Saturday, September 29, 2007

Deval's Triple Threat Stance

To great fanfare, the Celtics recently acquired potential future Hall of Famer Deval Garnett.

In Basketball, one of the most important things to do is to learn how to properly catch the ball and square up before ever making a move toward the hoop. One of my old coaches, who must have made me practice it about a thousand times, called it the triple threat stance - where someone holds the ball steady with both hands, just above their waist, with elbows locked, looking at the basket and as much of the court as possible. The point is to keep an opponent guessing - and hopefully take him or her off guard when a player actually makes their move. From a triple threat position, a player can shoot the ball, pass it or pump fake and go to the hoop. It's basketball 101, but even at any level of the game, it's effective.

While Deval Patrick's rolled the dice on casinos, wagering all of Massachusetts, he isn't necessarily in a bad position. Thankfully, he's reached what I'm now officially coining the Political Triple Threat Stance. With almost limitless options, the Governor can make any one of numerous moves toward the basket; with a serious proposal a lot of people really, really don't want, including many of his most ardent supporters (such as myself), just think about all the holes Deval potentially opened up. What happens when you threaten something people don't want? They react - making the proverbial opponent defense as weak as it could be.

Just think of Deval's three major options in this wonderful conceit. First, he can shoot the ball by keep pushing the plan. It has a shot of passing (even if it's a fairly long one, contrary to popular myth) and certainly will make the state some extra revenue, though how much and at what cost is up for debate. It's not what a lot (most?) of this state wants, but can you blame the guy for trying? No. And he could just make a political score.

Or, the Governor could pass the ball in hopes of finding the team a better opportunity. After all, one of the most important statistics in basketball are assists - where a player makes a pass that leads to a score. If the governor passes, as any good point guard should, it isn't necessarily a political loss: no one is better positioned to come up with creative proposals and new ideas than a Governor (and a point guard); Deval's just doing his job running the offense and finding the open player. Daring moves, after all, can lead to Sportscenter highlights and positive press. The fact that they don't always work is long forgotten if the game ends in victory. Besides, maybe the Governor's next big plan will lead to that big-time, buzzer-beating shot, saving the day, just like everyone in Massachusetts seems to want?

However, like all my favorite basketball players, I hope the Governor pump fakes and slashes to the hoop. There's nothing better than seeing utter dominance - and beating your opponents to the basket sure makes for some swell film reels. It looks like Deval's going for casinos, but don't blink, because the Governor is in perfect position to take it to Sal DiMasi and essentially say, "look what position the Speaker has put me in for not passing the Municipal Partnership Act? We could make by without casinos, but Verizon doesn't pay a dime for hundreds of miles of telephone poles they own and Sal DiMasi doesn't think that should change." Why else would half of casino tax revenue go to helping property taxes? The link isn't a coincidence.

Meanwhile, I'm already picturing the Globe article where "administration sources" blame Sal for politically boxing Deval in, making Deval look extra crafty, daring and imaginative in the process. "We had to be creative," they'll say, "the Governor's just trying to do his job, but the Speaker keeps getting in the way." Boxed in? Ha, the Governor's just getting ready to undermine Sal's insistence that corporations in Massachusetts don't have to pay their fair share - with a simple pump fake and move toward the hoop. He's been dribbling the ball a bit too long, making his supporters think the 24 second clock could expire, but now they're just more in tune to the game, getting ready to mob the floor before the buzzer ever goes off. Beacon Hill definitely doesn't want that.

Deval's supporters may not like his casino plan, but the reality is he couldn't have set himself up in a better political position. Losing this battle could help him convince Massachusetts to win the war. Now we just have to hope he's as good of a ball player as we think he is, because if the Governor pivots and focuses on issues that his base actually supports and would help raise revenue fairly, such as the Municipal Partnership Act and cutting corporate loopholes, Speaker DiMasi's going to have a tough time blocking the most important legislation Massachusetts will have passed in years. Of course, that's making a lot of assumptions, but Deval's certainly standing in a great political triple threat stance.

Update: Perhaps Deval's Political Triple Threat Stance is a good answer to OutragedLib's excellent blog and question today.


Anonymous said...

So....the best thing about Deval's proposal is that there's a good chance he doesn't really want it to happen. This was a brilliant move because coming out with this plan leaves him in a great place to go back on it later. Or possibly, to hope that the Legislature will not pass something that he doesn't really want passed.

The only triple threat that I can see is that he's positioned himself to either go back on his word, pass the buck, or sell out the state.

Ryan, it's gotten to the point where I can go to someplace like The Corner at NRO, replace "President Bush" with "Deval Patrick" and "Iraq" with "casinos", and I get your blog.

Ryan Adams said...


You miss my point.

Deval probably really wants his proposal, but it's going to be difficult to pass. If he's intelligent, he'll take advantage of what would otherwise be a weak hand and go after the Speaker on the fact that he's resisting EVERYTHING Deval throws, good ideas and bad. That could give him the momentum to pass things Deval's base wants and would be more helpful to the state (corporate tax loophole cuts and the Muni Partnership Act). However, none of that takes away from the fact that Deval's casino proposal was serious and a serious mistake.

Any serious proposal with a chance of passing would put an executive in a "triple threat position" if they're in a stalemate with political opponents. Take for example George Bush's Medicare prescription drug initiative: it was a terrible, terrible plan, yet sounded good to a lot of people who didn't know any better. It cleared a great shot for him - and he took it. There were other options he could have taken advantage of had there been more resistance to the proposal, but there wasn't.

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