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Our 100th: Worse for the Wear…

**UPDATE** This Post has been updated to reflect News about the Cape Cod Times Editorial referenced below and news on Setti Warren’s Senate Announcement on 5/13 & 5/18.

(Created from Fair Use image of Brown and other)

Last week should have been a good week for our Senator Scott Brown.  Despite the big news that Osama bin Laden had been taken out by a Navy Seals Special Operations team, Brown’s delightfully self-serving tidbit about doing his two-week National Guard stint in Afghanistan was dutifully picked up by a swooning media.  It was largely buried, but anybody who follows the news probably saw it.  Perhaps Brown had probably hoped for more adulation from a media establishment prone to pleasur..err, gratifying him, but the understated delivery of his message was enough.  Even as Brown blamed somebody else for leaking the story, Politico’s Ben Smith was quick to note the leaker was none other than Brown himself.  This was planned.

Then, last Wednesday, as President Barack Obama was weighing whether to release photos of bin Laden’s bullet-ridden corpse, Scott Brown took to the airways.  He agreed with Obama’s decision  not to release the photos and affirmed that he had seen them.  Except the photos that Scott Brown saw were fakes, the very same that had been discredited by numerous news organizations as much as 48 hours before Brown’s television appearances.  So Brown got punked.  Big deal, right?  Maybe, except that Brown led the interviewers on NECN and another Boston television station to believe he had seen them in an official briefing.  So, did Brown, as a member of the Armed Services Committee see the pictures, but was otherwise not supposed to blab? 
Bin Laden Graffitt in Romania (wikipedia)
That is unlikely because according to numerous news outlets the classified briefing which all senators were invited included zero photographs.  Borderline Christian Extremist Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire junior senator and Georgia’s Sen. Saxby Chambliss (also a Gang of Six gangster) also claimed to have seen the same photos, but their goofs thus far merely reflect being taken in by low-quality hoaxes.  Brown, on the other hand implied he saw what he thought was bin Laden’s body, that is the fake, in an official briefing.  Except no briefing available to him included those images., unless Brown got non-official illegal look at the classified pictures.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee claims she could have seen them, but declined.  Feinstein, it is worth noting, probably saw her fill of closeup fatal shots to the head when she found the bodies of George Moscone and Harvey Milk.

When Brown refused to respond to requests for clarification from Boston Phoenix reporter David Bernstein, the latter engaged Twitter in a concerted and hilarious effort to ridicule the commonwealth’s junior senator.  Armed with the hashtag #scottosawit, several days of tweets filled with what “Scott saw” flew back and forth ranging from the serious to the silly.  Many including a few tweeted by WMassP&I poked fun at Scott Brown’s incongruous political positions.  Neither of Brown’s twitter accounts appeared to acknowledge the Twitter assault.

While Twitter guffawed over what Scotto saw, the traditional media did not miss a beat.  Columns and opinions from BOTH the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald took swipes at the senator.  Brian McGrory, a Globe Colunist, mocked Brown’s sloppiness and called his response to the League of Women Voters EPA ad “whiny” (it is and we will get to that).  McGrory also derided Brown for attacking the media sales tactic (re: bin Laden photos) while being the ultimate salesman himself. 

“This admonition from a guy who posed with next to nothing on for Cosmopolitan and is pushing his ghost-written memoir so hard that his constituent meetings are held at Barnes & Noble and Borders — in other words, a guy who has never shied from salesmanship.” 

Joe Battenfeld for the Boston Herald had a far more pointed description for Brown “Dan Quayle.”  However it was the column written by Doug Rubin that may have hammered the point home the best.  Rubin, although Gov. Deval Patrick’s former chief of staff, laid bare Brown’s rather blatant, but heretofore successful media strategy of carefully “delivering his message through press releases, speeches, op-eds, and carefully chosen ‘friendly’ media interviews.”  
RT 128 in Mass (wikipedia)
Indeed Brown seldom holds open press conferences and even his constituent meetings are somewhat bare.  A recent update tweeted from Brown’s office features office hours with his staff, but not him.  Brown himself is actually quite scarce outside of Boston, (we do not just mean Western Mass, but anywhere outside of Route 128).  His appearances in this part of the state are usually limited to Republican party functions, book signings in Holyoke (which incidentally was not on his original tour) and West Side speeches in which he said the United States should mimic China’s command economy and eliminate any semblance of human rights (he did not say this, but to emulate China as he suggested, we would need to do these things).

This disciplined media message, well fabricated by Eric Ferhnstrom and other New England Republican media strategist, showed fresh cracks after the entire bin Laden photo flap (If Ferhnstrom’s name sounds familiar he was Mitt Romney’s gubernatorial  and campaign press secretary).  It exposed Brown, for the first time to a sustained public and social media ridicule.  While the ordeal has probably not caused fatal damage to Brown, it has exposed for the first time the manufactured nature of Brown’s public persona.

Brown’s very public spat with the League of Women Voters is also somewhat instructive here.  The LWV spent over a million dollars on an ad slamming Brown for his environmentally irresponsible vote to essentially castrate the Environmental Protection Agency and render it unable to develop new scientifically supported regulations.  Before the LWV ad, though media reaction was not muted.  The Boston Globe, having seemingly grown a pair, slammed Brown for his vote.  The Republican, in their own, half-hearted way, attacked the Republican proposal, but omitted mention of our senator’s support for the measure.  
In Case You were Confused
Brown remained mum himself merely claiming, as if he were the Senator from Texas, that this vote was about the economy and not the environment as if the “E” in EPA stands for anything other than environmental.  Brown’s minimal media mantra kept any further clarifications, like how automobile fuel economy standards harm small businesses, out of sight out or mind.  However, when the League attacked, well with, gasp, TV time, Brown had to hit back.  The assault on the LWV was intense and swift.  Brown attacked the group for political demagoguery, lying and failing to purchase a copy of his book for each of their members.  Online ads urging readers to defend Scott Brown started popping up everywhere including on liberal website likes DailyKos.  The GOP claims to be filing an election complaint against the LWV.  In keeping with media control (and deflecting the bin Laden story) Brown has stepped up with tweets linking to his website that mentioned newspaper that backed him.

Only some did not back him, really.  The links were effectively an effort to change the story from “Scott Brown voted against Clean Air” to “Women are picking on me in a partisan fashion.”  Indeed, the Cape Cod Times, which has been, at time, downright acerbic on Brown, questioned the LWV decision to get down and dirty with partisanship, but still found the time to slam Brown for taking the pro-smog position at all.  Incidentally, Brown tried to change the subject on the bin Laden bombshell by reminding us Sal DiMasi is on trial.  It did not work.

We should also take a moment to note that the Cape Cod Times editorial, while reminding readers of its displeasure with Brown’s vote virtually cut and pasted a press release from the Massachusetts GOP.  Media Matters for America, a media watchdog group pointed out the near identical text from both items.  The Cape Cod Times’ parent company is owned by Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp, also the parent of Fox News.  On Saturday,  Media Matters updated its item to reflect an editor’s note from the Cape Cod Times which admitted, due to an editor’s error, that it failed to properly cite the GOP’s statement.  It remains suspicious, but it is more than one may expect from a sister new organization of Fox News.

MO Sen. McCaskill (wikipedia)
The LWV has deflected the withering criticism pretty well so far.   Some local chapters are upset, but only a few. The argument that the non-partisan group waded into dingier political water is not an improper complaint.  However, the group also took out ads against Democrat Claire McCaskil who was one of four Democrats who supported the EPA measure.  That has taken some of the heat off.  Not to mention the LWV, whatever the complaints of the Cape Cod Times or Worcester Telegram, is a highly esteemed organization and Brown’s vote is widely seen as against the will of Massachusetts voters.  Brown might, might, have succeeded in changing the subject from policy to the politics, but he lost the greater battle because Bay Staters will now assuredly remember hearing about how Brown voted, in their name, to gut an agency that protect the environment and human health next year during campaign prime time.  Nobody will care 18 months from now that it was the LWV who stepped up the criticism because by then everybody from the Sierra Club to the DSCC will be upon him.

Setti Warren in Springfield (Candidate Website)

This week Newton mayor Setti Warren announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate.  Warren joins what will likely be a crowded field, but he enjoys some boosting by Deval Patrick earlier this year and an impressive resume.  That resume includes service in Iraq, which Rachel Maddow suspected on her show may have been related to Brown’s Afghanistan adventure.  He is largely unknown, though.  The Republican could not even be bothered to include more than three paragraphs on the announcement in yesterday’s paper.  Recent polls put him at 9% against Brown.  

That same poll seemed to suggest that Brown was unbeatable.. Or is he?  Although Joseph Kennedy II is unlikely to run for the seat, he polled at 40% behind Brown’s 45%.  He was the only candidate that brought Brown below the 50% threshold.  The takeaway?  Brown’s biggest strength going into 2012 is not his moderate record, but his notoriety–a strength even he did not have 18 months ago.

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