The character of the candidates

Senator Scott Brown’s campaign has responded to the invitation from Victoria Kennedy, to participate in a debate, sponsored by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, with Democrat candidate Elizabeth Warren, by issuing the following statement: “In order to proceed, we need to know that in keeping with the spirit of neutrality expressed in Vicki Kennedy’s letter that she will not endorse or otherwise get involved in this race.”

What a bolt of genius!

What, honestly, could be more fair? How could you not expect the head of a non-partisan organization hosting an event to edify the citizens of the Commonwealth with a free and open exchange of ideas between the candidates to remain neutral?  How preposterous – how insulting really – to even have to ask Ms. Kennedy to maintain impartiality (for herself and the Institute)!

Oh, yes. Ask the zebra to wipe off those stripes or the monkey to come down from the trees. Ask the tide to go out and never return. Ask Snooki to stop saying “bitch!”

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But ask the sad heiress of the most Machiavellian, the-rules-don’t-apply-to-me political aristocracy in American history, for the sake of fairness, to not endorse the Democrat in Massachusetts!? This, my friends, is chutzpah.

But then, what choice does she have?

“The EMK Institute is non-partisan and committed to educating our public about our government – especially the United States Senate,” Kennedy wrote, “…the missions of the EMK Institute and the university [UMass Boston] dovetail perfectly with the goal of a serious Senate debate and exchange of ideas.”

Kind of painted yourself into a corner there, Vicki?

Really, it won’t mean anything. But at this stage Kennedy has to at least publicly claim that she will stay neutral. And that’s a win.

It seems that probably Brown was better off all along accepting this offer for a debate and striding into the lion’s den. (So, sneaking in this condition on Vicki Kennedy’s neutrality was that much more brilliant). Basically, the more that the citizens of Massachusetts see Brown and Warren together, the better Brown’s chances. Brown is at once unassuming and cocky, in a street-smart sort of way. Unlike Warren he does not need to take lessons in who he is supposed to be.

By contrast, Warren’s greatest vulnerability is that she is, at heart, a phony. Her rhetoric is filled with faux colloquialisms (to a rich factory owner: “keep a big hunk of it”) and her demeanor is, well, let’s just say that Snooki would know how to describe her.

This does not mean, however, that Brown is a sure winner. Warren will surely attempt to buy in to the Kennedy mystique in any way she can. But what, exactly, is that mystique and how can Warren grab a part of it? Is her strident and (for a woman) bellowing oratory her way to echo Teddy the Lion and recapture the “Kennedy seat?”

Any seasoned watcher of the pitiful and threadbare Kennedy circus knows that the family’s appeal has the character and depth of a checkout counter magazine. Massachusetts citizens haven’t voted for half a century for Kennedys because they think of them as outstanding representatives of a heroic ideology and they sure haven’t voted for them because they were tricked into thinking that they possessed model, upstanding characters. They have voted for them because of their faults; because the trademark Kennedy dysfunctional lives, with the scandals and the tragedies and the drugs and the wholly misogynous, boys-club attitude, humanize them. People make the fantasy worship of their tabloid heros and heroines believable only by looking down at them. Kennedy worshippers, in the addled psychodrama playing in their heads, are convinced that they, themselves, are (or could be) good friends to the Kennedys.

Warren can bellow insipid and incoherent liberal platitudes all she wants. She will capture the Cambridge-Northampton axis of Prius-Progressives with her Marxist drivel, but they have nowhere else to go anyway. If she is really going after the Kennedy vote I recommend she ditch her husband and get a dinner date, complete with National Enquirer front page photo, with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Mike Stopa is a nanophysicist at Harvard University. He ran for Congress in MA-03 in 2010. He blogs at

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