Sen. Kerry Ignores Pledge Made to MA Voters

9 Nov
Will this guy be the next secretary of state?

Will this guy be the next secretary of state?

OK, perhaps I’m not really shocked that Sen. Kerry might quickly vacate his seat to become secretary of state (if Obama offers him the job). I pegged Kerry as simply going through the campaign motions for reelection while coveting the SOS job all the while. But not everyone has been watching the antics of Kerry as much as I have since he turned his support from Hillary to Obama. Many in my circle of friends and family are actually surprised at how quickly Kerry appears to have forgotten his pledge to MA voters when he said: “I intend to serve my term. If I’m elected, that’s what I’m doing.” There are grumblings that Kerry could have/should have been more direct and candid about his willingness to entertain (if not full outright accept) positions beyond the one MA voters gave him last week.

Joan Vennochi, in a op-ed piece for the Boston Globe, voices a frustration felt by many who took Kerry at his word.

Via Boston.com

US SENATOR John Kerry owed Massachusetts voters more candor as he sought a fifth term.

During his recent reelection bid, he said, “I intend to serve my term. If I’m elected, that’s what I’m doing.”

Politicians frequently do this. They pretend they have no ambition beyond their current office. It’s a standard part of the political game.

But in Kerry’s case, his interest in being secretary of state in a Barack Obama administration was widely discussed in Massachusetts political circles. The average voter deserved to be clued in.

Instead, he imperiously waved away questions about the future, just as he imperiously waved away opponents who dared challenge him.

Kerry had to be forced into debating Ed O’Reilly, the Gloucester lawyer who gave the longtime incumbent his first primary challenge in 24 years; their single match lasted 19 minutes and was broadcast on a Sunday morning. Two weeks before Election Day, he and Republican Jeff Beatty debated twice, once on television up against a Patriots game and once on the radio.

The junior senator from Massachusetts was more experienced, better informed, and, on the issues, the better choice than either rival. He easily crushed O’Reilly and Beatty. So, as he rolled to certain victory, why couldn’t he be more transparent about the future? A total confession of ambition would be presumptuous. But, how about something along the lines of, “It’s premature to discuss an Obama Cabinet position before an Obama victory, but it would be a privilege to be considered”?

Now, Kerry is said to be on Obama’s short list for secretary of state, leading to the possibility of a mad political scramble to replace him if he takes a Cabinet position. Let the contenders, Democrats and Republicans, scramble away. It would be nice to have vigorous debate, a real campaign, and a new US senator who really wants the job.

Under Massachusetts law, a vacant US Senate seat would have to be filled by special election within 140 to 160 days of the resignation. The Democrat-controlled Legislature approved the law when Kerry was running for president in 2004. Democrats wanted to prevent Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, from appointing a possible successor.

Governor Deval Patrick is indicating that he might be open to the idea of changing it back. That would be wrong. Massachusetts voters, not their governor, should decide who represents them in the US Senate.

Massachusetts Democrats already have so much concentrated power. Must they also cut off even the charade of a two-party system, by taking away a special election? As it is, the rules favor well-known candidates with easy access to campaign money. In this state, that is another way of describing Democrats.

The Republican Party in Massachusetts is pitifully weak. After Tuesday, the number of Republicans in the House of Representatives dropped from 19 to 16. There are only five Republicans in the Massachusetts Senate. And, of course, all members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation are Democrats.

Rebuilding the GOP shouldn’t be the concern of the Democratic Party. If Massachusetts voters prefer to vote for Democrats, that’s their right. But you would think those voters would also want the Democrats they elect to level with them. Kerry didn’t do that.

Four years ago, he came very close to realizing his dream of becoming president. In August, he delivered a strong and eloquent speech on Obama’s behalf at the Democratic National Convention. Watching him in Denver, it was hard not to think what it must be like to stand once again in front of thousands of cheering delegates, this time as an unsuccessful presidential candidate instead of as the Democratic Party nominee. It takes a certain strength of character to do that.

When Kerry gives interviews, it’s clear he has spent a lot of time reliving the 2004 campaign and would like to have more than a few moments and strategy decisions back. It’s also clear that he wants to be somewhere else, like in the Cabinet.

He ran for reelection to hedge his bets. As he hedged them, was it idealistic to expect something else with it, like a little honesty?

Joan Vennochi’s e-mail address is vennochi@globe.com.

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