It is amazing how they all march to the same tune. Did you ever notice that once the Boston Globe decides a position then all the employees dutifully follow along especially those on the editorial staff. This was again shown on Thursday when I happened to read an article by Yvonne Abraham.
You know the background to all this. The Globe did a Spotlight Report on the practices of the Massachusetts probation department. It demanded they be investigated. The state judges duly followed the demand. After a biased investigation the Probation Commission O’Brien was canned.
The Globe demanded that O’Brien be indicted. He was by the attorney general. He won that case. And by the US attorney, who was the Globe’s “Bostonian of the Year”.
O’Brien went to trial in early May and was convicted in late July. His offense was hiring people recommended by legislators and judges. This has often been called patronage but the US attorney turned it into some type of mail fraud offense. (Be careful what you put in the U.S. mail.) After listening to a multitude of witnesses in a case stretching out for months, the jurors figured something more than patronage was involve so they convicted O’Brien.
Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston, steps into the fray and doesn’t take the Globe’s line. He suggests O’Brien was wrongly convicted. He says all he engaged in was patronage which was a time honored tradition in the United States and on Beacon Hill.
The Globe obviously took affront to his statement. It needed to strike back. Abraham was given the job of taking the first hit at him. Expect others.
Mayor Walsh has yet to understand that the Globe believes it runs Boston and that crossing it will be damaging to his career. You can expect, and I’d be willing to place some of my dough on this, that the Globe will oppose Walsh if he continues to disregard its position when he runs for re-election. Abraham’s shot across the bow is a reminder that every opportunity it gets to damage him it will seize onto with glee until he heels, or is it heals.
Abraham writes that Walsh can’t get the legislature out of himself because he defended O’Brien by suggesting he was only doing the bidding of legislators and judges. She writes: “Oh, brother. I love that this mayor can’t help but answer a question honestly.” Then she goes on to express her dismay at his honest statement that he believed O’Brien was wrongly convicted because it “drives me batty that he and so many Beacon Hill types see what O’Brien did as just politics as usual. When actually, what he did was — and now it’s official — criminal.”
We all know he was convicted but that doesn’t mean it was right. It’s not official until his appeal is over. We also know that prosecutors can indict a ham sandwich since almost everything we do can be manufactured into a federal crime; we also know juries can be wrong especially if they have to sit for three months watching and listening to a prosecutor putting the ham sandwich together. As I noted before, they have to have figured that the guy must be guilty of something if it took that long to try him.
But here’s the nub of Abraham’s going batty. She tells us that “Probation jobs aren’t like jobs shelving books in a library or working metal detectors in a courthouse.” (The latter jobs the judges fill by patronage and they get a pass.) In Abraham’s world whether patronage is criminal or not depends on the type of job that is being filled. If it is a run of the mill job then patronage is all right, if it requires a little bit of skill which may involve dealing with people then it is wrong.
She has conjured up a crime that has no basis in law. It seems to me that patronage is either legal or illegal. You can’t have something that’s both. You can’t have something that becomes a crime at some mysterious red line that is decided upon by a prosecutor. Criminal laws are supposed to be interpreted strictly, not in the loosey-goosey manner Abraham suggests.
And, as for patronage being OK for dumbed-down jobs but not for those that are, to use Abraham’s word, “important”, it would be nice to hear what Abraham thinks of the job of many of the judges who sit on the bench or many of the ambassadors who represent America in foreign countries or the appointments to US Attorney. If they are important jobs, as they seem to be, is she suggesting that those patronage appointments were criminal acts?