Here’s Mitt’s big problem: the SJC didn’t tell Romney he couldn’t demote Amorello last year; instead, the court simply refused to give the governor the legal reassurance he was seeking. Consider the following remarks made by Romney at Tuesday’s press conference, after the Phoenix asked if firing Amorello could have worked at an earlier date: “I don’t think it’s within the realm of my experience to predict what a court would or would not do, and what kind of challenge might be made. We’ve read very carefully the decision that was handed down when [acting governor Jane] Swift took action to remove two board members” — Christy Mihos and Jordan Levy, in a 4-3 ruling issued in 2002 — “and we tried to follow that decision as well as we can. But there’s always uncertainty in assessing where a court would come out.”
In other words, Romney could have forced the matter. But this would have meant looking foolish if Amorello managed to keep his job. So the governor played it safe and protected his well-burnished image. But now comes the uncomfortable question: if Romney had acted differently, might Del Valle’s death have been prevented?
Romney’s unwillingness to be more aggressive with Amorello hasn’t played well in local conservative circles. Last year, the Herald’s generally conservative editorial board slammed the governor for giving up too easily; just this morning, WRKO-AM talking head and right-wing raconteur John DePetro slammed Romney for his lack of follow-through. (“What do you say to that guy who lost his wife? ‘I tried, but Matt wouldn’t leave — sorry about your wife’?”) So just imagine how well Romney’s inability to pry Amorello loose — and the state of the Big Dig in general — are going to play nationally.
After all, the governor sells himself as a “Turnaround” artist, a man with a genius for taking bad situations and whipping them into shape. But as Romney looks back on his three and a half years in office, what real improvements to the Big Dig status quo can he cite? The price tag keeps going up. The project is coming apart at the seams. Despite all the tough talk, Amorello still runs the show. And someone just died. Talk about a treasure trove of opposition research.
Midway through Tuesday’s press conference, Romney proposed an analogy between Michael Brown’s management of Hurricane Katrina and Amorello’s handling of the Big Dig. “I look at what happened — it’s obviously at a very different scale, but what happened with Hurricane Katrina? Michael Brown was responsible, and ultimately lost his job. Was he personally responsible for flying the helicopters and getting in the water? No. But he was overseeing the agency, and the president and the public at large lost confidence in his leadership.” The governor failed to note, however, that a substantial portion of the public also lost confidence in President Bush. It’s a point he may want to ponder.
: Talking Politics
, Mitt Romney, U.S. Government, U.S. State Government, More