When Dean Barnett died at age 40 in August 2008, it was a loss of a unique voice in politics, and those who admired him could console themselves only with the thought that he had been needed for some pressing business above. Now, a year and a half after it happened, we know what it was: Only Barnett — Bostonian, Red Sox fan, former aide to Mitt Romney, with a loathing of cant and a fine sense of lunacy — could have orchestrated the Senate race in Massachusetts thus far.
Only Dean, whose Web name was Soxblog, could have dreamed up the Curt Schilling fiasco. Only he could have invented the inept Martha Coakley, made this “heir” to the “Kennedy seat” brought down by Scott Brown, a man more like John Kennedy than Ted Kennedy ever was in his lifetime. Only he could have had the Democrats tripped up by their arrogance (their maneuvering established the need for the special election), or timed it to coincide with the final vote on the health care atrocity, and the rising tide of resistance against it.
And, only he could have planted — at The Weekly Standard, for whom he was writing and blogging — the most potent weapon of all.
The year before, the Standard hired John McCormack, who quickly developed a talent for drama — the likes of which no one had dreamed. He didn’t create scenes, he made others create them, in the right venues at all the right times.
In October 2009, he was asking Dede Scozzafava a question that made her uncomfortable when he was intercepted by campaign aides who called the police, apparently on the grounds that questioning candidates was illegal, or should be. The incident was publicized, raising doubts of her fitness for office.
She was inept, but this seemed the kicker. Days later, Scozzafava was toast.
This was just the first phase of a much larger drama. In Washington, D.C., last week, McCormack tried to ask Coakley a question and ended up on the sidewalk, having been knocked there by a campaign aide-cum-enforcer.
Cameras were present, and photos showed up on the Internet, vividly showing two things: that the shover was one Michael Meehan, a well-known Democrat from Massachusetts nominated by Obama for a job in the government, and that Coakley had problems with truth.
Coakley said she hadn’t known of the incident, but she was shown to have been just a few feet away, and was shown staring down at the journalist. This in political terms was not all that helpful, as it proved that she, an attorney general, witnessed an assault and did nothing about it, and that she quite clearly had lied.
This wasn’t the only thing that blew holes in Coakley, but it was crucial, and it touched quite a nerve. To some observers, it seemed symbolic enough of the respect shown the law and the public by the Democrats in Massachusetts, and their brethren in Washington who concocted the health bill, like Nancy Pelosi and like Harry Reid.
“Watching that reporter get pushed and pushed again, I kept thinking of the typical taxpayers I’ve talked to,” wrote Michael Graham, a Boston-based columnist. “We speak out against higher spending, rising debt, fat bailouts, etc., etc., but our political class keeps shoving them down our throats. We show up at a town hall or tea party to be heard … but what happens? We get insulted, dismissed, shoved aside.”
Before the Great Shove, Coakley had led in the polls, but not thereafter. McCormack had bagged his second bad actor. Martha, like Dede, was cooked.
To most, McCormack appears much like Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter, but we at the Standard know better. He is the Designated Shovee, an agent of destiny, sent by fate to expose bad behavior or even provoke it, and implode the campaigns of inept female candidates.
Fate in the form of our old friend and colleague. Nice job, Dean. Well done.
Examiner columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”