Charlie’s Problem

Charlie Baker has intrigued some of my Democratic friends. They worked with him in government or insurance and admire his management acumen.

But he has problems if he expects Democrats to turn tail or Independents to support him. Many of them speak to his character. Let’s name them.

Smart enough?

In his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Charlie claimed he was not smart enough to know if climate change was occurring and whether humans had played a role in the change. He now seems to have acknowledged that it is yes on both counts. Why does a candidate who considered himself too dumb to observe the climate changing in 2010 think he is smart enough to run a state in 2014?

Karyn Polito. Charlie chose his running mate. It’s too bad some of us remember the unsavory aspects of Ms. Polito.

On social issues important to Massachusetts voters, we can’t predict what she would do if they came to a head.

She has blown hot, then cold on a woman’s right to choose. While Polito seemed to support choice, she says she now regrets sponsoring a bill that would force doctors to present pamphlets on fetal development to women considering an abortion, thus patronizing women and delaying the procedure. This is the deviously named “right to know” law that anti-abortionists promote.

She once was strongly opposed to same-sex marriage. Now? Not so much. It is understandable how persons evolve on this subject, but Polito’s quick switch from foe to friend is suspect.

Then there was license plate-gate, in which Polito acquired low-numbered Red Sox plates for friends and family members, leaving the rest of us with the dregs. Finally, she helped legislate funding for a new state road that was said to increase the value of her family’s adjacent land. Her behavior in these matters smacks of old-style, self-serving Boston politics. It is sleazy in either Democrats or Republicans. If Charlie wants a “state government we can be proud of,” as his web site proclaims, he’s got a problem with Polito.

Roads and taxes. Charlie promises not to raise taxes. (Maybe, like Mitt, he will raise fees instead.) He supports the ballot initiative eliminating the automatic gas tax hike. But legislators balk at raising taxes. So if the yes vote wins that one, Charlie will have less money to fix our roads.

That’s too bad, because apparently we have the worst roads in the nation. He’s not going to make Massachusetts great, as he says he will, without good roads.

He’s either pandering or naïve about this matter. I don’t want a governor who is more naïve than I am.

Make Massachusetts Great Again. This tag line to Charlie’s campaign is insulting. I thought Massachusetts was already great—prosperous, mostly tolerant, blessed with an educated workforce, good schools and a healthy population compared to other states because it made health insurance obligatory for its citizens long ago.

Charlie knows health care cold, but you wouldn’t know it from the wishy-washy sentences on his web site. He should not be rotely complaining about Obamacare. With his experience, he should be telling President Obama, “Let me help solve some of the problems that linger.” If he is the good guy people say he is, he should be thankful that Americans who needed healthcare are finally getting it.

Lastly, for those of us who remember Mitt when he ran for the senate against Ted Kennedy and then became governor in 2003, we have the same question the Bulgarian woman refugee asked Rick about Captain Renault in Casablanca:

Will he keep his word? Mitt told us he was pro-choice, not opposed to same-sex marriage. Then he wasn’t. He supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Then he didn’t. In his senate race he rejected the NRA. But those gun-wagglers endorsed his presidential candidacy. He first acknowledged global warming, then disputed it. He helped establish the nation’s best health care plan and then disavowed it when it went national. It’s sad when a person’s core is so mushy.

Mitt pandered to the nut-case wing of the Republican party, which has a habit of turning reasonable candidates into nut-cases themselves. Is Charlie like Mitt?

            If he is as able as some people think, Charlie should be able to correct these problems. He might then attract Democrats, who in days of yore, with leaders like Elliot Richardson and Ed Brooke, would have been Republicans. But, so far, his campaign is muddled enough that there is no reason to go over to his side.