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Volume III, Number 16: 21 May 2003

Another Republican Moral Crusade Rooted in Politics

Paul Corrigan

Is that Ken Starr playing governor of Massachusetts? No, it's Mitt Romney.

Pardon me for confusing the latest Republican moral crusader with the infamous Mr. Starr. Governor Romney is pursuing University of Massachusetts President Bill Bulger with the same zeal that Starr pursued United States President Bill Clinton. In both cases, a Republican has unsuccessfully tried to oust from office a highly competent public servant because the individual in question lacks, in the mindset of that Republican, the moral authority to hold public office. Behind the stated motives are the clear objectives to take down successful Democrats who have thwarted Republican political agendas. The zeal of the pursuits is surpassed only by the personal and political destruction left in their wakes. At least Mitt was elected to the position from which he conducts his witch-hunt.

Republicans charge that Bulger does not have the moral character to lead the university as its president. Before taking office, Governor-elect Mitt Romney criticized Bulger for refusing to testify about his contact with his brother, James "Whitey" Bulger, to a congressional committee investigating the FBI's handling of mob informants. Shortly after taking office, Romney, the former Bain & Company venture capitalist, proposed a reorganization of the state's higher education system. Not surprisingly, Bulger's office was earmarked for elimination under the plan, ostensibly to help the new Governor eliminate a projected $3 billion gap in the state's budget. Romney has since learned that ousting public officials is not as easy as firing subordinates was in his old venture capital firm. The state legislature has thwarted the new governor's efforts. Instead of chalking this lesson up to the learning curve of a new position, Romney will try to force a vote on Bulger.

"The people of Massachusetts deserve the chance to see how the Legislature is going to vote on the office of the UMass president," said Romney. "We will not allow that vote to be avoided by both houses." Romney is not the hypocrite that many of the House Managers were in the pursuit of Clinton. However, he shares with those buffoons the same pathetic desire to transform the Scarlet Letter of one individual's personal actions into a political backlash against Democratic politicians. The new governor is politically naive. Romney's crusade will not only increase the support and sympathy for Bulger, but also remind voters that Republican politicians are threats to public higher educaion.

If the pursuit of Clinton taught us anything, it was to question the motives of those who used politics to expose the sins of our public officials. The right-wing yahoos want the Clintons and Bulgers of the world to admit under oath that they are bad people, unworthy of public office. In their black-and-white world, a confession of misdeeds by their enemy is the equivalent of an admission that the right-wingers are good. Romney has spent the better part of the gubernatorial campaign and his five months in office making the future of Bill Bulger into the dominant issue of his administration. This type of public diversion may work for Romney in the short term but not for long. Romney was elected because he sold himself as an independent executive who would deliver results. Romney can thank the Bush administration for exporting deficits, debt, and social problems to state and local governments. It is Romney's duty to lead Massachusetts through this economic and social mess. Bill Bulger's head will not do anything to change that fact.