Niagara Gazette

October 20, 2013

SINGER: Locating the candidate from left field

By B.B. Singer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — RNC Chair Reince Priebus (his name unfortunately ripe for late-night caricature) hopes to shorten the presidential primary and debate season next time out, holding a convention in June rather than late August. Still, to survive such rigors, you do need someone previously tested.

In that regard, former Sen. Scott Brown takes the cake — you can’t read his transfixing memoir full of parental rejection and alcoholic rages, poverty, constant uprooting, loneliness, and unfairness galore without realizing that he had much to overcome to become the protective personality and true independent he remains. To me it was sad when Sen. Brown, belittled as a long shot when he ran (successfully) for Ted Kennedy’s vacant seat, then lost in Massachusetts to Elizabeth Warren, a well-heeled progressive commanding a large, off-the-top base.

That notwithstanding, if Republicans are to create a horse race in 2016, a relatively fair fight in the age of ACORN-type maneuvers, Lois Lerner, and the rest, they’d best choose from left field, as Democrats did with Carter in the ‘70s. And if the party wants strong, supple, caring, courageous, and bright, not to mention attractive (who says all women want only a Hillary?), they could do worse than Brown, that is, if he’d assent to such a grueling enterprise.

In this fantasized scenario, would he require a minority running mate? Definitely, and not as tokenism, because there’s surely someone of worth among contingents that helped make the election less than a sporting match last time out. Finally, none would be better than Brown at crossing the aisle — as a former state rep and senator in Democrat-dominated Massachusetts, he was marvelous at that.

Of course pundits might unearth the acting out that marked his early life, owing to such a precarious family (and non-family) life of real hunger and much home-moving, with a mother who resembled a yo-yo on steroids! Would media types be as decent to Brown as to those who averred they didn’t inhale? Probably not, but it’ll go with the territory...

The knock on Romney was partly that he grew up affluently, and remained that way. Well Brown’s growing up makes “Les Misérables” sound like a tropical vacation! His was a sink-or-swim childhood of learning to outrun or outhit bigger foes, of waiting for his mom and estranged dad to be even a bit reasonable, not to mention there; and being patient with sadistic or at best, cool step-dads, and meanwhile, trying to acquire role models (mainly teachers and coaches), and playing basketball with grim determination.

Dean’s List at the School of Hard Knocks? No question. But again, the strength and resilience he developed is what makes him real presidential timbre. Unfairness overcome positively may not be a candidate’s sole qualification, but it sure doesn’t hurt!

Brown’s problems remained his classroom, making this sore thumb guy stand out, especially on hoop teams where he did 20 times more than his peers, seeking a scholarship-funded escape to college. Becoming a regional phenom, he was duly swarmed with offers, spurning places like Rochester for a Boston-area campus in order to protect mom and sister.

And he kept being tested at school, going to bat against prejudice of all sorts, then — inspired by storm rescues and the Iran hostage — was tested anew in demanding National Guard training, where he was a leader among people of all backgrounds.

Thence to Boston College Law, plus a rapid rise in the Army hierarchy via more tough training (night parachute jumps, tick-covered treks in the steamy south); and eventually, to lieutenant colonel and military lawyer, where he helped soldiers with searing quandaries like leaving kids back home, and yet ... Brown’s known, too, for being a former “Cosmo” guy?

Wouldn’t the media hype that! In fact, he was pushed by his sister, who sent in pictures that slayed Helen Gurley Brown, and in the early ‘80s, he unexpectedly won as “America’s sexiest man.” He then modeled for cash, while taking leaves from law school and the military. And though he beheld Studio 54 and the coke scene up close, he was thankfully immune, given a background where he’d seen what stimulants can wreak.

Again, such a protective, stay-the-course, and also happy family man would be a fine candidate from left field; but will it happen?

B.B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.