Scott Brown’s unforced error

What in the world was Scott Brown thinking?

In a campaign appearance in Taunton on Wednesday, Brown charged that paid actors were portraying relatives of victims of asbestos-related illnesses in television ads for his opponent, Elizabeth Warren. “A lot of them are paid,” Brown said, according to the Taunton Gazette, when asked by a Taunton firefighter why victims’ family members were appearing in Warren ads. “We hear that maybe they pay actors. Listen, you can get surrogates and go out and say your thing. We have regular people in our commercials. No one is paid. They are regular folks that reach out to us and say she is full of it.”
   
The Warren campaign wasted no time jumping on the claim, producing statements from three people who appeared in the ads saying that they are neither actors nor were they paid for their appearance. “Let Scott Brown tell me to my face that I am nothing but a ‘paid actor,’ and I’ll set him straight on what it was like to watch my father suffocate to death,” said one of them, John English, who says his father died of mesothelioma.

The ads stem from criticism Warren has faced for her work on behalf of Travelers Insurance in a complicated lawsuit in which the company was seeking immunity from asbestos-related claims in exchange for establishing a $500 million fund for victims to draw from. The company gained immunity but ended up not establishing the victim fund, a move made after Warren was no longer involved in the case. Brown has charged that she should have anticipated the company might try to renege on the deal. Most victims and their families, however, felt Warren was fighting for their interests — and that’s the message delivered by family members in her campaign ads.

Brown issued a statement later Wednesday in which he apologized for having “jumped to those conclusions.”

The puzzling shoot-from-the-hip accusation by Brown follows similarly inexplicable moves, such as his claim to having seen photos of a dead Osama bin Laden (he based this on hoax photos making their way around the Internet) or his repeated tales of meetings with various kings and queens (no royal audiences have actually occurred). Unlike the earlier miscues, however, the Brown’s latest misstep reinforces a harshly negative edge that his campaign has taken on in recent months.  

Esquire’s Charlie Pierce headlines his scathing post on the matter “Senator McDreamy’s No-Good, Very-Bad Day.” He wonders why the Brown campaign has taken the most valuable asset it had going — a candidate with a high approval ratings and an outwardly genial personality — and set it ablaze with edgy attacks at every turn, regardless, it turns out, of whether the charges even have any credible basis.                                               

                                                                                                    –MICHAEL JONAS

BEACON HILL

Before Annie Dookhan there was Law & Order, with a 2001 show focused on a forensic chemist who cuts corners, CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan reports. WBUR’s David Boeri sits in during another day of special drug court hearings held in the wake of the Dookhan scandal.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The woman tapped to become New Bedford’s tourism director withdrew her application and  Mayor Jon Mitchell blamed the City Council for dragging its feet in approving the hire.

The former director of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority appears to have orchestrated huge raises and retirement payouts for himself that were never properly authorized.

The Kraft Group insists it has no plans to build a casino along Route 1. Foxborough residents will be combing over that statement carefully, since similar denials turned out to be not as firm as they initially sounded.

Howie Carr throws cold water on the notion that Boston Mayor Tom Menino should sweat any challenger.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The US Supreme Court may hear a case on gay marriage sooner rather than later as after a New York federal appeals court rules a section of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. A Boston appeals court made a similar ruling in May.

The Atlantic argues that George McGovern will die vindicated on war.

ELECTION 2012

US Rep. John Tierney and Republican Richard Tisei finally go at it over Tierney’s in-law gambling problems during a debate on NECN. (First part here, second here, and third here.) Tisei calls for a congressional investigation. Tierney insists he didn’t know what was going on, suggesting a comment otherwise from his brother-in-law was a lie. “You can take his word, or you can take mine,” he said, according to a story in the Eagle-Tribune.

National Journal’s Major Garrett explains how Mitt Romney has angered Democrats by dodging specifics on his tax plan, but has committed to enough detail in recent days that he ought to have Tea Party types crying  foul — but they aren’t. Paul Krugman calls Romney’s five-part jobs plan a “snow job,” arguing that “Mr. Romney’s campaign is telling lies: claiming that its numbers add up when they don’t, claiming that independent studies support its position when those studies do no such thing.” No word on whether this, too, will evoke an assault threat from Tagg Romney.

Daniel Foster says in the National Review that conservatives shouldn’t be upset — or even surprised — if Mitt Romney pulls an Al Gore by eking out a popular vote win but losing the Electoral College. In the Weekly Standard, William Kristol urges Romney to become more presidential and bipartisan and “speak for America,” not just Republicans. Both campaigns turn to the Latino vote in Florida, Colorado and Nevada.

Former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairwoman Sheila Bair, a Republican, endorses Elizabeth Warren in Lowell, the Sun reports. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken jets in to stump with Warren while Bruce Springsteen comes out for Obama and Warren, too.

Between now and the election on November 6, Americans will see 43,000 political ads every day, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks campaign spending.

An individual state’s unemployment rates may matter more in the election than the national figure.

Laugh of the day:  Customers are leaving hysterical comments about binders on Amazon.com (via Political Wire).

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Gateway Cities partnership is seen as boosting Lowell, the Sun reports.

The Boy Scouts’ confidential “perversion files” go public, NPR reports (via WBUR).

Are automobile insurers biased against poor people? asks a report by NECN and NBC News.

A report by the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston finds that people under 35 and those with a high school diploma or less are disproportionately represented in the unemployment numbers in Southeastern Massachusetts.

A Hanover piano store agreed to pay a $20,00 fine after the attorney general’s office accused the owner of deceptive advertising by holding a sale with signs that read “store closing,” “liquidation,” and “bankruptcy” when all he was doing was moving.

Private equity firms are back in the business of paying themselves dividends with borrowed money. The practice has become an issue in the presidential campaign, since it made Mitt Romney and his Bain Capital colleagues quite wealthy.

RELIGION

The buyer of a former mansion owned by the Worcester Diocese says he won’t hold any functions at the facility he plans if he is forced to host gay weddings. The property is the subject of a civil rights lawsuit filed by two married gay men against the Diocese, which backed out of a deal them. In the summer issue, CommonWealth looked at the move by the Catholic church to place restrictions on properties they sell to ban uses that conflict with church doctrine.

EDUCATION

The Cape Cod Times applauds Cape Cod Community College’s big get: hosting the Kennedy Center’s  American College Theatre Festival for the next three years, which should give a major boost to the region’s arts scene.

HEALTH CARE

Federal officials say tests have confirmed that the fungal contamination of medication vials at the New England Compounding Center matches the form of meningitis being developed by patients who were injecting with drugs from the Framingham company.

In the latest shake-up to hit the region’s health care landscape, Steward Health Care is teaming up with Partners HealthCare by agreeing to send the most serious cases from its 10 community hospital emergency rooms to Partners’ flagship Boston medical centers, Mass. General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals.

TRANSPORTATION

Cambridge ranks high among cities nationwide in terms of the percentage of residents commuting to work by bike, Governing reports. Somerville and Newton also show up high on the list.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Three people are arrested for sex trafficking at massage parlors in Revere and Wellesley, the Lynn Item reports.

Greater Boston looks at the Boston Police Department’s surveillance of anti-war groups and others who had not committed any crimes.

MEDIA

Newsweek kills its print edition, NPR reports (via WBUR). The New York Times story is here, and the Wall Street Journal’s is here.