Friday, September 28, 2012

No More Mr. Nice Guy: How Scott Brown Is Damaging His Own “Brand”

by Blueberry T

Scott Brown carefully cultivates his image as a regular guy who likes sports (as opposed to “sport”), drives an old pickup truck  and wears a barn jacket.  

  Who does that remind me of...?  Hmm.  Oh, yeah...


Until recently, his campaign revolved around the image that he is a nice guy and an independent, moderate voice in Washington.  But is he?

He did some serious damage to his “nice guy” brand in last Thursday’s debate with Elizabeth Warren. Commentators across the board thought he was “nasty,”  snarky,” desperate,” “aggressive” and “visibly irked”

He came out of the gate swinging, with a personal attack on Warren’s claim of Native American heritage that he has harped on for months.  This is an anti-affirmative-action dog whistle, and apparently it’s all he’s got, because he keeps harping on it even though voters are unmoved; 69% say it is not an important issue for them.  

Compounding the negativity of Brown’s attack was his ignorant and/or racist statement that “Professor Warren claimed that she was a Native American, a person of color and as you can see, she’s not.”  Would Scott Brown point out Christopher Stevens, John Baker, or Bristol Palin and her son Tripp as “persons of color”?   

Bristol Palin's son, Tripp Johnston is 1/32 Native American, like Elizabeth Warren. 

Notably, despite Brown’s false claims, a geneology researcher has found documentation that supports her contention that the family believed it had Native American heritageWarren has repeatedly explained that this is her family history, told to her by her parents and grandparents, and she is not going to disavow her family roots.  She also said she received no favorable treatment on job applications, a claim that was corroborated by those who hired her, including Reagan's Solicitor General, Charles Fried

Several reviews of the debate commented that resurrecting this dubious argument seems to show some desperation on Brown’s part; while he was trying to damage her credibility, he probably did more damage to his own reputation, as he looked petty, bullying and ignorant.   Nevertheless, he doubled down on this charge in a new campaign ad.  

In a new, even more damaging development, here are photos of Scott Brown’s taxpayer-funded staff at a political rally, using offensive and racist gestures to call attention to the controversy about Warren’s Native American heritage.  I will leave it to you to consider what the likelihood is that Brown's staff used such offensive gestures out of the blue, or whether such behavior may have happened previously with the Senator himself.  Now the controversy has blown up in Scott Brown’s face, with calls from the Cherokee Nation for him to apologize.  (I think he should resign.)

Here is Elizabeth Warren’s response to the controversy.  Rachel Maddow and Melissa Harris-Perry connected the dots about the latent racism in both Scott Brown’s and Mitt Romney’s comments, and how this relates to broader issues such as voter ID laws.  

Onward.  Later in the debate, Brown attacked Warren’s role as an attorney representing Travelers Insurance in a lawsuit by asbestos victims.  In an attempt to discredit her as a consumer advocate, he claimed that she took the side of the corporation against the victims.  This is a gross distortion of her role in a decades-long case with many legal complexities, twists and turns.  According to reports by the Boston Globe and others, Warren tried to preserve victims’ rights to receive damages after bankruptcy.  She sought to broker a settlement that would have resulted in Travelers paying $500 million in damages in exchange for immunity against further lawsuits; at the time, the settlement was supported by the largest group of asbestos victims. However, after she left her role in the case, the company reneged on the settlement, and it is still tied up in court. 

Brown’s attack on Warren for protecting Travelers Insurance is further blunted because Brown himself has received $9000 in campaign donations from Travelers, among the highest in the Senate.  If he thought they were wronging the victims (which they are), one might fairly ask why he accepts their support.

Brown also took a very petty swipe at Warren’s salary as a professor at Harvard, and tried to tie this to his portrayal of her as a “tax-and-spend Democrat” by saying she should have checked the box to pay more taxes than she owed.  The attack on her salary made Brown look small, and is rather ironic given the GOP’s recent claims that President Obama and Democrats are opposed to “success.”  Elizabeth Warren is an amazing success story, which inconveniently runs counter to the GOP’s false narrative. 

In a similar vein, Brown also continually called Warren “Professor,” in what seemed like an attempt to portray her as elitist.  I actually think that anti-intellectual streak doesn’t play too well in Massachusetts; a lot of people of all ideological stripes are strongly committed to education, including higher education, which is huge in this state, home to many colleges and universities.  I suspect that most people think it is a point of distinction and honor to teach at Harvard.  Many people respect Elizabeth Warren’s accomplishments in education and her expertise on bankruptcy law and financial regulation, as well as her personal “by the bootstraps, with help” success story.  So, I doubt that his remark damaged her in the first place, but it certainly made him look petty. 

As an O/T but funny aside, calling her “Professor” reminded me of Gilligan’s Island, and THAT reminded me of the analogy that David Brooks made just last week when he referred to Mitt Romney as Thurston Howell Romney.  That was probably NOT the association that Brown was aiming for. ;-) 

The MSM, blogosphere and pundits criticized Brown’s disparaging tone and pettiness.  It damaged his nice guy brand, which was ill-advised.  After all, if you take away likeability, he doesn’t have all that much left to offer.  I guess this is stupid season for Republicans.  

But even more importantly, Warren owned Brown on much of the key substance of the debate, notably:
  • Showing that despite his image as a moderate, Brown’s voting record is not very moderate at all,  particularly his votes against tax cuts for the middle class, fair pay for women, low-interest loans for students, health care reform, and for the Blunt Amendment that would have restricted women’s health care choices, among other things
  • Making the point that despite Brown’s claims that he supports women’s rights (which he “proves” by living with his wife and daughters), his voting record on women’s issues is mixed, and that in contrast, she will always be there for women
  • Making clear that she understands that people are not looking for a handout, just a fair shot, and that she is committed to fairness and opportunity for the middle class, veterans, the elderly, students, women and the poor
  • Expressing her commitment to working so that the rules are not rigged for millionaires and billionaires over the interests of the rest of America
  • Clearly supporting and associating herself with President Obama as Commander-in-Chief, and tying Brown to Mitt Romney (ironically, Brown has a new ad featuring him with President Obama; I guess he’s trying to run away from Romney as fast as he can)  
  • Strongly making the case that this race is important because control of the Senate is at stake, and a vote for Brown is a vote for more GOP obstruction and dysfunction in Washington, including having climate change denier Jim Inhofe overseeing EPA. 
  • Remaining poised, substantive and on-message throughout, while Brown was none-of-the-above.
Warren could have said even more (and probably will in upcoming debates), like that Scott Brown is one of Wall Street’s favorite Senators, while she is considered “Wall Street’s toughest critic.”   

She could have said that Scott Brown ran as #41 – the 41st vote that would enable Republicans to filibuster legislation and thwart progressive legislation.  As a result, the GOP has filibustered more than ever before in American historymore than 360 filibusters/threats during Harry Reid’s tenure as Majority Leader.  Now the reality is that all legislation needs 60 votes; it is the tyranny of the minority.   

She could have said that Mitch McConnell, who famously said that his top priority was making President Obama a one-term President, will be Majority Leader if the GOP wins the Senate.  

She could question why he attended a fundraiser in Florida hosted by Pepe Fanjul, a "sugar baron" who has been accused of “modern day slavery.”  (Could it have to do with making sure Brown votes to continue taxpayer subsidies of the sugar industry?)  Politicalgates wrote about Brown and Warren fundraisers here. 
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Brown's connection to the Koch Brothers as well.

I imagine Warren may consider some of these subjects fair game in future debates, especially if Brown continues to take the low road. 

One of the points that I hope Elizabeth Warren will also make is that Brown is almost running as a Democrat – his campaign literature (which I have at hand as I’m typing this) touts his endorsements by a few Democrats, and his campaign ad tries to link him with President Obama instead of Mitt Romney.  Okay, I can see that he would want to distance himself from Romney (and Warren did make this point very well).  But, hey, Scott, if you want to be a Democrat, please change parties, and when you do, say that you could no longer in conscience be tied to such a bunch of extremists who don’t have the interests of the country at heart.  Until you do that , if we the voters want to elect a Democrat, we won’t vote for you.    

Brown’s weak performance, which was widely panned in the press, was subject to further ridicule when Harry Reid revealed that Brown tried to use a Thursday afternoon Senate vote to dodge the debate.  Reid actually interrupted Senator Al Franken on the floor of the Senate, to say that he was cancelling votes for that afternoon to prevent Brown from missing the debate.  That’s probably as close to getting a public spanking as happens in the Senate.

Outside of the debate itself, here is another big blow to Scott Brown’s image, which may hit especially hard in the demographic where he is strongest.  

Before I close, I can’t resist a word about the pickup truck.  I know the pickup truck is the sacred emblem of Brown’s manhood, but it is a gas-guzzler  that adds excessive greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, for no good reason.  A lot of people need pickup trucks for their work, but the only reason Scott Brown needs a pickup truck is to burnish his image.  He does a lot of driving, mostly to campaign events, and it would be better for the planet if he drove a fuel-efficient car.  His truck gets just 18 miles per gallon at best, whereas he could be driving something that gets twice that many mpg or better.  He gives a glib answer about doing more to combat global warming (but then talks about more oil & gas drilling); maybe it’s time to focus on his own behavior and stop giving him a free ride in the old gas guzzling pickup truck.  Okay, maybe his manhood would threatened, which I could understand. ;-)  

Another aside:  for those who may not be aware, Scott Brown’s wife, Gail Huff, works for the ABC/CNN affiliate in Washington, after many years at the Boston ABC affiliate, WCVB.  So, be aware of that when looking at ABC/CNN reporting on the Massachusetts Senate race.  

To wrap up:  while it’s too early to say conclusively, most of the reviews indicate that Warren won the first debate, and most recent polls show her with a lead.  But it’s certainly a close race.  Brown did himself no favors by destroying his carefully cultivated moderate nice guy image.  It’ll be interesting to see whether he changes his tune, or his or tone, in the next debate on October 1st.    


Thanks to cheeriogirl for this link, about Scott Brown's prior work as a real estate lawyer, which involved him with some of the companies involved in mortgage document fraud in Massachusetts.  Here is more on this emerging topic

Also, hat-tip to Molly_WI and others for pointing out this gross billboard, put up by a Scott Brown supporter in a town near where he lives.  Keep it classy, Scott and your supporters!

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