What to do about Brown

WHAT TO DO ABOUT BROWN…. We talked yesterday about Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) latest interview, in which the senator was not only rambling and borderline-incoherent, but also claimed that Democrats refuse to focus on job creation — a claim which is clearly false.

Soon after publishing the item, I received a thoughtful note from a regular reader, P.H., who had some concerns about the general approach. I’m re-publishing the entirety of P.H.’s note with permission:

“You know I love this column, but I think this particular character study may be counterproductive. I agree that reading his response to a direct question is like drinking curdled milk, but people like the guy. I read the profile in the NYT Magazine and I like the guy. He’s sort of a goofball and he seems to be a good dad. He’s not Einstein, but he’s not Eric Cantor either. But I think the point is, to me, is that he’s someone who can be won over and he’s also someone who, regardless of what he says, has been an asset to the Democrats. So, I’m just saying…it’s not worth alienating him.” [ellipses in the original]

I really do understand this point of view. Much in the same way many Americans “wanted to have a beer” with George W. Bush, Scott Brown seems like a good guy. If one were throwing a backyard barbecue, Brown would probably make a fun guest. If I were choosing a Republican senator to be my neighbor, and help out with this year’s July 4th festivities, Brown would probably be high on the list.

But to my mind, that makes scrutiny of his, shall we say, “shortcomings” all the more important. When Scott Brown trashes Democratic job-creation efforts with dishonest talking points he doesn’t even seem to understand, for example, the casual voter might be inclined to believe him. After all, he seems like a good guy, right? Why would the handsome, likable guy lie? If he says Dems are ignoring the need for more jobs, maybe Dems really are.

Except, Dems really aren’t. Brown doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but that doesn’t stop him from saying things that aren’t true.

Of course, it’s not just the jobs agenda. Brown has, in his very brief tenure, repeatedly made ridiculous, and at times even insulting, claims about everything from health care reform to Wall Street reform. Just yesterday, yet another one of his patently false arguments was exposed as an unsupported sham.

If I had to guess — and this is purely speculative — I’d say Brown is more a fool than a liar. He’s demonstrated repeatedly that he doesn’t really understand any area of public policy with any proficiency, so his bogus claims are likely the result of ignorance, not mendacity.

But much of the public probably doesn’t appreciate the difference, and may be inclined to take his arguments seriously because “people like the guy.”

In theory, P.H. is right, and Brown can play a constructive role, occasionally breaking with his far-right party. But if he insists on saying idiotic things that aren’t true, it’s more important, not less, to call him on it, given the apparent credibility that comes with his personable qualities.