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Our One Hundredth: Pikachu and Scott Brown, Posers All…

Pikachu’s Pose/Taunt in SSBM (Youtube)
There’s a bonus in the Gamecube video game Super Smash Bros. Melee (and its sequel) called Poser Poseur.  You earn it if you push your taunt/pose button immediately after another player (or the computer) has just done the same.  To your right is an adorable Pikachu posing like so!  The point of the bonus appears to be award points mockingly (there are many such bonuses) for lame and/or tasteless maneuvers on the part of the player.

Elizabeth Warren has only been a candidate for office formally for three weeks now.  Her bid has solicited frustration, anger and, dare we say, fear among some of her opponents.  In the case of Scott Brown, it has largely been an effort to paint Warren as living in an Ivory Tower called Harvard blissfully aware of the real world.  That strategy has not produced any results thus far.  Warren remains statistically tied with Brown.  Nevertheless, the de facto Brown-Warren campaign has been largely fought as a fund raising tool for Brown….until today when Brown opened wide and deftly inserted his foot into his mouth.

At Tuesday’s debate, Warren and her fellow Democrats were asked how they paid for college.  The student panelist who asked the question was actually a young member of the Melrose Republican Committee.  There was some debate among the folks at Blue Mass Group as to why this was, but nevertheless, the panelist Scott Conway seemed to do a good job.  The exchange between Conway and Warren went as follows.

Scott Conway: To help pay for his law school education, Scott Brown posed for Cosmo. How did you pay for your education? 
Elizabeth Warren: I kept my clothes on. [laughter] I borrowed money. I was somebody who went to school and got student loans. I went to a public university at a time when they were well supported and tuition was cheap. And I had a part time job. So the combination got me through. I paid off my student loans about 10 years after graduation.

Elizabeth Warren (Facebook)

Thursday during an appearance at a Boston classic rock radio station, Brown was asked for his response to Warren’s statement, “I kept my clothes on.”  Following a short chortle, Brown exclaimed, “Thank God!”  He went on to say that he did not go to Harvard, but rather the school of hard knocks.

Needless to say Brown’s remarks caused twitter feeds and news websites to explode with condemnation of both Warren and Brown, but the majority were largely aimed at the latter.  The response to Brown boiled down to you just don’t say that about a female candidate.  It is not about political correctness or not, rather the reality is that, although men can be objectified like women, they usually are not.  Plenty of people have made that point, however.

What is also important, however, is not just the context of Warren’s statement about Brown’s life, but the context of Brown’s statement about his own life and, by implication, Warren’s life.  Indeed, as the dust settled over Brown’s remarks (which generated the controversy that for two days between the Democratic debate and Thursday Warren’s remarks did not), several voices began to dissect the broader situation.

Glen Johnson at the Boston Globe pointed out that Brown like to “play the victim” whenever possible (think how he claimed the League of Women Voters were calling him a bad father when that group’s pro-Clean Air ad aired).  Johnson’s article also noted that Brown’s statement “I didn’t go to Harvard” implied Warren did and that his rough and tumble life took place in the slums of Calcutta compared to Warren’s privileged life of waiting tables in Oklahoma.  The article also noted that Brown graduated from two private colleges and Warren graduated from two public colleges.  Additionally, Johnson underscored that Warren’s life–marrying young, working young, teaching, etc–stands in contradiction to the “Queen Elizabeth Warren” of Harvard Brown and his merry men have tried to construct.

Sen. Scott Brown (Wikipedia)

Brown also implies that he modeled just as a way to get through tough times (an implication also left by the Republican asking Warren the question on Tuesday as well), but this is nevertheless undermined by…Scott Brown’s memoir.  David Bernstein at the Boston Phoenix, using Brown’s memoir, deconstructs the image Brown and his people have spun that Brown’s modeling career was the act of a cash-strapped law student.  Bernstein notes Brown’s “‘hard-knock life’ — compellingly related in earlier chapters — was behind him; as he tells it, his sister essentially talked him into entering the Cosmo contest, which offered a $1000 prize.”  The article goes on to note that Brown’s life had become a whirlwind of dance parties, beautiful women and glamor.  Although Brown buckled down and returned to the discipline of Boston College Law, his modeling career took place against the backdrop of about as much sex, fun and rock & roll (we purposely omit drugs for lack of evidence) as any young man in the 1980’s (or anytime) could want.  Hardly desperation.

This brings us back to Pikachu and “Poser Poseur.”  Certainly there are times when the situation justifies posing one way or another.  However, Scott Brown has a nasty habit of posing one way or another with the help of his media machine even when the facts simply do not add up.  If we grant Brown the right to call his youth especially troubled that does not mean every aspect of his life is too.  Certainly it does not entitle him to describe his attendance at Tufts to be as egalitarian as Westfield State and his law career as only possible because he dropped dignity for a time to make a brighter tomorrow for himself.

There are other examples.  The most classic is Brown’s consistent fallback that he is working on creating jobs, but, excluding holding a jobs fair, Brown has offtered nothing measurable that can create jobs.  He appears to endorse the GOP’s ideas, but economists cannot seem to quantify those vague proposals to know what, if any jobs those stock Republican ideas can create created.  More recently, Brown attacked partisanship around the jobs situation, but again endorsed none of President Obama’s ideas (his are the only concrete ones out there except for Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s) and offered none of his own. 

Then there’s that delicious encounter with seniors at a Jewish retirement home in Brighton, complete with more posing (“We love you,” one senior said).  We learn, however, that Brown had mentioned his support for an amendment to help religious refugees including Jews in Iran.  At the same time, Brown is accepting money from the Koch brothers who have made an end run around US law to do business with the troublesome theocracy.

Harvard Law Seal (wikipedia)

The impetus for much of this posing discussion goes to his campaign’s anti-Harvard tactics against Elizabeth Warren, but this week that attack, exposed in the media, has gone down in flames.  To add insult to injury, Western New England University released a poll showing most Bay Staters couldn’t give a flying fig that Warren teaches at Harvard.  Among those that do care, more find Warren’s professorship as a plus, not a negative.

Taken alone this event may have been a week or two long story several months before the general election. However, the remarks themselves add up to more considering his women problem (Jeff Perry, Planned Parenthood) and his earlier admonition of the sophomoric CrazyKhazei idiocy perpetrated by campaign high muckety-muck Eric Fehrnstrom.  (Brown’s statement then was: “US Senator Scott Brown… “’made clear to everyone on or associated with my team that this type of thing is not to happen again.’”)  The posing on his own personal history, whether its the modeling or the education it allegedly paid for goes together with his posing on Iran, on jobs, on Paul Ryan’s budget…the list goes on.

It is one thing for Brown to pose for pictures, to pose in front of tornado-mangled schools or to pose with seniors and babies still smarting from his kiss.  All that’s just posing.  That’s politics.  However, Brown is more than just posing when he attacks Warren (or even recalls his own history).  When he poses he is often affecting something, peddling a reality unsupported by the facts or pretending to be something he clearly is not.  Our friend Pikachu may be doing the same above, but we can’t tell from a single screenshot if he’s being a phony.  Brown is a different story.

If his opponent is indeed Warren, no doubt more attacks will come, but after this week he should pick his barbs more carefully lest he is exposed not merely for being a poser, but a poseur.