Scott Brown, We Barely Know Ye

In our much-watched U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, both candidates have pledged to skip the mud-slinging TV ads that we’ve come to expect in American politics. And by the law of unintended consequences, that means some of the TV spots are mind-meltingly vague.

Scott Brown, whose ads I’ll review today, is using the campaign slogan “He’s for us.” His TV ads, on the other hand, are following a twist on an old maxim; If you can’t say something mean, don’t say anything at all. Brown’s been accused of running away from the issues and centering his reelection bid on a warm and fuzzy feeling that he’s one of us. Let’s see how it holds up.

Representative Quote: Brown: “I’ve done what I said I was going to do.”
[Cuts to a 60 Minutes intro with host Leslie Stahl]
Stahl: “He’s turned out to be unpredictably independent —and beholden to no one.”

What We Learn: Brown is, dare I say, a maverick, whose only agenda is to not have an agenda, and the man who once famously said, “It’s not Kennedy’s seat, it’s the people of Massachusetts’ seat” no longer feels like owes anyone anything—um, hopefully that excludes the People of Massachusetts.

Policy pronouncements: 0; People who think Scott Brown is rad: 1*

Representative Quote: Brown: “The problem with Washington is the people down there are always battling. That’s not how I operate.”

What We Learn: So, wait, Brown isn’t going to fight for us? This ad also stands out as the only one that Brown claims some policy wins, including being the tie-breaking vote on Wall Street Reform, a jobs bill for veterans, and an ethics law for Congress, as he puts it.

Policy pronouncements: 3; People who think Scott Brown is rad: 2

Representative Quote: Gail Huff: “If the kids had a problem they didn’t call me, they called Dad.”

What We Learn: Scott Brown has two girls, his towel-folding technique is a little sloppy, and he is the rare husband who didn’t mind that his wife worked a shift with weird hours. Also, he fancies a T-shirt for the Cohasset Triathlon 2012.

Policy pronouncements: 0; People who think Scott Brown is rad: 1

Representative Quote: Huff: “I think you learn a lot about someone when you live with them, when you’re married to them.”
Huff again: “He is by far the most understanding of women of probably any man I know.”

What We Learn: Scott Brown feels the pressure from all rhetoric on the War on Women from the Democrats. Speaking of party affiliation, we’re four ads deep without a single reference or intimation to the Republican party. Also, that Brown really loves that Cohasett Triathlon 2012 T-shirt and apparently wears it around the house, exclusively.

Policy pronouncements: 0; People who think Scott Brown is rad: 1

Representative Quote: Former Boston mayor Ray Flynn: “I’ve found him to be a regular guy, hardworking, honest.”

What we learn: The only way to mention party affiliation is by what you’re not. In this case, Flynn cops to being a Democrat, but supports Brown—who is name-checked as independent but not Republican—anyway. Third ad in a row where Brown doesn’t say a single word outside the standard “I approve this message” line. The next two ads in this series follow the same vein. “Konnie” uses Konnie Lukes, a Worcester city councilor, who says, “Scott Brown means what he says and Scott Brown says what he’s going to do.” Up until this point, Scott Brown has only said what he’s done, and not a word about what he’s going to do. “Paul — New Bedford” has Paul Walsh, DA from Bristol County (and yes, another Dem) saying, “I like Scott Brown. We’ve got high unemployment down here.” That’s either a crazy non sequitur or a monstrous editing fail.

Policy pronouncements: 0; People who think Scott Brown is rad 3

Representative Quote: Brown: “My mom had to work more than one job just to get by.”

What We Learn: Brown still has that pick-up truck, and he can drive and talk and even look at the camera at the same time. His mom had a couple of jobs, but no word on if they were simultaneous or consecutive or what. Finally, Brown has a glittery heart clipped to his dashboard. Still no mention of the markers like Conservative, Republican or anything else. By the end we know this: Brown has daughters, a wife, a pick-up truck, and some friends.

Policy pronouncements: 0; People who think Scott Brown is rad: 1

Next time: Elizabeth Warren’s ads.

* Number includes Brown, himself.