Those conservatives who are following the possibilities for presidential candidates in 2020 may be under the assumption that any number of well-known names are in contention for the Democratic Party, from former Vice President Joe Biden to former Attorney General Eric Holder. Some people even believe that Hillary Clinton isn’t beyond putting her name into the hat for a “Hail Mary” third shot at the nation’s top job.
However, if one were to ask former President Barack Obama who he’d like to see in the role of commander-in-chief in 2020, observers might be surprised to learn that the ex-president may desire none of the previously mentioned officials, preferring instead to favor his old friend and fellow former Chicago resident, ex-Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
A recent article on the liberal website Politico fawns over Deval and prominently mentions Obama’s preference, but also points out that many in Obama’s inner circle, including political strategist David Axelrod, advisor Valerie Jarrett and former political director David Simas all have high hopes for a Patrick candidacy. Axelrod, in particular, believes that Patrick’s small-town campaign experience gleaned from the former governor’s runs in liberal Massachusetts combined with the proximity of second-primary-in-the-nation state New Hampshire as well as Patrick’s minority status all are points in his favor. Jarrett gushes that “President Patrick” is what “her heart desires.” One former White House aide claims that “if you were to poll 100 notable Obama alumni, the only two people who would win that 2020 straw poll right now are Joe Biden and Deval Patrick.”
Of course, whether Patrick really has that desire is a giant question mark. In an interview at his present workplace at Mitt Romney-founded Bain Capital, Patrick (a managing director of the equity firm) coyly states, “I’m trying to think about how to be helpful because I care about the country, and I’m a patriot first. It’s way, way too soon to be making plans for 2020. So I’ll just leave it at that… Don’t lead me down that path because it turns into something it isn’t, and I don’t want to go there. I have no plans to make plans.”
Still, given that 2018 is only five months away and that candidacies are typically announced at least 16 months in advance of Election Day, the clock is ticking on whether or not Patrick will make the kinds of preparations that other might-be candidates (such as Biden, Holder and others) have been making. These include, but are not limited to, trips to early primary states, speeches to academic and public policy groups and heightened press attention. When Patrick left the governor’s office two years ago, there was a brief rumor that he might have been in contention to be Hillary Clinton’s presidential running mate in 2016, but this never came to pass. So, too, was the possibility that he might have been nominated to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by former Justice Antonin Scalia.
At the same time, as the Politico article describes vividly, Patrick is no fan of President Trump. “The president, I believe, is at risk of diminishing the voice of the presidency because he pops off so often, and so, kind of, carelessly. I think there’s a risk both domestically and internationally, for that matter, that we’ll begin to tune him out,” he quips.
Patrick then rattles off how in his current role at Bain, he’s helping to raise nearly half a billion dollars for companies that focus on “sustainability, health and wellness and a place-based strategy called ‘community building,’ which is about companies that are intentional about creating good jobs and economic activity in places of chronic underemployment.” Although this might sound like a line out of the Trump administration, for now, these firms dubiously include a chain of gyms in Indiana and Michigan that will bring “affordable fitness” to various “underserved areas” as well as a Texas company that reroutes “organic waste.”
In 2012, Patrick served as a surrogate for President Obama on the campaign trail, and as far back as 2008, Obama was accused of plagiarizing the older Harvard Law School graduate’s speeches (Patrick is six years Obama’s senior) to Massachusetts voters in 2006. Patrick later explained the controversy by saying that he had “encouraged” Obama to make use of the remarks, but whether this was following discussions between the two men isn’t known. However, the pair have a decades-long association, having both associated with prominent Democrats, including the Clintons. Patrick was a U.S. Assistant Attorney General appointed by ex-President Clinton working on civil rights issues, including police misconduct, racial profiling and the treatment of incarcerated criminals.
Patrick’s first run for Massachusetts governor was marked by criticism that he had corresponded with and promoted the parole of criminal Benjamin LaGuer, who had been convicted of a brutal rape that took place over the course of eight hours. Patrick had called correspondence from LaGuer “thoughtful, insightful, eloquent [and] humane.” Former Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis termed the 2006 governor’s race “the dirtiest gubernatorial campaign in my memory.”
As Massachusetts governor, Patrick was a top recipient of donations from casino lobbying groups led by the local Wampanoag Indian tribe that President Trump has had run-ins with in the past. In particular, Trump has claimed that many tribal groups running casinos (including the Wampanoags) have fallen under the extreme influence of organized crime. There’s also the issue that many Indian casino properties do not have to pay business taxes. Ultimately, under Patrick, three resort-style gambling casinos were legalized in Massachusetts along with two slot parlors.
In 2015, the Boston Herald reported that Patrick’s gubernatorial administration had created a $37 million slush fund to pay for advertising contracts, trade junkets and the promotion of tourism ventures, some of which were backed by then-Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. However, a week later, the liberal Boston Globe newspaper quoted Massachusetts State Representative David Linsky, chairman of the state Post-Audit and Oversight Committee as claiming that the funds were permitted by state budget rules.
A year earlier, Patrick was enveloped in another controversy for the firing of Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Chairwoman Saundra Edwards and the placing of Director Jeanne Holmes on administrative leave for the forcing of Patrick’s brother-in-law Bernard Sigh (who spent time in jail) to register as a sex offender for the rape of his wife, Patrick’s sister Rhonda. Patrick tried to make the claim that the case of his brother-in-law was a “private matter,” but the fact that Sigh was convicted in a court of law makes it a public one.
Given Massachusetts’ sordid history of corrupt politics (local observers may recall that State Senate President William Bulger was the brother of notorious gangster and killer James “Whitey” Bulger, who was the inspiration for the villains of the films “Black Mass” and “The Departed”), it may be the case that these scandals might be just the tip of the iceberg for Patrick. Will Boston’s Bain Capital ultimately field another presidential contender? Only time will tell if Patrick chooses to follow in the footsteps of Bain founder Romney. Here’s hoping he meets with similar luck if he does.