Some candidates are born to debate greatness. Some manage a moment of debate greatness. And still others aspire to such a moment, but, like a fumble-footed funambulist aping the epic stunts of the Great Blondin at Niagara, slip from the tightrope and plunge into the deep gorge of dashed hopes.
And as for the last? Well, meet Third District Republican congressional hopeful Rick Green. Green, of Pepperell, is running an uphill race against Democrat Lori Trahan, the favorite daughter of Lowell, in a race that also includes impressive independent Mike Mullen of Maynard.
On Monday, the three met here for their last debate. Former Boston Globe State House bureau chief Frank Phillips, an alumnus of the Lowell Sun, was one of the panelists. His first question to the candidates, in condensed form: In light of the recent incidents of terror and murder, what and who are most responsible for the toxic political discourse in today’s politics, and can it be reversed?
Green replied with a question of his own. Who had The Boston Globe endorsed in the race, he demanded, as though the Globe editorial board’s backing of Trahan somehow rendered Phillips’s question illegitimate. At that point, moderator Christopher Scott of the Sun noted that he had already discussed that matter with Green’s campaign manager over the weekend. He also pointed out that Phillips isn’t a member of the Globe ed board. (Disclosures: I am a member, and Frank is a good friend.)
It seemed to dawn on Green that his attention-getting debate gambit wasn’t going particularly well, for he attempted a course correction of sorts.
“I will absolutely answer his question because the reality is, I will answer every tough question when I am your congressman!” he declared. After some more grousing, he offered up this response: “I will do everything it takes to keep our children safe.”
That nonanswer was about par for his debate performance. On question after question, Green either refused to answer or offered a response that had little or nothing to do with the query. Afterward, I noted to Green that it seemed to me that he had ducked or dodged at least a third of the questions.
“It seemed to me that most of the questions were not pertinent to being a member of the House and serving the people of the district,” he said. “My job is to get their vote and prove to them that I am the best person to represent their district and their interests.”
He added: “And you heard it from the crowd, their reaction. So the people agree with me.”
Now, in fairness, Green did win a good hand at the debate’s end. Still, it paled in comparison with the metaphorical round of appreciative applause he awarded himself.
“There is a question that hangs over this campaign,” he intoned portentously. “Can he do it?” That is, can he, Green, carry out his campaign promises to fix Lowell’s narrow, backed-up Rourke Bridge (a state span, and one MassDOT has already taken initial design steps to replace), address the opioid crisis, and “fix” Congress? According to Green, “everyone” has declared that those things “can’t be done.” Which brought him to this bit of grandiloquence.
“My whole life, I have done the impossible,” he declared. “Folks, when you fill out the oval next to my name, I am going to make you one more promise. You will look back in your life, and you will say, that is the best vote I ever took.”
Now, if “Can he do it?” really was the question hanging in the air, my own zeitgeist antenna was on the fritz, for this is what I was wondering: Good lord, who brags about himself that way? And: Does Green really think he can duck and dodge his way to a congressional seat?
The answers, apparently, are as follows:
1) Rick Green, and
2) Yes, indeed.
Somehow, I doubt the voters of the Third District will agree.