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POLITICS AS USUAL (By Jim Baron) - So, what's next for Gov. Carcieri?

December 29, 2010

I’ll say it; I’m going to miss covering Gov. Don Carcieri.
I didn’t always agree with his policies and decisions, as even a casual reader of this space could attest.
But I always thought he was a good and decent man, trying to do what he thought was the right thing, often in difficult situations. I never bought the criticism that he was this mean and heartless guy who relished chopping people off welfare and kicking little kids out of day care.
A great deal of his decisions — cutting the state work force, making work for no pay several days a year, reducing RIte Care eligibility — were, I believe, prompted by budget demands, not ideology.
He didn’t run away from his decisions and opinions, either. Yes, he could have held press conference more regularly, but whenever one or more members of the media approached him before or after events, he always stood there and stated and defended his position on whatever issue we were buttonholing him about. Here’s hoping Governor Chafee will be equally accessible, in person.
Ideologically, he did take a perceptible turn to the right at about the time his second term started, after his re-election close call with Democrat Charlie Fogarty, starting to make regular appearances on Fox News. But that might stand him in good stead to get national Republican cash if he does make a run against Sheldon Whitehouse in 2012. Or if he latches on to a GOP presidential candidate who might win, he could find himself in Washington. If it is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, he could be in the running for Secretary of Education, or something like that. If it is a Midwesterner like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, he might look twice at a governor from a northeastern state with a good track record, the ability to raise money and no major ethics problem (he had a couple of chickenbleep beefs before the Ethics Commission, but none were anything you would call a big deal), as a possible running mate.
You never know. Who ever heard of Sarah Palin two and a half years ago when she was governor of Alaska?
Carcieri may be more simpatico with Romney, but who is going to buy two Republican governors from New England on the same ticket? Certainly not GOP voters.
• That being said, Carcieri’s remarks on the Matt Allen show on WPRO last week, just two weeks before he leaves office, that public sector employees and teachers shouldn’t be able to have unions was an uncharacteristic cheap shot. I’m sure it came as no surprise to anyone that he believes what he said, but dropping that bomb as he was preparing to pack up and leave was tantamount to lighting a bag of dog poop on fire on someone’s doorstep, ringing the bell and running away.
Why, just because you work for a government, shouldn’t you be able to bargain collectively for your wages, benefits and working conditions?
• President Barack Obama has signed the law abolishing the military’s Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell policy on homosexuals serving openly in the armed forces. I must admit I don’t get it.
These people, these gays and lesbians, wanted to put on the uniform of this great country and go where the bullets were flying and bombs were exploding to fight and maybe die or perhaps be maimed for life for us, and we were saying “No, thanks” because John McCain didn’t approve of who they had sex with? And it took us 17 years to figure out this was a stupid and self-defeating idea?
• You wanna feel old? There are rumors that The Rolling Stones are going to tour again next year…because it is their 50th anniversary as a band. Yup, 50th. It can’t be easy to get yer ya-ya’s out at that age.
• Then again, in the first week The Beatles music was available on iTunes they sold 450,000 albums and more than 2 million songs. In the first week! And they broke up in 1970, 40 years ago. When I was a teenager in the 1970s, no musician or band from the 1930s would have sold 2 million of anything.
• Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee could kill a lot of birds with one stone if, sometime before he officially takes office, he threw his arm around Deborah Gist and said, “she’s my commissioner!”
One, he would be making a positive step toward retaining the services of someone who – by almost everybody’s reckoning – is a terrific commissioner: bright, energetic, full of ideas and absolutely unafraid to charge ahead with any plan she thinks is in the best interest of school kids.
Two, it would shut up all those people who insist that Chafee is hopelessly in the pockets of the teachers unions. O.K., it wouldn’t shut them up, nothing probably will. But it would make it harder for them to make their case to anyone except each other.
Three, once Gist and the unions get a few more confrontations under their belts, they will probably come to understand one another and be able to work with one another. I have see this in many cases of what seemed to be intractable disputes between labor and management, eventually, the two sides learn to live with each other, even if they never become bosom buddies. Gist staying doesn’t mean the unions are going to lose every battle, they will win their share, they’ll just have to fight a bit more vigorously on some.
Four, even if the unions, don’t like the move, they will have four years to get over it.
• If the state appointed receiver wants to improve Central Falls, why doesn’t he dig up those damned speed bumps on High Street?
• Amy Kempe, Governor Carcieri’s spokeswoman for his second term, is moving over to the Attorney General’s office to do the same job for Peter Kilmartin.
• I’m all for tradition and everything, but give me B.B. King’s version of Auld Lang Syne over Guy Lombardo any day.

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