One could hardly blame him. Although certainly wealthy by any standard, Patrick has never enjoyed the top-tier paycheck and lifestyle of those around him — other directors and executives at Texaco, Coca-Cola, or Ameriquest, many of whom started life with far more money than the $360,000 salary Patrick earned at Ameriquest.

It will be interesting to see how Patrick describes those years in his memoir — and whether he seems to recall them more fondly than, say, his earlier time in federal government, as assistant attorney general in charge of the Civil Rights Division under Bill Clinton.

Certainly Patrick has never seemed to feel guilty about getting rich. As one insider suggests, Patrick's silence about the $11 million severance package for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts CEO Clive Killingsworth may speak to his own desire to one day make that kind of money.

I could hardly blame him if he plans to enter the jet-setting elite. And it's tempting to read his life as a linear path toward that goal, with interruptions for public service.

In fact, I can imagine his desire to run for governor stemming, in part, from frustration with the ladder to corporate success. A law partner by age 34, head of a 250-attorney division at 38, and Fortune 500 general counsel by 40, Patrick surely saw himself as deserving of a CEO/chairman position when, at age 50, he made his surprising run for governor. He may well have sensed that the chummy, connections-heavy (and overwhelmingly white) world of corporate governance would not give him that chance — but voters might.

That makes for a nice narrative, but the truth may be far simpler and less thought-out. Patrick has taken opportunities that interested him when they became available — usually ones that afforded him many possible paths afterward, so he didn't have to choose. That was true of his job at the do-good and politically connected NAACP Legal Defense Fund; the money- and contact-making Hill & Barlow law firm; the public-justice work and prestige-raising under Clinton; and the lucrative legal-pathway entries into the corporate board room.


LAME DUCK

 Deval Patrick's book
Patrick's book, too, advances him in many directions without cutting off any paths.

It's a money-maker, worth a reported $1.3 million. It will raise his national profile. It will lay out his background and impressive qualifications. And, it will let him tell an inspirational story of riding hope and optimism from poverty to success.

But, if Patrick excels at keeping all his options open, he also loses opportunities to advance any of them.

He may also be making it harder to do what he says is his top focus for the next four years: helping the people of Massachusetts.

For example, by announcing immediately after his re-election that he will serve only two terms, Patrick made himself a lame duck right out of the gate. That, according to conventional wisdom, seriously wounds his power, and his ability to transform his political capital into action.

He is also creating an unnecessary distraction with his memoir. He will surely be criticized — in fact, already has been — for travelling to promote it. And parts of the book, particularly those describing his gubernatorial campaigns and Beacon Hill battles, will undoubtedly raise hackles of easily offended power players who were on the losing sides.

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