As a newspaperman I have observed many political figures ‘up close,’ where it’s possible to observe the nuances of body language and subtle facial expressions that often indicate something different than what is being publicly stated. But sometimes those same very human indicators reveal true substance in an individual.
Such was the case several years ago when I attended the Jefferson/Jackson Dinner in Hyannis, the largest annual gathering of Democrats on Cape Cod.
The room belonged to Rob O’Leary, the former state senator from Barnstable who was running for the then newly vacated U.S. representative seat of Bill Delahunt.
O’Leary was the keynote speaker and his arrival had sparked a standing ovation.
My wife and I sat at one of the few tables that weren’t committed to a given town committee or political group and, perhaps not surprisingly, there were some unoccupied seats. As people were still milling around I watched a tall, nicely dressed man and an attractive woman wend their way through the crowded room. They smiled and nodded at people but there were few signs of recognition and they seemed a bit lost.
As the couple approached our table I noted there were available seats with us and they quickly took us up on the offer, identifying themselves as Bill and Tevis Keating.
The Keatings proved amiable and low key, which as the night progressed I found remarkable since virtually everyone present was fawning over Rob O’Leary even though Keating was an announced candidate, yet I saw no body language or any other indication of resentment.
That unexpected first meeting increased my interest in the primary elections and when Keating beat O’Leary for the nomination I watched even more closely. But again, there was no indication of anything false. It seemed that with Keating the old axiom was correct, ‘What you saw was what you got.’
When the general election battle began Bill Keating faced off against Jeff Perry, and this contest was different. Whether Perry intended it or not, his candidacy brought out local people who if they weren’t Tea Party members certainly acted as though they were. This was particularly true at a meeting held in Pocasset, where Perry’s supporters
filled one side of a church meeting room and sneered at everyone on the other side of the room, making rude and sometimes belligerent remarks.
As it happened, Keating himself was at another meeting and was unable to make it to Pocasset in time, but his wife Tevis appeared and endured with equanimity the often loud disdain of Perry’s supporters.
This was a precursor to the meeting held by the Massachusetts League of Women Voters at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. At that meeting it was clear the belligerent people supporting Jeff Perry intended to turn the ‘candidate’s night’ into a loud and noisy event where only their chosen candidate would be heard.
They came prepared with orange T-shirts emblazoned with pro-Perry and anti-Keating comments.
But the Massachusetts League of Women Voters wasn’t caught unawares. The LWV ordered everyone wearing the T-shirts to either leave the hall or turn the shirts inside out. This took a great deal of the steam out of the political bullies.
The debate, however, was still tense, yet once again it was clear Bill Keating was the very same man who sat with us at the JJ dinner. His voice and posture never reached anything that could be described as anger and rarely even seemed testy in the face of Mr. Perry’s remarks, which often slipped closely to the vitriol of hard right-wing positions.
In the end, Bill Keating prevailed at the voting booths and has been our representative in Congress, where he has been successful in using his command of hard facts, his steady demeanor and his equanimity to achieve positive results for his constituency, the residents of Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts. Importantly, these achievements were accomplished while the U.S. House of Representatives is totally dominated by Republicans and deeply influenced by members of the Tea Party.
It’s not necessary to list Keating’s accomplishments because they have been well publicized already, but it is worth noting that the national GOP has found Mr. Keating such a thorn that expensive TV ads are now being used to prop up his current opponent, John Chapman.
The ads tout the values of the national Republican Party, including securing the borders, and attach their policies to Mr. Chapman, who has himself stated that, “I am running for Congress because Washington has grown polarized, become more arrogant and lost touch with the people it represents.”
As I said at the outset, I have watched all of this with a newspaperman’s eye, trying to see falseness displayed, and I have not seen anything of the sort in Bill Keating, yet it seems very present in the stance of his opponent.
It seems obvious to me that Keating represents this area first and foremost; he is clearly a solid Democrat, but what I have seen leads me to believe that he would diverge from his party if he thought its policies would harm his district. I suspect from what has already been publicly declared that such would not be the case with his opponent. The current GOP seems to put forward ideological rigidity as a virtue.
I’ve been watching, studying and reporting on politics for over 40 years and I have rarely written such a letter as this in support of a given candidate, but I am convinced that Bill Keating has substance; he is an even-handed, reliable representative for the people of this district.
Mike Bradley is a longtime newspaper editor and publisher who lives in Bourne and publishes The Bradley Report. He is a former publisher of the MPG Communications South Group of five newspapers, the Marion Sentinel, the Mattapoisett Sentinel, the Wareham Courier, the Bourne Courier and the Sandwich Village Broadsider.