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.

“Three-plus years later, and much to Baker’s chagrin, it’s one he’s still being asked,” writes Stout.

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.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

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.”

The crux of Baker’s Trump problem has perhaps been most succinctly framed by MassLive reporter Gin Dumcius, who has pointed to the governor’s political mentor and observed that Baker is a Bill Weld Republican at a time when even Bill Weld isn’t any longer a Republican.

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.