We all know about Whitey Bulger’s crimes. What about his politics?
Turns out he’s a Reagan Democrat.
The only reason his family ended up in South Boston is because a fine congressman named John McCormack prevailed upon a great president named Franklin Delano Roosevelt to build a housing project in Southie. So Whitey made his bed because of, if not necessarily with, Democrats.
When Whitey went to prison for robbing banks, his little brother Billy did two smart things: First he asked the dean of Boston College Law School and future congressman, the Rev. Bob Drinan, to become Whitey’s prison pen pal. Then he asked McCormack, by this time House speaker, to keep an eye out for his wayward bro. The latter kept Whitey on the path to parole; the former became his parole sponsor.
When Whitey got out of the can, he was a beneficiary of Billy’s patronage, landing what amounted to a no-show job at the Suffolk County Courthouse. Nice work if you can get it.
Despite his political connections, or maybe because of them, Whitey dove back into the underworld, and Billy had to tell him to stop harassing Pat Loftus, who had the temerity to challenge Billy for an open Senate seat in 1970.
Whitey liked the Kennedys, until he realized they were patrons of Arthur Garrity, the judge who foisted busing on Southie. Ted Kennedy’s defense of both busing and Garrity was the final straw. Whitey firebombed JFK’s birthplace in retaliation, spraypainting “Bus Teddy” on the sidewalk.
Whitey kept his politics on the down low. He hated Kevin White, the mayor who presided over busing, but was furious when his paramour, Teresa Stanley, mentioned going to a fund-raiser for White challenger Joe Timilty. Whitey and his protégé, Kevin Weeks, worked the shadows to hurt Billy Bulger’s political enemies, including White, Ray Flynn, and Attorney General Frank Bellotti, who had the cheek to run for governor against Billy Bulger pal John Silber.
“Whitey and Weeks were running around town tearing my signs down,” Bellotti told me.
Trust me, Frank: they were doing a lot worse.
Whitey’s letters from jail suggest he dislikes both major parties, but his working-class roots show. He dismissed both President Obama and Mitt Romney: “one a Radical Socialist, other a flip flop.” He derided Romney as a union-buster who buys up companies and likes firing people “and doesn’t say he made a fortune doing it and sending companies to China.”
Whitey complains that both Democrats and Republicans lie. “Where the Hell,” he asked, “did people like Ronald Reagan go?”
That’s a refrain I heard often at the Bayside, where brother Billy presided over the St. Patrick’s breakfast before they moved it to Terminal A at Logan, or whatever that soulless place on Summer Street is called.
Whitey bemoans the decline of unions, forgetting that his hero President Reagan played no small role in that. And he shares his politician brother’s disdain of the press.
“Media has driven good people out of politics,” Whitey wrote. “They don’t want to expose their family to the media.”
When I think of poor Billy, trying to subsist on an annual pension of a measly $200,000, I share Whitey’s sympathy for those tortured souls in political life, cast into the harsh glare by my business.
Of course, we in my business only have words. When Whitey objected to the way the Globe portrayed Southie during busing, he fired back. With bullets.
He brags about forcing the Globe to hire extra security, men, he says, who have since retired with nice pensions. That’s our Whitey: job creator.
He also boasted about having fired behind a guy running through the newsroom, so the bullets chased the guy but never endangered him.
If you believe that, Whitey, I’ve got a condo on East Broadway I can sell you. But, come to think of it, you can’t afford it.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.