Brown’s Debut as a Talking Head

Scott Brown’s decision to forgo a productive role in Massachusetts politics and to instead cash in the chips he earned during his 15 minutes of political fame was truly disappointing. He threw an already beleaguered Mass GOP under the bus and opted for the Sarah Palin plan. In his debut as a “Fox News Contributor” on “the Sean Hannity Show” Brown’s performance made clear why his new gig removes him from serious consideration for statewide elective office in 2014.

Senator Brown didn’t lie or espouse any extremist policy views. In fact, its quite clear that his role is to bring a voice of bipartisanship and moderation to Fox News. What he did do is lose some credibility with folks who understand how the senate works by claiming that the Majority Leader has total control in the Senate and that he (Harry Reid) is entirely to blame for the chamber’s disfunction. Furthermore, Brown failed to correct a couple of glaringly false claims made by Hannity.

Hannity claimed that the Senate Democrats’ failure to pass a budget in years was a violation of their constitutional duty, and Brown not only made no effort to correct him, he agreed. Brown also never said a word about the reality that a budget with 40+ automatic no votes isn’t very useful in any event. Think about it. Brown is on because he was a US Senator who presumably is familiar with the body’s Constitutional duties AND with the practical and political realities of the senate’s day-to-day operations. By failing to correct Hannity on the constitutional responsibilities of the senate AND by going along with Hannity’s effort to ignore the Republicans’ role in the budget politics of the senate, Brown seemed incompetent in both of the areas on which he should have been able to speak with authority.

When Hannity, in an effort to highlight the dysfunction and parliamentary brinksmanship of the Democratically controlled senate, reminded Brown that the senate Democrats had used the reconciliation process to avoid giving Brown the 41st vote to stop Obamacare, Brown again made no effort to disabuse Hannity or his viewers of this mistake. In fact, the senate DID NOT use the reconciliation process to pass the Affordable Care Act. The House’s passage of the previously passed senate version of the bill with absolutely no changes made Brown’s crucial 41st vote irrelevant.

Of course, since this was his debut as a commentator on a national network, I should probably assume that Brown’s failure to use his knowledge and experience to present factually correct information and analysis was simply a case of rookie nerves. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see if he allows himself to be strung along by Hannity and other Fox News hosts in his appearences going forward.

Nevertheless, sitting next to folks like Sean Hannity and agreeing to his characterizations of…well…of anything is inescapably problematic for Brown’s own credibility. No one has ever mistaken Brown for a policy wonk or a particularly erudite fellow, but appearances like this first one are only going to add creedence the impression of Brown as an intellectual light weight. Whether he has consciously opted for a career as a talking head, or thinks he can still parlay his popularity in the Bay State into another elective office, losing intellectual credibility could create problems for him in the long run.

About Jerold Duquette

Jerold Duquette is an associate professor of political science at Central Connecticut State University. He is the author of Regulating the National Pastime: Baseball and Antitrust and has published articles and book chapters on campaign finance reform, political parties, Massachusetts politics and political culture, public opinion, and political socialization. Professor Duquette lives in Longmeadow, MA with his wife and four children.
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