“Peter Lucas should resign” by Mike Luciano

The local newspaper regularly prints a column by Peter Lucas, a retired press spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Lucas supplements his government pension by writing columns condemning government. His headlines are so repulsive that I never make it to the content, but one of our readers, Mike Luciano, monitors Lucas closely and calls him out whenever his ramblings go off the outrageousness scale. Here are Mike’s thoughts on a recent column by Lucas:

Peter Lucas should resign

The most recent column by Peter Lucas in the Lowell Sun is the most disgraceful piece I have read in that publication in quite some time. Given the kinds of nonsense that regularly appear in The Sun, this is saying a great deal.

Lucas’s latest effort is an attack on Governor Deval Patrick that takes the form of an Orwellian hit piece, the plausibility of which is entirely dependent on revisionist history and a forgetful readership. Its title announces, “Patrick looks like he may play the race card again” in the gubernatorial campaign. The cantankerous Sun columnist (Is there another kind?) proceeds to inform us that in the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Patrick and his advisors used the race card and “skillfully played on liberal white guilt to get the media to go easy on [him].” Additionally, Lucas tells us that “Patrick’s primary opponents were forced to pull their punches in order to avoid being called racists. Nobody, after all, wants to be branded a racist, even if the charge is untrue.”

Not surprisingly, Lucas provides no actual examples of Patrick or his campaign using race to his advantage. Instead he simply says, “As soon as Healey ran a television ad that accused Patrick of being soft on crime, the Patrick people attacked her for ‘fear-mongering’ and ‘race-baiting.’”

And what was that advertisement in which Patrick was portrayed as “soft on crime?” It was an attack ad that highlighted Patrick’s efforts to help convicted rapist and African-American Benjamin LaGuer. Patrick secured a DNA test in an attempt to exonerate LaGuer, but the test confirmed his guilt at which point Patrick withdrew his support.

Ironically Lucas alludes to this but never mentions Laguer by name or the specific attack ad, only vaguely referring to some Healey spot portraying Patrick as “soft on crime.” But the truth is the ad was straight out of the Lee Atwater playbook and stirred up memories of the infamous Willie Horton commercial credited with helping sink the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign in 1988. Attempts to locate the actual LaGuer ad were unsuccessful, but the American Prospect provided a thorough review of it at the time:

The camera films from the potential attacker’s point of view, and follows a woman walking through an empty parking garage. The ad then replays an interview in which Patrick described LaGuer as “thoughtful” and “eloquent.” The voice-over asks, “Have you ever heard a woman compliment a rapist?” The Healey campaign thus transported the darkest racial fear of the white American mind—the interracial rape nightmare—onto Massachusetts television screens.

Furthermore, recall another Healey ad that attacked Patrick for being the attorney of African-American Carl Ray Songer, who killed a Florida police officer. Yet again the Healey campaign linked Deval Patrick to a brutal African-American criminal, or as Lucas said, a man who “happened to be black,” as if that fact was a mere happenstance.

If anyone played the race card in 2006, it was Kerry Healey. The flak from the “liberal media” she received consisted of them pointing out that the ads were Horton-esque pieces of shameless fear-mongering about menacing black men raping women and killing cops. The reason Lucas doesn’t mention the ads in particular is because he knows they torpedo his whole argument: that Deval Patrick won the election because his campaign knew how to play on “liberal white guilt.” But in fact Healey lost the election because (1) she was a Republican in a heavily Democratic state at a time when Republicans were unpopular nationwide, so much so that they lost their Congressional majorities, and (2) Healey’s attack ads were off-putting to moderates and people who wanted the campaign to be about actual issues and not about who Deval Patrick’s defendants were when he was a practicing attorney.

But despite this revisionist history about Patrick playing the race card when in fact it was Healey, this isn’t the worst part of Lucas’s column. Lucas goes onto to state that the governor—who was born into a working class family in Chicago—had “everything early in life handed to him—free schooling at Milton Academy and Harvard University, top job offers in government, big jobs in the corporate world.” Apparently it does not occur to Lucas that Patrick earned his way into Milton and Harvard, and earned those jobs in government and the private sector. Given the preceding assertions about Patrick playing the race card, Lucas’s implication is clear enough: Deval Patrick knows how to use his race to get what he wants. He is, in effect, a poster boy for affirmative action who has triumphed thanks to his ability to, as Lucas said, “skillfully play on liberal white guilt.”

Lucas’s final jab at the governor consists of a rather glib treatment of police-minority citizen relations. Ask any person of color if he has ever been the target of profiling or unjustified police suspicion. Almost universally the answer will be yes, especially for those older than say, forty.

But Lucas believes all that to be hooey. He notes Patrick’s recent claim of having been harassed by police four decades ago:

Patrick talked about being regularly harassed by police when he walked through Milton as a teenager out to buy candy or ice cream while he was at Milton Academy from 1970 to 1974, a time “when black people were rare in Milton.”

“On more than one occasion I was stopped by police, sometimes with (cruiser) lights on. It was humiliating,” the governor said. “I wouldn’t want to put anybody else through that.”

Incredibly, though, Peter Lucas simply can’t bring himself to imagine that in early 1970s lily-white Milton, that the police would give a young black kid any trouble whatsoever:

Milton police said they have no record of any run-ins with Patrick. Anyway, Milton is a different town today than it was back then—so much so that the governor lives there. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t.

As if a police department would keep a record of all the kids it harasses, black or white.

Finally, Lucas closes with some heinously insensitive remarks that demonstrate with crystal clarity how socially and culturally unaware he really is:

Nevertheless, the governor has flashbacks, like a combat veteran. It wasn’t easy negotiating the mean streets of Milton back then with an ice-cream cone in your hand.

You never knew when a cop, weapon drawn, would come up and say, “OK, kid, drop the cone.”

Oh, the horror!”

A bad joke from a bad writer. Peter Lucas ought to be ashamed of himself for his distortion of truth, his suggestion that Patrick never actually earned his education or career because he knew how to successfully exploit “white guilt” for his own advancement, and his utter tone-deafness to the uneasy state of American race relations of the past forty years and beyond.

It’s time to put Peter Lucas out to pasture.

by Michael S. Luciano

3 Responses to “Peter Lucas should resign” by Mike Luciano

  1. kad barma says:

    I take exception to two things about this piece: First of all, I would put it that he should be fired. Second of all, the basis for that opinion is not be the inanity of his opinions, but, rather, the irrelevance. In an era when the paper continues to have to fire reporters doing actual work increasing whatever of value might be left at the paper in an increasingly quixotic quest to seek profitability, it’s unconscionable that they waste money and column inches on things that have no value to this community. It’s a waste of money, number one, and opportunity to recover any reason why the community would subscribe to the paper, number two.

    Either way, Michael’s closing line is a keeper.

  2. kad barma says:

    I’ll also add, being from one of those lily white communities that out-Miltons Milton in the era in question, that Patrick’s characterizations of what it was like to be black under those conditions, if anything, are an understatement. In my town, Dee Brown, star player for the Boston Celtics, was put face down on the sidewalk with a police pistol in his ear because another black man had been reported to have robbed a bank nearby. In my town, even as recently as 2003, a black kindergartner was put on a bus to Boston (and dropped off there unattended) because the after school program personnel could not imagine he was a resident. (The director of the program called the abandonment of a 5 year old child 20 miles from home “inadvertent”).

    These are not small issues to those involved. That they are trivialized by an old man who knows nothing about which he speaks would be bad enough if it were just conversation. It’s offensive that he’s taking the jobs of others who would work at the paper, so that the column inches can be wasted on them, adding insult to injury.

  3. Bob Forrant says:

    The mind boggles at what Mr. Jim, ‘the conscience of the Sun’ allows in the paper and what the same force willfully keeps out when it does not agree with the paper’s point of view. ‘Opinion columns’ are opinion columns and should be read as such and agreed with or disagreed with or sometimes a bit of both if the writer is truly skillful. But the Sun continues to narrow its range of opinion-ators as the stable of clearly rightward-leaning rhetorical wordsmiths grows and grows like Pinochio’s nose while any whiff of an alternative is banned in Lowell!

    The notion of a truly free press is near dead and buried here in Lowell.