Sunday, June 05, 2011

Ava spills Scott Brown's dirty secret

I'm not Scott Brown's lover, or his groupie, or even an expert on the man. So I was a bit surprised when Jim passed over an article about politicians campaigning to run against the senator and asked me if I'd do some sort of "response or agreement or whatever."

Senator Scott Brown

The article Jim slid over to me was Richard Weir's "Dems gang up on Brown" (Boston Herald) and, as I read it, I thought, "What a load of filth." Not Weir's writing but the people he was reporting on with the exception of Felix Browne. (Browne refused to join in the group attacks on Scott Brown noting, "Senator Brown spent the day in Western Massachusetts helping tornado victims recover from their loss. This is not the time for politics."). Especially disgusting was Bob Massie because he's more than fine with closed door, hidden from the people, meetings between elected officials "and lobbyists."

I don't live in Massachusetts, I won't be voting in the election. But I'll share what little I do know and, if it helps, great.

In December 2009, Brown was elected to the US Senate. February 4, 2010, he was sworn in. We (Kat, Wally, C.I. and myself) attend hearings in DC and we always try to catch the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearings. We also try to catch the House and Senate Armed Services Committee hearings. Brown serves on both the Senate Veterans Affairs Commitee and the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Our hearing coverage works like this. If it's a minor hearing (in terms of developments), C.I. reports on it in an "Iraq snapshot" and then one of us does a little more on it for the gina & krista round-robin -- unless it's a Friday hearing in which case it gets covered in Hilda's Mix (the gina & krista round-robin published Friday morning). If it's a major hearing, C.I. reports on it in an "Iraq snapshot" and then Kat covers an aspect of it at her site (Kat generally does an overview of impressions unless she's reporting on Senator Richard Burr) and Wally covers the hearing at Rebecca's site (Wally's emphasis is usually on the finances and money). I go over to Trina's site. In 2009, for Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearings, I reported on Senator Roland Burris comments, questions and actions in the hearings. C.I. and I had advocated for him to be seated (there was an effort not to seat him, if you've forgotten) and so, once he was seated, he became my focus.

Scott Brown eased into the focus in 2010. In part because he often agreed with Senator Burris. He has this head duck, affirmative nod that he does when he agrees with something being said. It's a quick nod. I wasn't really sure he was agreeing until the hearing on Don't Ask, Don't Tell when Senator Burris was speaking of the need for the military to adapt and end racial discrimination earlier. The sharp, quick nods came much too often to be anything but agreement.

Senator Burris was always treated courtesouly (in public) on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. That was not, however, the case on the Senate Armed Services Committee where there were two Democrats who made a point to display their disdain for Senator Burris whenever he spoke. So I did find it interesting that Brown, who is Republican, would make a point to show any support for Democratic Burris. Interesting and possibly enlightening. Was it to send a message of bi-partisanship? Was it to show support for an elder (in terms of age) or for another freshman (in terms of Senate term)?

So Scott Brown started entering my reports at Trina's website and when Senator Burris left the Senate (2010), Brown became the sole focus. I know very little about Scott Brown's voting record. You can click here for Project Smart's catalog of his votes. The one vote I know of resulted in remarks he made during a hearing. I had the impression that he was going to vote to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the next day he publicly noted his intention to vote for repeal. (He did make that vote.)

While his voting record should reveal some insight, his proposed legislation probably won't. He's a freshman senator, in only his second year, and he's introduced eight bills.

So the way he conducts himself in hearings may be one of the better indicators of the job he's doing.

The negatives? In the last hearing I attended, I wrote about his 'fix it!' and 'get it done!' attitude. While I share his impatience and frustration over the foot dragging of the VA, I didn't hear any solutions from him. On the plus side, his performance (which I rated poorly) stood out to me so strongly because that's not his usual style.

Generally speaking, he's a bit ahead of the government witnesses on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. That's because VA and DoD send in witnesses to talk around the issues and, unless firm questions are asked, no information is imparted. Brown serves in his state's Army National Guard (his rank is Lt Col). That's knowledge he brings to the table. And when someone's giving a generic response to a senator with rosy tints, Brown generally can be counted on to follow up by pointing out what happens in the non-best-case scenarios, or, more to the point, what the actual experience is for the average person.

More than any other senator on the Committee, Brown needs the mike. He's rather soft-spoken, almost a Brando-like mumble at times. He also tends to lean back far in his seat unless he's agitated with a witness, at which point, his face is thrust forward. If someone continues to spin, Brown generally gets a little louder with his voice and, if the spin continues, Brown usually does a quick head shake (of "no"), gestures with his right hand while offering some words of wrap up to indicate he's done with the witness.

So that's the style, what's the substance. Remember his truck? People made fun of him all over the country -- some people made fun of him -- for his campaign advertisements with him and his truck. I think there may have been some truth in that (successful) advertising. On the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, he's really a truck.

brown truck

He's not a fancy sports car. He's not zipping here and there or making a lot of noise that's going to have every head turning. Instead, he's the dependable, lived in truck.

In his 2009 ad, he declared, "This is my truck. I put a lot of miles on it during this campaign. ... I love this old truck. It's brought me closer to the people of this state." And Barack Obama felt the need to inject himself into the race. He mocked, "Forget the truck, everybody can buy a truck." But, no, every one cannot afford to buy a truck. That's especially true after three years of Barack Obama's anti-worker bailouts and programs.

Don't forget that truck. That truck is Scott Brown. It's not so jazzy and it's kind of basic. And on the Commitee, that's what he's focused on. The average service member who cannot get needed treatment or who is being forced to jump through hoops to get what the government long ago promised. It's not fancy or flashy but, nine times of ten, when he opens his mouth on that Committee, it's going to be something of value and something that needs to be said.

Does that make him the right vote for you if you live in Massachusetts? It may not. I'm not endorsing him and I don't endorse any candidate I can't vote for (my residence is in California). Where he stands on the issues is probably your best indicator of whether to vote for him or not. And in the article that inspired this piece? The candidates vying for the Democratic Party nomination to run against him? They're not addressing his record or his stances. They're invoking some GOP Bogey Man out to destroy, destroy! and completely lacking in any humanity.

That may be a way to win but that doesn't reflect the Scott Brown I've seen in Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee hearings. If you're voting in that election, you deserve better than a bunch of misinformation and propaganda. I am sure there are many arguments that can be made against Brown's re-election (and many for his re-election) but his would-be opponents have yet to do the work required for that. As a Democrat, I'd be especially disturbed by a Democratic Party candidate who couldn't take on a Republican in a realistic manner. It would, for me, say something about character or, more importantly, the lack of it. And, in such a contest, that just might tilt my vote because the dirty secret on Senator Scott Brown thus far is that he plays fair.
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