Richard Reeves

Who Is That Masked Man?

WASHINGTON -- When Barack Obama of Illinois first walked into the Capitol of the United States as a senator-elect in 2004, he was greeted with the usual bowing and scraping that senators take for granted in those hallowed halls. His wife was stunned, saying, as I recall: "What will they do if you actually achieve something?"

Actually, he had already achieved the thing most honored in that place: getting elected.

Enter Scott Brown of Massachusetts. His election last week has been greeted with as much fanfare and foreboding as the shot heard 'round world on Concord Bridge in his state. Or the Boston Tea Party. Will the world ever be the same again?

"Who Is Scott Brown?" was the headline in Sunday's editions of the Los Angeles Times. Kathleen Hennessey of that paper's Washington bureau reported at least one specific: that many mornings he runs around his hometown, Wrentham. Very fast. Then she quoted a fellow Republican state senator -- there are very few in the Commonwealth -- named Bob Hedlund, who said:

"You could tell people were using him as a vehicle. It maybe could have been anybody, but putting him out there with the looks and the family and the truck -- it certainly is a nice package."

Then Hennessey added: "The package still has some unknown contents."

In other words, it could be empty. Or, he could be another Obama, another Lincoln.

We only know he is not another Kennedy, even if he looks like one.

"Now Kennedy Is Really Dead," was the headline over a column by Austin Ruse, director of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, who went on to say:

"What faithful Catholic did not ponder late Tuesday night that the election of Scott Brown to the 'Kennedy seat' was God's judgment on Kennedyism. Kennedyism being the proposition that one may defend the sick and the poor in some circumstances but in other circumstances support their deliberate killing."

Wow! If God is in on this, maybe He could do something about unemployment.

There's more. David Gibson, a columnist for Politics Daily, found some objection to Ruse's analysis. Quoting Henry Karlson of Vox Nova, a Catholic blog, he reminded readers that Brown, who seems Boston-friendly on social issues, long ago announced his support for Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Karlson wrote that anti-abortion Catholics supporting Brown, a Protestant, were "fake pro-lifers." He added: "Can those pro-life groups which, as a group, promoted and supported Brown be taken seriously again?"

Back to the package, which as you must know was displayed raw many years ago in a Cosmopolitan centerfold. To me, the talented (I hope) Mr. Brown, is another example of the descent of American politics into our empty celebrity culture. The Massachusetts election, or at least media analysis of it, was just another public entertainment. Who is Scott Brown? He's a reality show star. The same could have been said of the emergent Obama.

But now Obama has actually done things -- most of it good, I would say, but not all -- and he is not as attractive to many people as he was when he was a vehicle for anti-government, anti-Washington, anti-establishment hopes springing eternally.

Whoever he is, Brown may be a man for our times. Friends say he loves campaigning. That's a little weird. And they also say he is not much interested in policy. Well, who is, in the shop he will be working in soon? Although he sort of denied it during the campaign -- he called himself an "independent" -- he is joining a party that so far in the Obama presidency has almost unanimously been disengaged from policy. In fact, they seem to be against any and all policies.

And so almost everyone in the loyal opposition will soon be calling themselves "Scott Brown Republicans." At least until the next reality star appears in Washington.

More like Richard Reeves