CAMPAIGN FIREWORKS AND A DEFINING MOMENT: ‘I SERVED WITH YOUR HUSBAND’ … plus … MIKE WARD ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ENDORSEMENT AND A RECOMMENDATION — HOT STUFF AS ELECTION DAY NEARS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
BIANCHI TO MARCHETTI: ‘YOU’RE NO JACK KENNEDY’ … SORT OF
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, NOV. 4, 2011) — It may go down in Pittsfield political lore along with the infamous botched at-large ballot in Jody Phillips’ first election as city clerk, Gerry Doyle throwing the city into receivership, or Peter Arlos and Jim McCaffrey duking it out on in the council chambers. It might be Pittsfield’s campaign equivalent to Lloyd Benson taking Dan Quayle to the woodshed in the 1988 vice-presidential debate (“Senator, I knew Jack Kennedy. I worked with Jack Kennedy, and believe me. You’re no Jack Kennedy”).
“I served with your husband” — Dan Bianchi to Peter Marchetti.
Walking into a Trap of His Own Making
The “family values” discussion at the PCTV debate on Wednesday night left moderator Dave Cachet dumbfounded, the TV audience riveted, and likely settled any doubts about the 2011 mayoral election.
The matter came about innocently enough. Peter Marchetti began a line of commentary designed to put Dan Bianchi on the defensive. Little did he know, but the trap Marchetti set ended up snaring himself. He dug the pit deep, put in the upturned sharpened stakes, put palm leaves over the opening, and then — while leading Bianchi down the jungle path — stepped into the hole.
Marchetti made the point that following Bianchi’s narrow loss to Jimmy Ruberto in 2009, Bianchi essentially disappeared from public service. Bianchi countered by providing a convincing litany of examples of his involvement in the community, including serving on a St. Mark’s Parish advisory board “with your husband.”
Bianchi said it neutrally and as a matter of fact. A smart campaigner in opposition would have let this pass without comment. Marchetti, however, became unglued. He got emotional and displayed a lack of maturity, reacting like a victim. Of what, it’s hard to say.
Is He Comfortable in His Own Skin?
One can only speculate — based on the evidence — that Marchetti isn’t comfortable letting the public know he is married to a man or that he has a husband. A friend of THE PLANET, a man who is familiar with gay culture, made the astute observation that most of his friends, including his partner, take pride in who they are. He said Pete, however, seems to be squirming in his own skin with his sexual identity.
And that is precisely what makes this a legitimate issue in the 2011 campaign. It’s not a referendum on lifestyle but on the solidity and maturity of judgment of two men. These men offer stark contrasts along many policy and political lines, but all of these pale in comparison to the polar juxtaposition of their lifestyles, the “family values” question.
Let’s get real. Bianchi is married to a woman. Marchetti is married to a man. Society may be ready for the latter in most social situations, since it’s hard to find objection to people finding genuine love in this veil of tears. The electorate, though, is NOT ready for a CEO — President, governor, or mayor — who is male and has a husband. A mayor isn’t like the CEO of a private corporation. A mayor is the person who represents the entire population of a city or town. Too many of the electorate in that population, in this case the city of Pittsfield, Mass., embrace the traditional view of marriage as a sacred and social contract between one man and one woman.
Actually, that Peter would be upset that the word is out would suggest one of the few times in his remarkably tone-deaf campaign where he has shown that he “gets” the mood of the electorate. Marchetti’s discomfort with his marital status matches up decently with that of the public.
One Man + One Woman = What Electorate Calls a Marriage
Many, likely most, among the Pittsfield electorate do not want to be represented by a mayor who has a husband, unless that mayor is female. One cloud of unease that hung over Sara Hathaway’s head for her two year in office was her status as a single woman. Rumors circulated by her political opponents suggested she might be a lesbian. Like it or not the electorate in Berkshire County embraces traditionalist mores.
That is certainly true for senior citizens, who traditionally vote in the highest numbers of any age demographic.
There are too many people in Pittsfield who feel that, morally, the traditional understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman is sacrosanct. They would cite about 7,000 years of civilization history to support their claim that “traditional” marriage is the best, most stable arrangement for the good of the person and the good of society.
After Marchetti responded with petulance to Bianchi’s remark about serving with Peter’s “husband,” the discussion then explored traditional values. That’s where Bianchi rhetorically buried Marchetti. Peter lost sight of a fundamental rule of political combat: Don’t “go there” unless you have a full clip in the chamber and another in the ammo pouch.
Bianchi mentioned he was married to a woman, his wife, and talked favorably and convincingly, with pride, of his family. He didn’t have to do much more. Marchetti had nothing in response except a fractious and testy series of querulousness. Each of Marchetti’s salvos made him comes across as ineffectual. One and only one man came across as mayoral. The other came across as a political adolescence.
Withering Under the Glare of the Solo Spotlight
Not everyone is cut out to be a front man. Mick Jagger is, Ringo Starr isn’t.
After Marchetti’s latest meltdown, THE PLANET recalled an observation we made, and others have since made, about the unique nature of a mayoral campaign. Many wondered how Marchetti would do under the spotlight of a one-on-one campaign. A mayoral campaign is the opposite of running for the other citywide office, councilor at large. In the at-large race, you’re always sharing the stage with a bunch of others. It’s easy to hide and say nothing on the campaign trail. You’re part of the chorus. There’s too many people with too much to say and too little time or opportunity to say it.
We now know that when his time came, Marchetti wilted.
It might have been different, if, for example, he had accepted the offer made by Mayor Ruberto and John Barrett to help the campaign with fund-raising and strategy. Ruberto and Barrett made that offer to Marchetti at the East Side Cafe in June. Peter showed up at the meeting accompanied by his handler, Gerry Doyle.
THE PLANET doesn’t know word-for-word what happened that day at the East Side, but we can say that the meeting ended with Ruberto and Barrett going one way, Marchetti and Doyle the other.
In hindsight, come Tuesday at 8:01 p.m., we will be able to say that Peter Marchetti lost the election on that sunny June day.
MIKE WARD FINDS PLANET’s LABEL OF ‘ODD’ ODD
THE PLANET received this message from our Right Honorable Good Friend, the esteemed Ward 4 councilor Mike Ward, in reference to yesterday’s column. We had noted his “odd” reluctance to publicly answer our query: Which man — Marchetti or Bianchi — would in his judgment is better equipped to handle the job of mayor. Thus spaketh Ward:
Dan – your post calls my reluctance to opine on who would make a better mayor “odd”. I can prove you wrong on that. Merriam-Webster’s definition of odd includes “differing markedly from the usual”. It is not at all usual for me to make endorsements. In fact I never do. It would be *odd* for me to start now.
The assessment of who would “make a better mayor” would be difficult even if I were willing go on record with one. The two candidates look similar on paper in terms of government and business experience. But the ability to be a *successful* mayor involves many external factors out of one’s control, such as relationship with the city council.
I suggest that voters look at Dan and Pete’s voting records and decide which candidate’s worldview more closely matches their own.
City Councilor Ward 4
We thank our right honorable good friend for his comments. We assure him, though, that we are familiar with the lexicon. We still have an old-fashioned dictionary on our bookshelf (Webster’s New World). There are multiple definitions of the word. Usage depends on the syntax of the sentence and the context of the sentence with the paragraph. We accept the Merriam-Webster definition that Mike offers. We will not accept it as proof, however, that he refuted THE PLANET’s contention, since we are not parsing words since, politically, an endorsement and a recommendation are two different things.
SCHOOL BUILDING NEEDS COMMISSION DOCUMENT IS A DOOZY
Since today’s column went in a different direction than anticipated, THE PLANET shall be sharing an explosive state document as it pertains to the school building needs commission. Rather than bury the document at the end of an already ponderous discussion, we shall be sharing soon, possibly tomorrow. Remember, in making our announcement about no more Saturday columns, we did reserve the right to break in on occasion. If time allows, that document shall be posted tomorrow. If not, on Monday.
WITH ALL OF THAT, MY GOOD FRIENDS, LET US LIVE IN LOVE, PEACE, AND HARMONY, REMEMBERING THAT POLITICS IS FLEETING. IT IS OUR LIVES OUTSIDE OF POLITICS (AND SPORTS, AND POPULAR CULTURE, AND …) THAT MATTERS THE MOST. THAT’S WHY WE SAY,
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.” AND
LOVE TO ALL.