Congressmen failed to oppose the US invasion of Iraq. Congressmen allowed former President George W. Bush to use 9/11 as a justification to expand powers to the executive branch. In early 2009, even with our economy in freefall, Congressmen failed to unite in collaborative action. Instead of acting like grown-ups and facing adversity by working with the new President to develop the best economic stimulus package, members of both parties were at their worst, bickering as they acted in their own self-interests before, finally, passing a flawed bill.
The US Senate has not been much better. Actually, I think the House and Senate have been disappointing for many years now. Politicians are so timid and predictable. They avoid conflicts with lobbyists and powerful interest groups. They seem to care only about avoiding any big risks that might jeopardize their re-election.
It is incredibly rare to find any US House or Senate members who display any courage, principle or independence.
With all this in mind, I support US Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Somerville) to fill the seat long held by Sen. Ted Kennedy. Capuano, a Democrat from Somerville, must first defeat three challengers in the Democratic primary, schedule for December. The election is in Jan. 2010.
If Capuano has one trait that stands out, it IS his willingness to say what he believes and let the chips fall where they may. Yes, he seems a bit rough around the edges at times. He doesn't speak in perfect, diplomatic sentences......but, I like the idea that I can imagine Capuano asserting himself down in the Capitol Building in Washington DC. He seems unafraid -- unafraid to fight for or against any piece of legislation and unafraid to sail against the wind. Further, I doubt he's intimidated about getting in difficult conversations with his colleagues or anyone else about his positions.
I'm still learning about Capuano. When he first ran back in 1998, I had voted for Susan Tracy rather than Capuano and the other candidates seeking to represent the Eighth Congressional District formerly held by US Rep. Joseph Kennedy. I recall thinking then that Capuano, who had been mayor of Somerville, was more moderate than most of his progressive challengers.
So far, I like what Capuano is saying on the campaign trail. I thought he was far more impressive than his opponents at their first televised debate on Oct. 26th.
He was the candidate who stuck his neck out the most and gave viewers a good glimpse of who he is and what he stands for. He spoke about his position on Iraq and Afghanistan, on immigration reform and the stimulus package with a candor and directness missing in the others. Capuano raised his voice too much at times and seemed a bit too intense, but, on the other hand, he was more himself - and seemed more authentic and, for me, that was a major strength compared to the others, who were more restrained and "safe" in their responses.
I was bothered by the comments after the debate. Several commentators - including WBZ TV's Jon Keller - said that Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley had probably done the best because she said nothing to alter (hurt) her frontrunner status. Give me a break. That's what's wrong with American politics; we have commentators praising a candidate for not taking any risks, essentially. That's exactly what Coakley did. She said nothing, in my view, that was striking or impressive. She gave "boilerplate" safe answers that lacked content and spontaneity. I've seen her do the same on other occasions. She loses significant points from me for being so cautious, and, as a result, dull.
I say that, regretfully, about Coakley because, a few weeks ago, I had the view that if she impressed me, I'd probably want to support her because we so badly need more women in the House and Senate. Since then, however, I've noticed the same bland rhetoric from Coakley every time I see a clip of her or read about an appearance.
As for the two other candidates, I like Alan Khazei, the co-founder of City-Year. He made some thoughtful points at the Oct. 26th debate and seems more of an original, independent thinker than the other two. However, Khazei has not held elective office and I don't feel we should replace Ted Kennedy with a novice at this point. Stephen Pagliuca, the Celtics co-owner, simply seems ill-suited for politics. His non-stop television advertisements are so empty and boring that I find them embarrassing and humorous.
So, for me, it came down to Coakley and Capuano - and so, far, it has not been close. Maybe Coakley will surprise me in the remaining month or so before the Dec. primary, but, I doubt it.
Meanwhile, I keep liking what I read and hear about Capuano. I'm finding he is the scrappy, independent, outspoken Congressman I've heard about over the years. I've been pleased to find out that his record is more liberal than I anticipated.
I am glad that US Reps. Barney Frank and James McGovern, both liberal Democrats, support Capuano. I think very highly of Frank and McGovern, who I once worked with on a campaign. I am glad that Democratic US Reps. John Tierney and Stephen Lynch also support Capuano.
I worry a bit about Capuano because he seems to have a tendency to speak so spontaneously that he might, occasionally, say things that come out the wrong way and cause a problem later. Yet, overall, I feel this is a minor concern compared to my feelings about Capuano having the courage of his convictions
I hope Capuano pulls an upset over Martha Coakley. In 2010, we need boldness, passion and principle a lot more than we need another cautious politician unwilling to ruffle feathers.