A Statesman Too Late?

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  September 21, 2011

That will be necessary as the debt committee goes forward. Kerry says he is ready to take on any sacred cows in service of the bigger goal of reducing the country's long-term debt burden. That could mean not only entitlements, but perhaps cuts to the military — which could cost jobs at Massachusetts bases and military-contract employers such as Raytheon. There's more potential damage to the Bay State from cuts to health care, higher education, research funding, and student loans and grants — all of which go to the core of the state's economic engine. Plus, revenue-raising elimination of tax "loopholes" is likely to stymie investment in the kinds of innovative industries Massachusetts is banking on for the future — biotech and clean energy, for example.

And, to better work with those across the partisan aisle, Kerry is also sidelining himself in one of the most critical political races in the country — the 2012 Democratic challenge to Brown. Many Washington Democrats believe that if Brown is not defeated, the Democrats have little chance of keeping majority control of the Senate.

Yet Kerry is not only avoiding taking sides among the Democrats (one of whom, Setti Warren, is a former aide of his), he is pledging to stay above the fray until after the September 2012 primary — a full year of keeping his powder dry.

"It's very important that I work with Scott Brown" and other Republicans, he says. "My job is to focus on my work here in Washington."

An admirable, high-minded thought. But it may very well help lead to the unreasonable, low-minded Republicans taking over the Senate. If there's one thing less relevant than a statesman in today's Senate, it would be a statesman in a Senate where the know-nothings are in charge.

To read the Talking Politics blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. Follow David S. Bernstein on Twitter @dbernstein.

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