Baker and Trump: the home stretch
Governor can’t wait for a break from topic
With the election just five days away, Charlie Baker is no doubt looking forward to a reprieve from the nonstop questions from reporters that look to hold candidates accountable as they compete for office.
The state of the MBTA. Whether he’s moving fast enough on clean energy. The opioid epidemic. Scandal at the State Police. They’ve all been part of the mix.
But nothing has had quite the staying power of questions about how the popular moderate Republican governor of a very blue state views and deals with the divisive leader his party has put in the White House.
As the Globe’s Matt Stout writes today, the questions started coming way back in 2015, and Baker’s impatience with the Trump question didn’t need time to take root — a “smirking Baker” was annoyed with it from the start.
Baker famous declared that he blanked his presidential ballot in 2016, maintaining that Donald Trump didn’t have “the temperament” to be president. It’s a view that he says has not changed.
He’s expressed opposition to various Trump initiatives and comments with language ranging from calling the president’s acts “disgraceful” to “disappointing.” He has opposed a number of Trump’s bigger moves, including his attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the undoing of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, and efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
He’s been far too timid in speaking out, say Democrats like his opponent Jay Gonzalez and US Rep. Seth Moulton. Hardcore Massachusetts Republican conservatives, meanwhile, are livid at the distance he’s put between himself as the president.
Baker has taken flak for his fundraising efforts that help steer money not only to his own reelection effort but to the Republican National Committee, where the dollars find their way to boosting Trump-allied candidates. An American Prospect piece this week zings him for carrying out that fundraising while offering anti-Trump rhetoric. “Charlie Baker Can’t Have It Both Ways,” reads the headline. But apparently, he can, as Baker seems to be gliding toward an easy reelection in deep-blue Massachusetts.
Marty Linksy, who worked with Baker in the Weld administration, said one could call his approach to all things Trump “cautious” or “thoughtful.”
Baker would no doubt opt for the latter characterization. Nothing may illustrate that better than the op-ed he penned in yesterday’s Globe that criticized those on both sides for the “hatred and invective” now hurled regularly in the political arena in place of reasoned and respectful debate.It’s a false equivalency argument that doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. In classic Baker fashion, he offers just the teeniest (“cautious”) acknowledgement of that by writing that the ugly tone of national discourse has come “[f]ollowing the example set by President Trump.”
If successful next Tuesday, Baker will get a respite from the questions. But only a brief one. The 2020 New Hampshire primary is only a year a couple of months away.