Think back to your July Fourth celebration this year. Were you able to host a big barbecue in the 'burbs? Or join a bunch of friends on the Cape? Did it feel like the celebration of freedom you wanted? No?
Well then you probably don’t want to hear about Scott Brown’s holiday soirée.
He hosted about 1,700 guests at his Independence Day party this year. Drinks. A massive spread of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Rock music. Handshakes. Dancing. No social distancing. No masks. No need! No COVID-19.
His rager was in coronavirus-vanquishing New Zealand, where the former senator is the American ambassador.
The embassy party was an affirmation of another title Brown holds: He is the luckiest Republican on earth, 8,800 miles from Washington and its political insanity, 17 hours ahead of the latest Trump tweet, half a world from the wave that looks poised to wallop his former colleagues in the GOP, and living in an island nation that has twice wrestled the novel coronavirus dead to the ground.
All stays in paradise must come to an end, however.
Brown, one of Trump’s longest-serving ambassadors, is on track to depart in late December — the beginning of summer there — and transit back to winter in New England, which could be a bitter season of cold and COVID. For him, it will also mean tough questions about his Trump administration service.
In January, Brown starts his new gig, announced last year, as president and dean of a Massachusetts law school, New England Law Boston.
“I’m really excited to get back in the flow,” he said of his return to civilian life after years in the diplomatic corps. “But I’m not going to be like I was. I have a new job. A new role. New challenges. . . . And, you know, here we go!”
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In an alternate universe, Brown this week would have been hoofing it across New Hampshire, a Republican senator running for a second term in a pandemic season where retail politics is mostly from a distance. In a political season that looks unfavorable for the GOP.
But in this reality, after losing two races two years apart in two states, he is in a better place. At his ambassadorial residence, Camperdown, a palatial estate with a sweeping front lawn, he hosted a tea this week with dozens of people, many sitting shoulder to shoulder.
He went to a rugby game in a packed stadium this month.
In this reality, he hits the pool with a swim team in the 5 a.m. hour, and then the gym.
Brown, who notes on his Twitter profile he’s a “3x All-American triathlete,” hasn’t always raced his way to the top, of course.
In 2010, he made international news by defeating Martha Coakley in an upset special election victory. But he lost his bid for a full term to Elizabeth Warren in 2012.
And at this time six years ago, he was about to lose a hard-fought Senate race with Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire — just two years after losing in Massachusetts.
Instead of fading into the mists, he remained politically active, hosting backyard barbecues with the GOP candidates running for president before endorsing Trump a week before the 2016 New Hampshire primary.
After Trump’s victory, he pitched himself as the “best person” to be secretary of veterans affairs, but the president picked someone else.
Trump later nominated Brown as US ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa. In June 2017, he was confirmed by the Senate, 94 to 4. (Warren and Shaheen both backed their one-time rival.)
He’s represented the United States in New Zealand in times of grave crisis — during the terrorist attack at two mosques that killed 51 people, a volcanic eruption that killed more than 20 people including several Americans, and as the pandemic scrambled plans for Americans a very long way from home
But New Zealand famously got COVID-19 under control, reducing community transmission nationwide to effectively zero in June and then again this month after a small outbreak. Now, as for most of the summer (winter over there), there are no coronavirus restrictions on daily life.
In late July 2020, when Brown threw the Independence Day party, New Zealand had “experienced no instances of community‐based transmission for more than 80 days and could be considered to have attained elimination,” according to one medical journal.
The balance of Brown’s time as ambassador has not been under duress. He’s traveled the country, deploying the same unprocessed charm in Invercargill and Auckland he unfurled in the Bay State and the Granite State. He’s glad-handed mayors and their constituents, introducing himself to chambers of commerce, connecting with Kiwis over rock music and rugby, biking and beer. He has spent years attempting to parry their cataclysmic concerns about Trump.
That has become something of a routine, he said in one of two Zoom interviews this month.
“I know the president is not the most popular guy all the time. It’s kind of a joke. I walk into a room. I say” — he adopts an arch tone — “ ‘You know what? I know you guys don’t agree with the president on everything.’ ” The response is uproarious laughter.
“ ‘Who here actually likes the president?’ No one raises their hand. You know? And I go, ‘Oh, this is gonna be fun!’ ” Brown claps and pantomimes cracking his knuckles.
“Then I roll up my sleeves and I say, ‘Well, what don’t you like?’ And we just go boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom” — he air boxes — “and it’s so invigorating. And by the time it’s over, people are like, ‘You know what? I may not like him, but I like you.’ ”
Asked about his thoughts on the president’s coronavirus response, Brown praised Trump for shutting down travel to the United States when he did, but declined to substantively engage with the question.
“It’s hard for me to really comment on a lot of what the administration is doing because I’ve been here, and I’ve been so focused. I only see what I read and what the kids tell me,” Brown said, referring to his daughters, who live in the United States.
Pressed, he said “you’re gonna find people that say he’s doing a great job and you’re gonna find people that say he could do more,” and noted the distance.
“I’m here, and it’s easy to Monday morning quarterback from 14,000 [kilometers] away,” Brown said by way of conclusion.
In a July appearance on a local show, Brown expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Asked this month by the Globe whether the president has spoken out sufficiently against white supremacy, Brown said he’d let Trump, in a big political race, answer for himself.
But for his part, Brown said he thinks “any form of racism or bigotry or hatred is uncalled for. That’s why I supported what happened after the death of George Floyd.”
His views on those and many other matters will be relevant to how he’s seen in his new job in Massachusetts.
Last year, after New England Law Boston announced Brown’s forthcoming gig there, there was an outcry from a group of students who demanded the school’s board of trustees reverse its decision to appoint Brown. They excoriated his political stances, 2016 endorsement of Trump, and service in his administration.
The school, for its part, stood by Brown.
Asked about the imbroglio, Brown said he supports students' abilities to make their voices heard.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to engage,” Brown said. “What you see is what you get.”
Does he ever think back to what that alternate universe would have been like, if he were in the final stretch of a Senate reelection campaign in New Hampshire?
“I don’t look back too much about what could have been,” Brown said, adding later, “Listen, I have no regrets.”
Brown’s New Zealand fairy tale is coming to its end, just like (we hope!) the election season. A registered Republican, Brown voted absentee in Rye, N.H.
Did he vote Republican right down the ticket?
In reply, Brown asked aides to bring him a large prop ballot box, and then, unsolicited, he described an upcoming event.
“We’re having an election party at a local bar downtown. It’ll hold about 400. And we’re inviting all the MPs, all the cabinet members, all of the business leaders, all the ambassadors,” he said.
The party will have election “ballots” so guests can “vote” in that prop box, along cardboard cut-outs of Trump and Joe Biden.
The ambassador declined to say whom he cast his actual general election ballot for this year.
But however his favored candidates fare on Tuesday, this much is true: Brown, in New Zealand for several more weeks, will remain the biggest winner.
Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.