In my last entry, I pointed out an indefensible error in the libelous headline of a British newspaper, The Independent. I’ve even followed up by writing to the reporter and managing editor to correct and retract this egregious misstatement, but they have thus far failed to take any action. Today, the drama continues, only much closer to home.
Boston Globe reporter Jeff Jacoby has written an article containing within its headline an ominous declaration: “Political elite should shun Bill Bulger.” He then lays out his case, arguing that Mr. Bulger showed no allegiance “…to the people of Massachusetts, not to the law, not to Whitey’s innumerable victims, not to the truth — and not to God.” Jacoby constructively asserts that Bulger should have been banned from attending the funeral service for former Governor Paul Cellucci and presumably should not venture outside into the public eye ever again.
As a preliminary matter, it’s important to note that Jacoby is a former assistant of the late Dr. John Silber, President of Boston University. Ironically, Dr. Silber was one of those “political elite” who spoke out time and time again in support of William Bulger. William Bulger spoke at Silber’s funeral service this past September as well, calling him “an independent spirit.” Bulger further noted that, “He taught by example, he was determined to do that. He recognized people paid greater attention to what he did rather than what he said.” In January, William Bulger also attended the funeral service for former Massachusetts House of Representatives Speaker Thomas McGee.
Yet his attendance at services for McGee and Silber went without this bold scrutiny. William Bulger has a long tradition of attending the funeral services of his colleagues; indeed he even delivered the eulogy for U.S. Representative Joe Moakley in 2001. On that occasion, he lamented: “Humility and pride, seemingly contradictory, coalesced in you, our Joe. Integrity. Justice. And useful service. It is wrenching to say goodbye.”
In these pieces, there is a recurring theme which dramatically contrasts that espoused by Jacoby. As both his record and delicate choice of words show, William Bulger is a highly principled man who lives his life by certain core virtues. The traits he admires in others reflect those which he holds so dear within himself. If what Jacoby asserts was true, then surely he claims to know William Bulger far better than so many who are proud to call him a colleague and friend; these are the people who know Mr. Bulger. Was Jacoby’s former employer, the esteemed Dr. Silber, wrong all along, too?
By insulting Bulger, Jacoby similarly attacks anyone in Bulger’s association circles, both living and dead: Ted Kennedy, Michael Dukakis, John Silber, Joe Moakley, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, and former Republican Governor William Weld. Importantly, current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (also a former prosecutor from Middlesex County) wrote of William Bulger’s autobiographical memoir While the Music Lasts, “If you want to know what politics is all about — the joy, the sorrow, the purpose of public life — read this book.”
Famed historian David McCullough also wrote, “But it’s also a chronicle of an exceedingly intelligent twentieth-century American whose understanding of human nature is exceptional, and who apparently hasn’t an idea in the world of how to be dull.” Even then-Governor William Weld (who served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts from 1981-1986) wrote that the book “…is a combination of hard-nosed politics and lyrical prose. For the political insider, it is pure poetry.” Indeed, it was Governor Weld who even recommended William Bulger’s appointment as President of the University of Massachusetts beginning in 1996. Given that he was the former chief federal prosecutor in Boston and a member of the opposing Republican party, how was this possible if Bill Bulger is so sinister?
The real question then is, are all of these people really that corrupt themselves, or just naively stupid — and does Mr. Jacoby really know it all, while they apparently know nothing? That is what he is saying — they really are Know-Nothings, whereas he is a Know-It-All. Jacoby’s former boss, John Silber, is a Know-Nothing, too. So is Ted Kennedy. And don’t forget our current U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry.
Needless to say, these meritless attacks on William Bulger always seem to escalate in gravity and frequency following the death of another of his colleagues; the most recent onslaught began soon after the death of former U.S. Representative Joe Moakley (D-MA) in 2001, and has resurged in intermittent waves ever since. Not only is this approach sleazy and misleading, but it also tactfully dillutes the truth by attacking William Bulger at a time when those who know the the truth have died.
Jacoby urges that the death of his revered colleagues is not enough; even Mr. Bulger’s living colleagues should shun him now as well. Such tacit efforts to isolate targets are, in fact, a common tool of bullies. One anti-bullying organization warns, “Bullies often feel threatened by good performers, because it increases their own feelings of inadequacy and shame.” Is it possible that such ill-reasoned criticisms, like those of Jacoby, are more probably sprung from dark hearts of envy? The facts clearly do not match up with his empty assertions – words lacking in substance, unless we choose to believe in them. Yet, to do that would be to debase and demean our own intellectual capacities. To do that is to see a vile mirage which serves up poison, instead of water.
There is also the fact that clearly, the beating of William’s own heart led him to far different places than his older brother, James. Indeed, it was during the June 19, 2003 hearing that he distinguished himself from his brother, noting “Truth to tell, over the years I was unable to penetrate the secret life of my older brother. He marched to his own drummer and traveled a path very different from mine. Jim had his own ways I could not possibly influence.” Current U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose brother was a car thief who served time in prison, made a fortune selling car alarms, and was himself arrested on more than one occasion; yet today he is Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In 2003, former Governor Michael Dukakis wrote how his own brother has had criminal problems as well in penning an article entitled “A Vote of Confidence for Bill Bulger.”
Moreover, with approximately 3.2% of America’s population currently living in prison or under some “correctional control,” that amounts to more than 10 million people, which doesn’t include those released from prison or parole. Each of these “criminals” has a mother and father, and many have children and siblings. Yet, unlike in more distant places and times, our blood does not define social stature, and “Corruption of Blood” is expressly prohibited by Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution even in cases of Treason.
The deeds of William Bulger’s own life exemplify public service, as those words etched into the cover of his memoir firmly attest. One cannot “fake” virtue. You either have it, or you don’t. And as the achievements of his life plainly show, William Bulger knows a lot about what public service is, and what it isn’t.
Like his Irish immigrant forebears, William Bulger has proven beyond any doubt that we all live in a Land of Possibility. Possible not because he cheated — but instead because he worked hard, he loves his family, he respects his enemies, and he has never stopped believing in what matters most: Humility, Integrity, and Justice. The keystone is that bundle of core virtues which have so defined the bedrock of Bulger’s own life. He is thus not only a model for public service but also exemplifies that immortal apparition which is the American Dream.
With all things considered, Jeff Jacoby may very well be the real Know-Nothing here.