I’ve seen up-close the hideous face of political opportunism rear itself in the event of a horrific crisis. No, I’m not exactly talking about U.S. Congressman and Senate hopeful Stephen Lynch, who’s kept his stiff, no-nonsense mug prominently on-screen at a number of press conferences since Monday’s marathon bombings. Nor am I necessarily referring to Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, who commandeered the microphone early on not to add something, but to spew generic nationalism for patriotic voters who gush over such gratuitous drivel: “That’s what Americans do in times of crisis—we come together and we help one another,” he stated, quite obviously. “Moments like these, terrible as they are, don’t show our weakness. They show our strength.”
Conley is absolutely shameless, but the most astonishing opportunist who comes to mind in the face of Boston’s recent tragedy is Rudy Giuliani, the towering egomaniac who was serving as mayor of New York City when the World Trade Center got hit in 2001. I was in NYC that terrible day. The former hardcore, famously tough-on-crime district attorney didn’t need to do much in order to win widespread fanfare; along with then-President of the United States George W. Bush, Giuliani stood atop some rubble, spit a few fighting words, and convinced a terrified metropolis that he was working in their best interest.
All these years later, it’s clear that there was little substance behind his bold lisp. In the months and years that followed, Giuliani was exposed—over and over again—as a fraud of epic proportions. He lied about how much attention his administration ever paid to the previous World Trade attack in 1993, and about what his security forces did to prepare for such a major act of violence. His masquerading hardly helped politically; Giuliani was trampled in the 2008 presidential race. But fools the world over still consider him to be some sort of national hero; that, despite his banking millions in anti-terrorism speaking and consulting fees.
But while there are innumerable phonies like Conley and Giuliani, there are also concerned leaders who care more about constituents than they do about campaigning. Following an event like that which just rocked Boston, these patriots see more than just an easy opportunity to kick cheap rhetoric and fatten up on homeland security dollars. Yesterday I ran into one such individual, City Councilor Mike Ross, who was conversing with tourists and constituents near Arlington and Boylston streets.
Ross, whose district includes the directly affected Back Bay neighborhood, wasn’t out there playing politician just for points. Rather, Ross was doing everything possible in his professional capacity—utilizing his familiarity with the hospital ecosystem, communicating with the owners of commercial parking lots and hotels, connecting Back Bay homeowners with visitors and marathoners who need everything from clothing to a couch to crash on. And he was doing all this after coming awfully close to being a victim himself; Ross stopped by Marathon Sports, next to the finish line, just minutes prior to the explosions.
Most impressive, though, was the councilor’s reluctance to saber-rattle and threaten what at this juncture is an imaginary enemy. Ross is prudent enough to strongly consider obviously needed safety measures up ahead, all the while acknowledging that civil liberties are at stake.
“Today things are just a little bit different, and moving forward they probably always will be,” he said. “The question is: ‘How do we balance our freedoms with security?’”
The thought that our next mayor might have to make the appearance of being impossibly harsh on terrorism, rather than actually being smart about it, is beyond ridiculous. Though I’ve yet to examine all of the candidates on their propensity to feed such frenzy, for now I’m at least confident that Ross isn’t that kind of opportunistic warmonger. I’m not saying he’s a shoo-in, or even that he’s the best choice for Boston. All I really know, at this point in our grieving, is that the last thing Boston needs is a Giuliani.
Chris Faraone is a former Boston Phoenix reporter and author of “99 Nights with the 99 Percent” and the upcoming “I Killed Breitbart.” He lives in Jamaica Plain.