Scott Brown is the Most _________* Man In America
*Fill in the blank. He’ll be whoever you want him to be.
But he clearly enjoys the clamoring. That come-closer smirk of his on the cover of the Times magazine was, more than anything, an ex-model remembering how to position himself for the camera, a very knowing look. He openly seeks the public’s affection, and on this drawn-out afternoon outside the Senate chamber, it’s no different. Other senators, Democrats included, rush to avoid the media near the banks of elevators. (John Kerry, bad hip and all, practically gallops from the crush of reporters — and he voted for healthcare.) When Brown finally emerges, at 2 p.m., it’s as if he’s the headlining act. The throng charges, half excited to talk to him, half expecting him to carry out a duck-and-run like all the others. Brown just stands there, awaiting the jostling masses. The first thing he says is “Well, let’s just let everyone get settled.” He glances around — reporters shoulder to shoulder, microphones and digital recorders now thrust in his face. “Everyone settled? Okay. Great.” And then he smiles.
For the next eight minutes he parries, sometimes against his own record. He says the healthcare bill should be repealed — “It’s definitely not good for my state; it’s going to cost us jobs” — even though he supported a similar universal healthcare plan in Massachusetts in 2006. Asked if he needs to redefine his image now that nationwide healthcare is law, Brown says he ran on a “host” of issues not related to that seemingly definitive 41st “no” vote. “Just to say that it was all about healthcare, I think, is really not fair,” he says, going on to imply that he can now apply his nickname, “41,” however he wants, on any issue he wants. If he wants to be the 60th vote to secure the Democrats’ supermajority, fine. If he wants to be the 41st vote necessary to defeat that majority, well, that’s fine, too.
It’s an amazing performance, this verbal jujitsu. The more you observe him, the more you begin to understand what it means to be Scott Brown in Washington. He can vote for a jobs bill that will satisfy the Massachusetts moderates, and weeks later campaign as an archconservative in the Arizona desert. He can be a political comer despite his freshman status. He can make up an ideology as he goes along, couching his ad hoc approach as the workings of an independent thinker voting his conscience, even as one vote counters a previous one or stinks of political expediency. That’s the beauty of his improvisation: No one but Brown knows why he’s doing it.
He can, in other words, allow people to project onto him whatever they wish, to see in him whatever fits their ideology, because it’s all true.
He can remain a model to this very day.