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Political Intelligence

Brown’s decision to skip ‘It Gets Better’ video brings a wave of criticism

July 31, 2011

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With friends like these, who needs enemies?

That question swirls around Senator Scott Brown as the lone Republican in an otherwise all-Democratic Massachusetts congressional delegation.

It was refreshed this past week when he became the object of derision not for a sin of commission, but omission.

In an act organized by his senior partner, Senator John F. Kerry, the 11 Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation made an “It Gets Better’’ video aimed at offering moral support to gay teenagers contemplating suicide or struggling with depression.

The 12th member of the delegation - Brown - declined to participate, prompting immediate questions when the video was released Wednesday.

In a statement, spokesman Colin Reed offered an explanation.

“Scott Brown has a strong record at the state and federal level against bullying and believes that all people regardless of sexual orientation should be treated with dignity and respect,’’ the spokesman said. “His main focus right now is on creating jobs and getting our economy back on track.’’

The facts, though, belie that answer.

A week earlier, for example, Reed and Brown himself were promoting the senator’s views on a distinctly non-economic subject: the recent shooting deaths of six seals on Cape Cod.

Brown announced plans to file legislation more than doubling the penalties for intentional violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

“It’s an environmental issue that affects everyone,’’ he said during an interview with the Cape Cod Times. “I mean, who doesn’t love seals?’’

The same question might be asked of suicidal teens, and two Democratic organizations were quick to ask it.

In the process, they politicized an ostensibly apolitical public-service video. They also highlighted a challenge Brown faces as he seeks his first full, six-year Senate term in November 2012.

With malice or not, the Democratic establishment is going to expose differences in their priorities, eager to rally supporters caught napping when Brown won the 2010 special election to replace a party icon, the late Edward M. Kennedy.

Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman John Walsh has a standard stump speech in which he criticizes Brown for overt acts, such as budget votes last year that held up summer job funding and unemployment benefits.

In the latest instance, though, Brown was condemned not for his position on a piece of legislation, but a social statement foisted upon him by members of a rival political party.

And the criticism for his absence from the video was louder than the words delivered by his delegation colleagues on screen.

The state party pounced moments after the first story about the video was written, noting the selectivity of the senator’s declared focus on job creation.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a national organization aimed at electing Democrats to the Senate, issued a statement highlighting his 2002 comments that it was “unusual’’ and “not normal’’ for two lesbians to have a baby.

The committee’s statement also highlighted Brown’s 2004 vote in the state Senate in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and his 2006 vote upholding then-Governor Mitt Romney’s veto of a Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth.

On Thursday, the state party sought to extend the story by inviting reporters to a conference call with gay rights activists. On Friday, it circulated a critical story from a liberal blog.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the counterpart of the Democratic group, responded with a recitation of sharply anti-Republican statements by Dan Savage, the gay columnist who started the “It Gets Better’’ campaign.

“If, as the old saying goes, you’re known by the company you keep, then the voters of Massachusetts deserve to know who Democrat Party operatives are teaming up with to spread outrageous attacks on Scott Brown’s character,’’ committee spokesman Brian Walsh said in a statement.

Brown supporters also noted his vote in December to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ ban on gays serving openly in the US military.

Kerry, the driving force behind the delegation video, protested any suggestion he was trying to embarrass his colleague. His staff said Brown declined to appear in the video.

Yet by creating a video that no other state delegation in Congress has made, Kerry set up his Senate partner for political condemnation.

And intended or inadvertent, that was what he got.

Glen Johnson is lead blogger for Political Intelligence, available at www.boston.com/politics. He can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.