Scott Brown’s Blunders

Sen. Susan Collins endorses Sen. Scott Brown for reelection in May. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Sen. Susan Collins endorses Sen. Scott Brown for reelection in May. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

After weeks of quietly stoking the fires over Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry, Scott Brown’s operatives put their hands right into the flame. His handlers got burned in their strategy of avoiding televised debates. Brown’s people told him to challenge Ted Kennedy’s widow Vicki to stay out of the campaign as a condition of his accepting her invitation to debate at her husband’s institute. Alas, they overplayed their hand.

Taking On The Kennedys

Kennedy said no deal, in effect saying that she’d rather forfeit a debate than be forced to muzzle herself on the election for “the people’s seat,” aka “the Kennedy seat.” As a Democratic consultant told me, Brown thus alienates Vicki Kennedy and winds up motivating the entire Kennedy clan, whose money, power and prestige can now be fully deployed to beat him.

First he used a clip of President John F. Kennedy in a commercial for himself during the special election. Now he’s trying to stifle Vicki Kennedy.

Hypocrisy Watch

Columnist Peter Gelzinis of the Boston Herald pointed out Brown’s hypocrisy when last year he attended the groundbreaking for the Kennedy Institute. Brown said, “I was deeply moved by [Vicki’s] passion and enthusiasm to something very special [the institute] for her husband, and for the family, and for our commonwealth and for our country.”

Thanking Vicki

More Brown: “I want to thank Vicki, especially, and Patrick [Kennedy] for their warm welcome in the transition to becoming a senator,” Brown, eager to look bipartisan, praised Ted Kennedy as “a legend” in the presence of his widow. He even volunteered that he has Ted Kennedy’s picture on his mantle.

Adding Debates

Once Ms. Kennedy told him to take a hike, the Browns agreed to yet another debate – a 4th – at UMass/Lowell on the same day as the Kennedy Institute debate was supposed to take place. In an orgy of self-abuse he also accepted another debate; sponsored by a media consortium, and like the one in Lowell, it probably will be televised statewide and perhaps nationally.

Either Brown has a much higher opinion of his verbal skills than most political watchers have, or his campaign realized that sooner or later he was going to have to come out of his protective cocoon. After months of shooting baskets, chatting up jock radio, and making fun of Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry, this fall he will be exposed to live ammunition in front of a live and large TV audience.

This is high stakes poker for Brown, who’s not good on his feet, not a student of policy, and not well-versed in overseas royalty.

Royal Pain

Brown committed a doozy of a gaffe on Thursday, on the radio program hosted by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. He said he routinely and secretly meets with kings and queens and other world leaders. After the show, Brown’s handlers back pedaled and said he “misspoke.” If you say, “He’s a wolf in cheap clothing,” that’s misspeaking. Making something up is a lie.

The Massachusetts Democratic Party caught him misspeaking four other times, when he said the same thing about meeting with “kings and queens” while speaking in Wakefield, Martha’s Vineyard, the Berkshires and Sandwich. (Both sides videotape each other’s appearances, just to catch this kind of misspeaking.) If you do it five times, is it still misspeaking?

Make That Six

He made his royal claim in Quincy last year, while throwing his support behind congressional candidate Jeff Perry, whose indifference to sexual harassment of a teenage girl while he was a police officer, probably cost him a job in Congress.

He Saw The Photos

Brown’s claims about being important enough to meet with world leaders bring to mind the days following Osama bin Laden’s death. As questions arose about whether he was really dead, Brown announced that he had been shown the photos of the corpse of the al-Qaida leader.

He told NECN, “Let me assure you that bin Laden is dead, I have seen the photos.” He went on, “If it's to sell newspapers or just have a news cycle story, no, I don't think they should be released.” We were supposed to believe that being a lawyer in the National Guard and sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee meant he had the stomach for such gruesome things. Trouble was, the photos were a hoax and had been peddled on the Internet. Once again, he misspoke.

Offering His Daughters

The night of his extraordinary victory in the special election, in front of a national audience he said his unmarried daughters were “available.” For what was not clear. His daughters were mortified. He misspoke.

In the movie "Godfather II," the character Fredo feels he has been dismissed his entire life. At one pivotal moment, he protests, futilely, “I’m smart. I can handle things! I'm smart!” He misspoke.

This program aired on June 26, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Dan Payne

Dan Payne Democratic Political Analyst
Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst for WBUR.



More from WBUR

Listen Live