Friday, October 20, 2006

Badmouthin' the Boss

One of the great pleasures of the workplace is grousing about the boss, and who among us hasn't availed ourselves of that great pleasure? Of course, it's one thing to do your grumbling sotto voce and under the private cover of lunch with a colleague. Quite another thing to do it publicly. And quite another, another thing to be asked to criticize your boss point blank.

So, although I do not like her. Although I think she deserved to be put on the spot. Although I think she deflected the question deftly enough, I had a teensy twinge of sympathy for Lt. Governor Kerry Healey when she was asked to repudiate her boss, Governor Mitt Romney, during last night's debate in Boston.

For those not yet following the 2008 presidential campaign, Governor Mitt is circling the country, badmouthing Massachusetts as he tries to curry the approval and support of the Republican right-wing. Instead of traveling around making the case for businesses to relocate in our fair commonwealth, he is instead portraying the state as out of the mainstream and wacko (largely because gay marriage is legalized here). OK, a lot of Mitt's making fun of Massachusetts takes place in South Carolina, and it's unlikely that any of their chicken processing factories are going to relocate up here, anyway, but it's still unseemly for the governor to trash-talk his state the way Mitt does. If he hates it so much here, why not leave now? Believe me, we won't miss him.

Below is a transcript of Kerry Healey's exchange with one of the debate panel members. I'm not sure who "Allison" is, and I couldn't find a reference to her full name and affiliation in the debate transcript, but she's a reporter:

ALLISON: Ms. Healey, in his frequent out-of-state travel. Governor Romney has often made Massachusetts the butt of jokes. These are comments that many feel have not only disparaged the state but may also hurt the state's ability to attract business and new citizens. Would you take this opportunity to publicly criticize Governor Romney for the potential harm he's done to the state and would you call on the governor to cease and desist?

HEALEY: Let me just say that I love Massachusetts. I love it in a way that someone who chooses their state loves it. And I came here back when I was going to college. I had the great opportunity to come here to go to college and I have to say that it impressed me as a place that has fantastic history looking at this hall. You can see and feel the history of this state. It has families where generation after generation live in the same town, stay together. I love Massachusetts. I'm going to work to make it a better place and I will never criticize it.

ALLISON: And would you call on the governor to cease and desist.

HEALEY: I think he's probably heard your message loud and clear.

Now this is pretty much one of those no-win, 'have you stopped beating your wife' questions, and I think she answered it decently enough, distancing herself from her boss by saying "I will never criticize" the state. But in terms of the debate, she actually came across as losing points on this one.

I'm sure that Ms. Healey does plenty of private grousing about Mitt, and how he's not helping her any. And whether she publicly calls on him to 'cease and desist' may be the least of her worries. (The latest things she's getting slammed for are a ridiculous 'just-in-time-for-the-election' play to eliminate turnpike tolls, and the increasingly scurrilous tone of her attack ads on Deval Patrick.) But it's hard to be put in the position of publicly criticizing your boss when he hasn't done something illegal or out-and-out evil, when he's just acting like the pol that he is, doing anything for the vote. Still, given than Mitt isn't doing all that much to support her candidacy, Healey could have put a little more distance between them without looking like she was criticizing the boss.

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