Deval must make the most of his second chance

by Dax-Devlon Ross

Deval must make the most of his second chance

THERE ARE NO do-overs in politics, but there are second chances. For Deval Patrick, it’s time to look in the mirror, see the leader Massachusetts voters elected last November, and start acting like that leader.The new governor rearranged the deck chairs this week, bringing in two new aides to help with political strategy and communications. That’s fine. But only the ship’s captain — that would be Governor Patrick — can turn things around.

The litany of gubernatorial missteps is so well known it can now be communicated via shorthand: Cadillac, drapes, telephone call.

For those missteps, the governor has no one to blame but himself. It was Patrick who chose togo forward with an expensive car lease and extravagant office decor. It was Patrick who decided to advocate on behalf of a mortgage lender who once employed him.

Patrick’s decisions could be rationalized as the rookie mistakes of someone who never before held elective office. The announcement that Patrick’s wife is being treated for depression and exhaustion might also explain why he didn’t grasp the significance of what seems trivial in the context of a serious family crisis.

Like many others, I would like to give the governor the benefit of the doubt. But then, Patrick’s response to an immigration raid in New Bedford provided reason to question something beyond judgment about curtains. The conflicting stories about what he and other state officials knew in advance of the raid conducted by federal immigration authorities raise doubt about Patrick’s willingness to tell the whole truth.

From the outset, Patrick should have presented an honest timetable of events leading up to the New Bedford raid, including all communication between federal and state officials. It would not have detracted from his efforts to intercede on behalf of what he rightly called a “humanitarian crisis.”

If he wants a lesson in honest communication with the public, he should reread the responses of Kevin Burke, the state’s public safety secretary. Burke relayed exactly what he knew: that state officials wanted to be on-site when the raid was conducted; but federal officials refused the request.

Patrick, in contrast, said, “Our expectation, for example, was that we would have access at the site to individuals who were being detained.” A Patrick spokesman later confirmed that the governor understood that state social workers would not be allowed into the factory where the raid was conducted.

At least once as a candidate, Patrick showed a troubling willingness to trim the truth. Remember his responses to questions about his advocacy on behalf of convicted rapist Benjamin LaGuer? Patrick first said, “My sole involvement in this case was more than 10 years ago, when I wrote on Mr. LaGuer’s behalf.” As it turned out, Patrick wrote two letters to the Massachusetts Parole Board seeking LaGuer’s release, once in 1998 and again in 2000. He wrote at least twice to LaGuer himself.

Fortunately for Patrick, his honesty in this matter never became an issue; his opponent’s negative campaign style did. Republican gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey tried to paint Patrick as a defender of criminals instead of victims. Her theme did not resonate with voters, who liked Patrick.

By Election Day, Healey lost the campaign as much as Patrick won it. Now, he runs the risk of looking like an accidental governor, if he doesn’t get his fledgling administration back on track.

I cannot speak for voters at large, but within Bay State political circles, I know people are still rooting for Patrick. They want him to succeed. They want to get beyond the petty and into the serious issues confronting Massachusetts. After four years of watching Mitt Romney first advance his personal political business, they looked forward to a governor who is ready, willing, and able to first promote the business of Massachusetts.

That’s what Patrick promised and only he can deliver on it. Some of Patrick’s most devoted supporters are searching for signs that he is the man they believed in back when many others doubted his candidacy. He betrays them, not the media, if he falls short of their expectations.

Patrick is human. He is allowed to make mistakes. He is certainly allowed to deal with his wife’s illness.

He is allowed a second chance to be the kind of governor the voters of Massachusetts believed they were electing.