The Senate race in Massachusetts has now deteriorated to the “anything goes” stage, with both Democrats and Republicans using intellectually indefensible and unprincipled arguments to get the decisive edge in a neck-and-neck battle.Offensive: the suggestion, given credibility by questioner David Gergen in the candidates debate, that Republican Scott Brown is running for “the Ted Kennedy” seat and should feel anguish at occupying it while opposing the late Senator’s cause, health care reform. Brown’s bullseye answer to Gergen’s question in this vein—“it’s not the Kennedy seat, it’s not the Democrat’s seat, it’s the people’s seat, and they have a chance to send somebody down who is going to be an independent voter and an independent thinker” put that one to bed, but the hits just keep on coming. Ridiculous: Coakley is now being condemned on Boston sports shows and attacked by Boston sports icon Curt Schilling because Red Sox fans didn’t like her tone when she said the hallowed words, “Fenway Park.” Don’t think this nonsense can’t make a difference. In New England, dissing the Red Sox is political suicide. Suicide period, actually.
Then Coakley got herself in more trouble with this: asked by an interviewer about her opinion on the conscience clause, the wrong-headed law that allows health care workers to withhold services when it would require them to act in a manner offensive to their religious beliefs, Coakly said that religious freedom was guaranteed by the Constitution, but that devout Catholics should probably not work in emergency rooms. Translation: (Martha is a really, really, inept candidate) If your religious convictions will prevent you from doing your duties in a job, then you shouldn’t be in that job. On this Coakley is completely correct: it is irresponsible and a breach of trust to do do otherwise. But now the Catholics are angry at her, and Republicans are fanning the flames.
This is the kind of thing that will determine who wins in Massachusetts, which Coakley’s camp famously misspelled in one campaign publication. If she can win doing that AND being accused of not worshipping the Red Sox, the Republicans should just pack up and move out of the state.
There are real reasons to have doubts about Martha Coakley, however. She was a prosecutor, and prosecutors must make difficult calls requiring judgment and the judicious use of power. In this article today in the Wall Street Journal, Dorothy Rabinowitz (she often writes about false accusations and unjust prosecutions in the American justice system) recounts a horrendous episode in which Coakley played a disturbing role, the Amirault prosecution.
I was once a prosecutor myself, in Lowell, Mass, in fact. This story would do a lot more to influence my vote than her campaign’s inability to spell Massachusetts.