law into place?
Brown, approached by reporters in Boston yesterday, punted when asked whether he planned to oppose the Democrats’ health care budget reconciliation bill in the Senate.
“I have to see what they are proposing. I’m heading back to get briefed. I think everyone is fighting fiercely, and I’m going to fight fiercely for jobs in Massachusetts,” Brown said.
Asked if that meant there was a possibility he would vote in favor of the reconciliation package, Brown replied: “I haven’t read it yet. I want to be able to read it first.”
The reconciliation bill has been a target of Republican ire for weeks….
Also in his earlier remarks yesterday to reporters, Brown demurred on the question of repealing the sweeping law that is supposed to expand coverage to an additional 32 million Americans.
“In order to repeal it, you need to see what’s in fact going to be in place. I think that’s a little premature,” said Brown, who was questioned by several reporters outside a fishing-regulation meeting in Boston. “I want to see what’s going to be in play.”
Turns out that Brown’s early and startling failure to lead on health care was merely an hors d’oeuvre for the banquet of caboosery that was yet to come.
The recent shenanigans over the debt ceiling are yet another example. Consider some comments he made at a fundraiser back in April, in which he outlined his brilliant strategy for cutting a deal:
if we raise the debt [ceiling], we’re going to do it only if blank, blank, blank and blank.
Seriously – that is actually what he said.
If that’s not exactly what a talking caboose would say in that situation, I don’t know what is.
More recently (i.e., last week), Brown had these highly constructive comments to make:
“I’m hopeful that the Democrat and Republican leaders will continue to work with the administration to basically come together with a deal that not only makes the appropriate cuts, but prohibits our country from moving into default,” the Massachusetts Republican said.
Ah. No mention of what the “appropriate” cuts might be, of course. Unless they consist of “blank, blank and blank.” So, what is Brownie going to do?
The senator said he’s unconcerned with the partisanship around the issue, and that he remains willing to buck his party when necessary.
“I’ll vote… against my party when I have to, and I’ll vote with my party if I have to,” he said.
Uh, OK. I wonder what constitutes a situation where he “has to” vote against his party. Blank and blank, I guess.
The Phoenix has picked up on Brown’s caboose-like quality, which is apparently an essential part of his political character:
[Maine Senator Olympia] Snowe’s position may be imperfect, but at least she has one — and it is superior to many of the more foolish ideas out there.
What about Brown? He styles himself a leader, but on the big issues he seems to duck a front-line position, making his mind up at the last moment.
Stop calculating, Senator. Speak up. It’s time to be counted.
Don’t hold your breath.
Scott Brown likes to pretend that he’s a leader. But his record in the Senate shows the exact opposite. Honestly, how can you lead when you filibuster your own legislation, and when you publicly declare that the key to a successful high-stakes debt ceiling negotiation is “blank, blank and blank”? Massie is exactly right: Brown is the caboose of the Senate. Massachusetts deserves much better.