Fresh off his move back to Boston, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld has wasted no time wading into the political fray. Eileen McNamara takes issue with several comments he made this week to the Boston Herald. In this photo, Weld attends a campaign rally for Sen. Scott Brown at Faneuil Hall in Boston, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
It’s the holiday season, right, not April Fool’s Day?
I am checking my calendar in the wake of former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld’s professed incredulity that overzealous prosecutors hereabouts can’t seem to distinguish between political corruption and political grease.
What wouldn’t former Boston Mayor Kevin White have given to read Weld’s paean to “politics as usual” in the Boston Herald this week?
Alas, White is dead and Massachusetts’ favorite political dilettante is back in the town White governed for 16 years, a town with a much longer memory than Weld’s apparently.
When he set his cap on White in 1981, Weld was a young, feral federal prosecutor sowing the seeds of his own political advancement by investigating donations from powerful interests to a birthday bash for the mayor’s wife. Even though the party was never held and the donations were returned, Weld found no lead too small to follow in the hope it would lead to White.
To be sure, Weld’s bogus birthday party probe yielded some unrelated cases of actual extortion in Boston’s building department, but the mayor was always Weld’s elusive White whale.
How ironic all these years later to read Weld’s words excoriating prosecutors for mistaking the benign use of political grease — Mazola oil, as he called it — for an abuse of the public trust.
“There is such a thing as politics, and you do need to pay attention to it. It requires a certain amount of Mazola oil. That’s what troubles me about these criminal cases,” Weld told the Herald about two unrelated investigations, one of former state Treasurer Tim Cahill and the other of officials and lawmakers connected to the Probation Department’s penchant for awarding jobs to unqualified but politically wired candidates. “It’s like they’re criminalizing the Mazola oil. That’s not good for business.”
How about good for the taxpayer? Or for the public trust? They are no more on Weld’s radar screen now than they were 30 years ago when he tried to use White as his personal launching pad to higher office.
Weld made his pronouncements about alleged prosecutorial excess in ongoing political corruption cases while the jury was deliberating the fate of Cahill, who faces as much as five years in prison if convicted of using $1.8 million in state funds to purchase lottery ads on TV in a vain attempt to promote his doomed campaign for governor in 2010. Apparently, neither man knows the definition of “ill-timed?”
Patronage, like tax-funded self-promotion, is part of the “give and take” of politics, Weld told the Herald. “If suddenly the give and take gets translated to quid pro quo and a bribery prosecution, you know, that’s going to have a rather chilling effect on the accommodations necessary to forge a consensus…on matters of public policy.”
Public policy? Now there is a surprising new concern for the state’s former part-time governor who evinced more interest in rocking out to the Grateful Dead, imbibing amber colored liquid with his pals in the press corps and pandering to public prejudice against the poor during his playful, if undistinguished, tenure on Beacon Hill.
Who knows why we have been blessed with the return of a shameless self-promoter who could not get out of Massachusetts fast enough when he got bored with the job he was elected to do? Who cares?
Certainly not U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz or Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. They are too busy doing their jobs trying to hold politicians accountable.
Certainly not the voters. They are not too busy with holiday shopping to recognize a prospective Weld candidacy for the U.S. Senate as the April Fool’s joke it would be.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.