The Codcast: Moulton doesn’t mince words

The phrase “mealy-mouthed politician” often seems redundant, so closely do we associate political figures with an aversion to direct answers that cut through the usual fog.

That does not describe Seth Moulton, the second-term Democratic congressman from Salem. Moulton answers questions with a degree of candor that is refreshing and sometimes jarring.

When CommonWealth sat down with him for this Conversation interview in November 2014, just after his election, Moulton said he was now wearing the politician badge reluctantly. When Bruce Mohl and I talked to him for this week’s Codcast, he still seemed to be in full candor mode.

Moulton has become a huge booster of the North-South Rail Link, and we dug into the details of why. (The project still looks like a longshot — but Moulton is a pretty good salesman.)  He had nothing positive to say, however, about the MBTA and its ability to constructively lead the way on the effort. “The T is very wedded to this old-fashioned 1950s-era diesel-powered commuter rail system,” he said. “I’m just afraid they’re really out of touch with what’s going on in the rest of the world.”

And if the project were to ever get the green light, Moulton doesn’t want the T in charge during the construction phase, favoring instead the idea of a public-private partnership. “The T’s track record for construction projects is absolutely atrocious,” he said.

Moving on to the new White House occupant, he said, President Trump has “lived up to my worst fears.” The word from the inside is that things in the White House are “chaotic,” said Moulton, who has been a relentless critic of the new administration. “There’s just general incompetence.”

He scoffed at the idea that there is anything resembling a Trump doctrine when it comes to foreign policy. “It’s incoherent, it’s irresponsible,” he says of the administration’s foreign affairs conduct to date.

Moulton has been equally willing to call out problems within his own party, stepping up to support Rep. Tim Ryan’s unsuccessful effort to oust Nancy Pelosi from the Democratic leader post in the House. He says Democrats have fallen out of touch with the concerns of those between the coasts who have an increasingly tenuous grip on the middle class.

We also touched on what he thinks of Gov. Charlie Baker — and whether he’d consider running against him.

Moulton raised the most campaign money in the first quarter of any member of the state’s House delegation — about $475,000. The fundraising success many Democrats are enjoying is being chalked up to anti-Trump fervor. Moulton doesn’t disagree with that analysis, suggesting the dollars have been flowing in not because he’s fundraising so aggressively, but because he’s speaking out.

“I’ve been so active in standing up to Trump that I haven’t had a lot of time for fundraising this quarter,” he said.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

As Beacon Hill gets into full budget gear, Evan Horowitz has a good primer on the state’s structural budget shortfall, which he says has resulted from a combination of 1990s tax cuts and unending increases in health care costs driven by the state Medicaid program. (Boston Globe)

The state Democratic Party is being roiled by a proposed resolution to put the party on record opposing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. (Boston Globe)  

Sen. Elizabeth Warren says Gov. Charlie Baker could do more to push back against national Republican efforts to dismantle key parts of the Affordable Care Act. (Politico)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Malden is becoming the newest hot place to live but it may already be out of reach for many. (Greater Boston)

Boston officials are arguing for an exemption from a state “shadowing” law for a proposed new downtown tower because the proceeds from the project will be crucial to fill holes in the city budget from possible federal budget cuts under President Trump. (Boston Herald)

The Zoning Board of Appeals held a lengthy hearing on whether the Westminster Rod and Gun Club added a shooting range in violation of zoning regulations. (Telegram & Gazette)

Two 12-year-old boys found a 3-foot python next to a riverbank in Lawrence. The python appeared to be abandoned by its owners. (Eagle-Tribune)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Desperate for a win before the 100-day mark, the White House is rolling out a new health plan that President Trump is hailing as “really, really good,” as opposed to that really, really bad version that never got a vote. (U.S. News & World Report) Before Congress takes up much else, though, upon their return from the Easter break, there’s this pesky little item they have to deal with about keeping the government running. (New York Times)

A California judge who was attacked by Trump last year and questioned over his “Mexican heritage” has been selected to oversee a suit against the administration by a 23-year-old recently deported man who his lawyers say was protected by the Obama-era law protecting children brought to this country when they were young. (U.S. News & World Report)

Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock have dinner with President Trump at the White House and pose for a photo in front of a painting of Hillary Clinton. (New York Times)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says arresting Julian Assange of WikiLeaks is a top priority. (The Guardian)

It’s not exactly the cabinet post overseeing veterans’ issues that he wanted, but Scott Brown will be nominated by President Trump to be ambassador to New Zealand. (Boston Globe) New Zealanders are evidently trying to get a read on the one-time US senator and figure out what qualifies him for the post. The Herald’s Kimberly Atkins reports that a headline in the country’s top newspaper described Brown as “a former nude model who supports waterboarding.”

ELECTIONS

The divide between the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party (even though Sanders isn’t a Democrat) and more centrist types is rearing its head in the Georgia special election for a House seat — and shows no sign of abating. (The New Republic)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The developer of Millennium Tower shuffles the ownership of 16 condos and takes out a $36 million mortgage on them. What does it mean? (CommonWealth)

The Massachusetts unemployment rate rises from 3.4 percent to 3.6 percent. (State House News)

EDUCATION

Sydney Chaffee, a 9th grade humanities instructor at Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, was named National Teacher of the Year, the first time a Massachusetts teacher has won the honor. Added bonus: Check out a Codcast conversation with her. (CommonWealth)

Gov. Charlie Baker urges UMass Boston to address its budget woes without making cuts that harm campus offerings to students. (Boston Globe) Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute runs through budget numbers and key decisions to deliver a blistering on UMass top officials — its trustees and president — and says Keith Motley, the outgoing chancellor of the Boston campus, was done in by “a shameful mix of obfuscation and scapegoating.” (WGBH News)

UMass Lowell opens its business school, its 13th new building on campus since 2009. (Lowell Sun)

Testing showed concerns about PCBs at Burncoat High School in Worcester appear to be unwarranted. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Baystate Health and UMass Medical School are seeking $3.4 million in state funds to open a medical school in Springfield. (MassLive)

The Greater Lawrence Family Health Care Center raises more than $200,000 for an addiction treatment program at a gala in Andover. (Eagle-Tribune)

TRANSPORTATION

The Worcester Regional Transit Authority votes to raise fares and cut service to balance its budget. (Telegram & Gazette)

James Aloisi says he’s OK with Massport building a 1,500-space parking garage in the Seaport District. (CommonWealth) Meanwhile, Massport’s plan to add 5,000 parking spaces at the airport don’t fly so well among some local residents. (Boston Herald)

The MBTA says it made a mistake when it put the new Boston Landing commuter rail stop in Zone 1, which would mean a 5-mile trip from South Station would cost $6.25. The correct price is $2.25. (MassLive)

Four councils on aging in Metro West towns have received grants for a pilot program to teach seniors to use the Uber app and give discounts for rides in an effort to close the transportation gap for the elderly in the region. (MetroWest Daily News)

The Fall River-Block Island ferry will continue to operate seasonally after a three-year trial proved successful. (Herald News)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

South Shore lobstermen will present a new rope to federal officials that is designed to break more easily and reduce the chance of whale entanglements in an effort to convince regulators to lift a late winter/early spring ban on lobstering as the whales migrate. (Patriot Ledger)

Eversource has filed a plan with the state outlining its preferred option for a controversial underground transmission power line, opposed by officials and residents, between Hudson and Sudbury along an MBTA rail right-of-way. (MetroWest Daily News)

The state will plant 2,400 new trees in Brockton as part of a Greening the Gateway Cities program. (The Enterprise)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Aaron Hernandez’s death has officially been ruled a suicide, as his family made plans to have the former Patriots player’s brain tested for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the cognitive degeneration that has been linked to the traumatic head impact football players suffer from. (Boston Globe)  

Homeland Security officials raided the home of an illegal immigrant in Weymouth and charged him with illegally possessing guns after a confidential informant said the man offered to “kill anybody for a fee.” (Patriot Ledger)

The state medical examiner’s office faces a December deadline to improve its performance or face possible loss of national accreditation. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Conservative pundits are beginning to peel away from Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, and other right-wing media stalwarts. (National Review) Margaret Hoover, a Republican political consultant who often appeared on The O‘Reilly Factor, says the banished host’s cry of being run off by a left wing conspiracy is an “outlandish claim” and points to other high-profile media personalities on both sides who have never been the target of sexual harassment. (New York Times)

Politifact issued a guide to fake news sites and what they peddle.