Every high-profile crisis tests whether our elected officials can step up and lead.
During 9/11, New York’s mayor Rudolph Giuliani became “America’s Mayor” after the media deemed him competent in handling the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
On the other hand, President George W. Bush is largely seen as incompetent for failing to prevent 9/11, starting a war in a country not related to the attacks, and leaving so many stranded in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
Even New Jersey governor Chris Christie rose to the challenge during Hurricane Sandy.
If the bombings of the Boston Marathon and subsequent manhunt serves as the moment America saw a single leader step up and pass this crucial test of true leadership, it’s Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.
Patrick leads the way
Patrick, a two-term governor and double Harvard graduate, has definitely risen to the occasion and throughout the week as the manhunt for brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev stretched through the weekend, Patrick faced the press and the search for the perpetrators with an unruffled sense of self-assurance.
When the first question about the bombing Governor Patrick fielded Monday night was “Is this another false flag attack staged to take our civil liberties?” Patrick replied, “No. Next question,” clearly unwilling to play any media game or wade into any nonsense not related to bringing the people who attacked Boston to justice.
That serious calm continued throughout the weekend as Patrick, in many ways becoming American’s governor, held periodic press conferences to update the public about the ongoing manhunt. Patrick lead the way as law enforcement finally apprehended Tsarnaev alive, bringing the week of terror in Boston to an end.
That demeanor and gravitas will serve Patrick in the years to come. Perhaps Governor Patrick has presidential ambitions like his close friend and confidant President Barack Obama. Could a Hillary Clinton/Deval Patrick 2016 Democratic ticket be another milestone for American politics? Certainly the media buzz would be loud and enthusiastic.
An Obamaesque quality
Patrick is the first member of his family to attend college, Harvard University, and then later Harvard Law School. He worked as an civil rights attorney for the NAACP and then later as an attorney for a private firm. He certainly has a solid personal biography, growing up on the south side of Chicago in a tiny apartment and working his way up to serve in President Clinton’s Justice Department and now in the governor’s mansion.
But it will be Patrick’s handling of the terrorist attack on his state’s capital that will predict his political future; his ability to show resolve while reassuring the residents of Boston that their terror would soon end.
At the memorial service before America learned about the Tsarnaev brothers, Patrick said: “Massachusetts invented America, and America is not organized the way countries are usually organized. We’re not organized around a common language, a religion or even culture. We’re organized around a handful of civic ideals and we have defined those ideals, over time and through struggle, as equality, opportunity, freedom and fair play. An attack on our civic ritual, like the marathon, especially on Patriot’s Day, is an attack on those values. And just as we cannot permit darkness and hate to triumph over our spiritual faith, so we must not permit darkness and hate to triumph over our civic faith.”
That smooth reassurance continued throughout the week and likely helped those Bostonians hunkered down through the weekend unsure of how it would all end. It’s Patrick’s natural ability to appear calm and resilient — certainly an Obamaesque quality — that will only serve him well no matter what office he holds next, including the Oval.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell at @ZerlinaMaxwell