Editorial: The book on Patrick

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Massachusetts has had plenty of recent experience with governors who, once they get to the corner office, decide there are more interesting places to be. So it's not surprising many people think Gov. Deval Patrick may be another short-timer and see the $1.35 million book deal he just signed as proof.

Gov. William Weld was an author, too, though he was inspired to write pot-boilers like "Mackerel by Moonlight," as opposed to the autobiographical nonfiction Patrick plans. Weld was prone to boredom, which became exceedingly painful as his term of office wore on. His schedule allowed room for midday squash breaks and out-of-state hunting vacations. Soon after he was re-elected in 1994, he launched a bid for the U.S. Senate. When that didn't work, he sought a job as ambassador to Mexico, and when he resigned as governor to pursue it full time, it seemed like he couldn't get away from Beacon Hill soon enough.

His successor, Paul Cellucci, won a term on his own, then he resigned for an ambassadorship, this one in Canada. Our next governor, Jane Swift, never made it to an election. She was followed by Mitt Romney, who started running for president halfway through his single term.

Given that history, we are alert for signs of gubernatorial discontent -- and Patrick has grounds for discontent. His accomplishments thus far are few, his frustrations many.

The grand themes of his campaign haven't translated into an inspirational legislative agenda. The ideas he has put forward have run into a shortage of money, the Legislature's glacial pace and a lack of urgency among Beacon Hill leaders.

Patrick's excitement returns when he takes to the campaign trail in support of his friend and ally, Barack Obama. That fuels speculation that he, too, will make an early exit should his candidate make it to the White House. Patrick denies any interest in returning to Washington, where he served in Bill Clinton's Justice Department. He has promised to serve out his first term and made noises about seeking a second. Bay State voters ought to take him at his word.

Patrick is just 15 months into a four-year term, but as Romney proved, a single term isn't a long time. An ambitious outsider like Romney or Patrick can land on Beacon Hill and take off four years later without leaving much of an imprint.

Patrick's political missteps, like the Cadillac and drapes purchases that marred his first months in office and the dumb timing of his New York visit to finalize the book deal while the House was in the process of shooting down his casino proposal, probably hurt him more with the insiders than with the general public. He has yet to demonstrate political clout that can match that of House Speaker Sal DiMasi who, with his defeat of Patrick's casino bill, has established himself as king of Beacon Hill.

One of the main things that drove Patrick's Republican predecessors to seek greener pastures was their realization that a governor, no matter how gifted and popular, can be ignored with impunity by the leaders of the House and Senate. If Patrick can figure out how to alter that dynamic, he'll have something to show for his time in the corner office -- and a more interesting chapter in his book than any he's written so far.