Like political junkies around the Commonwealth, blogger Tom Devine marked the death of Teddy Kennedy with some reminiscing about the senator—albeit with a trademark Devinian twist.
Devine recounts his sort-of up-close-and-personal encounter with Kennedy at the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston, which he described as a can’t-miss political event, regardless of one’s philosophical leanings. (“[D]espite the fact that I wouldn't vote for John Kerry or John Edwards for dogcatcher, let alone president, I decided I must go.”) Hardly a Democratic insider, the Libertarian Devine found himself running into dead ends in his search for entrée into the convention, until he called on former Springfield City Councilor Mitch Ogulewicz, an old pal of Kerry’s.
“Mitch is usually a great person to go anywhere with if there is a big crowd . … Somehow Mitch always manages not just to get in, but to also get the best seats,” Devine writes. In the end, even the charmed Ogulewicz wasn’t able to sneak Devine into the convention, although he did help him slide into a few pre-convention parties and get a few photos of Kennedy getting into his car, despite the efforts of one of the senator’s “security goons.”
Kennedy wasn’t the only notable political figure to die in recent weeks; former Hampden County DA Matty Ryan also passed away. Ryan’s death was largely overshadowed by Kennedy’s, and the coverage he received was certainly not as laudatory as that given Kennedy (see, for instance, the Springfield Republican’s warts-and-all story announcing his death). The most intriguing piece I’ve read on Ryan’s legacy was also by Devine, who addressed the complexities of a District Attorney known for his handball-playing dates with local mobsters. To Devine, Ryan’s “mob friendships” made a certain sense, allowing him to keep a close eye on underworld activities and, some speculated, cut deals to at least temper some of those activities.
Devine also considers another of the controversies surrounding Ryan: his refusal to prosecute the Rev. Richard Lavigne for allegedly murdering altar boy Danny Croteau in 1972. “People forget how untouchable the Catholic Church was in those years, and how many would have condemned Ryan for attacking the church—of which Ryan himself was a member. In fact to this day there are those who say that the Croteau case was overblown in the media in order to embarrass the church,” Devine writes.
“Lavigne was also a political figure, especially prominent in the anti-war movement. Had he been prosecuted, it would have splashed mud on an entire young generation of aspiring Democrat Party leaders, many of whom went on to become city councilors, mayors and beyond.” Prosecuting the priest would also have raised public questions about the murdered boy’s sexual orientation, “in an era of high homophobia," Devine wrote.
“[D]espite these risks Ryan was still wrong,” Devine continued. “Danny Croteau was a victim of an evil web of hypocrisy and denial in a crime that still cries out for justice. But it would have taken an extraordinary person to face the firestorm that such a prosecution would have caused, with no guarantee that in the end Lavigne would have been convicted. That Ryan was not the superman who could face all that may show that he was weak and that he was human, but not that he was evil.”
(On a parenthetical, and much lighter, note, Devine’s essay on Ryan contains this anecdote about once-and-future Mayor Charlie Ryan’s defeat by Mike Albano in the 1995 mayoral campaign: As supporters were leaving Ryan’s headquarters that night, Devine writes, a group of young male Albano supporters—offering a preview of the classy behavior that would characterize the Albano years—sped by, yelling taunts and mooning them. Any guesses about which asses those bare asses belonged to?)