Senator Brown: No more “Mr. Nice Guy”

By Patrick Kenney

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On the streets of Dorchester two men were spotted making tomahawk chops and war whoops on Sept. 23. Who were these individuals? Were they sports fans? No. How about street performers? No. So who else could these unknown men making racially insensitive gestures be?

Courtesy of wbur.org

These mystery men were not just supporters, but staffers for Sen. Scott Brown and his campaign. One of the men has been identified as Jack Richard, a lawyer who works in Brown’s Senate Office and the other identified as Brad Garrett, who reportedly works for the Massachusetts Republican Party.

The incident was caught on camera at a campaign event for Brown in Dorchester that Saturday afternoon. A group supporting his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, showed up at Brown’s campaign event and the senator’s staff responded to them by mocking Warren with Native American stereotypes. When deplorable acts such as this occur, it is typical to direct outrage solely at the individuals caught in the scene. But this case is different. The difference here is that Brown created the environment that incites such demonstrable behavior. For months now, he has been fanning the flames of a so-called controversy over Warren’s heritage but has turned up the heat over the last two weeks as recent polls have shown him slipping behind his challenger. The charge Brown has been leveling against Warren is that she allegedly fabricated a sense of heritage to advance her career.

As of late, Brown has seemed to stake his entire candidacy on this racially charged attack. Brown opened up the first debate by attacking Warren on this front and has even released an ad highlighting the faux-controversy. The point of these vicious and below-the-belt attacks is to raise questions about Warren’s character. After the horrific behavior exhibited by the senator’s own staff last week, a discussion of character is exactly what is needed. However, it is not the discussion that Brown has been hoping for.

Character and public service go hand-in-hand. We expect our elected officials to conduct themselves with a certain degree of dignity and respect. We also expect elected representatives to possess sound judgment and common sense. Regarding dignity, one of the best aspects of political campaigns is having the opportunity to see how candidates present themselves to the public and how they respond to events, questions and, to a certain degree, attacks from opponents. In the past, Brown has presented himself as an affable, modest and “regular” guy hailing from humble roots. Over last two weeks, the senator has proven to be the exact opposite of the “nice guy” image he has worked so hard to maintain. The decision to initiate the first debate between the two candidates by repeating the racially insensitive attack on Warren’s heritage and to double-down on the charge in the days that followed showed Brown’s true colors. Rather than putting Warren on offense and denting her credibility, Brown has damaged his own. Racially-tinged attacks such as the one leveled by Brown are below the dignity of his office.

It is also essential for public servants to have respect for the office they hold, the people they represent and their responsibility as a role model. Shortly after the video of Brown’s staffers was released, he responded with the following statement: “The apologies that need to be made and the offensiveness here is the fact that Professor Warren took advantage of a claim, to be somebody – a Native American – and using that for an advantage, a tactical advantage.” Instead of taking responsibility for the actions of his own staff, Brown has taken his campaign further into the mud. With that statement, the senator displayed his lack of respect for the high office he currently holds and has tossed aside his responsibility as a role model for the purpose of scoring cheap political points.

Lastly, sound judgment is far from what Brown has shown throughout the duration of this ugly event. Brown was the one who made the decision to insert race into the campaign. He is also the one who decided not to apologize for the actions of his own staff, which he is responsible for hiring in the first place. None of these decisions illustrate anything except an absence of good sense. On all fronts, Brown has failed the character test. Through his willingness to toss around disrespectful attacks and his refusal to take responsibility for the disgusting actions of his staff, he has shown that he lacks the traits necessary to represent the people of Massachusetts with dignity. His actions have brought the campaign for the U.S. Senate to a nadir and have created nothing short of a toxic political environment. Massachusetts deserves much better than a campaign driven by bigotry and division. Better yet, Massachusetts deserves a representative who we know has the character and judgment and will never embarrass our great state the way Brown has.

Patrick Kenney is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at [email protected]