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   Jeff Jacoby
Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.

Copyright Boston Globe

Oct. 30, 2002

So Shannon O'Brien doesn't think parents need to know if their 16-year-old is getting an abortion. She thinks convicted serial murderers deserve to live to a ripe old age. She blames Joe Malone, who hasn't been treasurer for nearly for years, for the fact that her office has been illegally paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars in pensions to criminals.

And she thinks Mitt Romney has "the wrong set of values?"

Lord knows Romney has his faults, but I'll give him this: He managed to answer most of moderator Tim Russert's questions with straightforward declarative sentences. Why is he for the death penalty despite its price tag? Because "the death penalty doesn't have anything to do with cost; it has everything to do with deterrence." Would he support a law requiring a one-day waiting period before abortions? "No, I am not going to change our pro-choice laws in any way." If the Legislature passes a budget with a tax increase, what will you do? "I will veto any budget that raises taxes." Has Tom Finneran been on Beacon Hill too long? "Absolutely."

But there were no straightforward declarative sentences from O'Brien last night. Six times she was asked about higher taxes, and six times she went into a long-winded filibuster that did everything but actually answer the question. Or was it eight times? To be honest, I was so bemused by her description of Bill Weld as the "Republican businessman" who was elected governor in 1990 that I lost count. (Memo to O'Brien: Weld was a former prosecutor.)

Fortunately, Romney was on hand to translate from O'Brienese into English. "Shannon, everyone knows if you're elected governor we're going to have a one-and-a-half-billion-dollar tax increase."

So, what did we learn?

Well, we learned that Romney still doesn't know how to rebut the outrageous smear that it's his fault when companies he isn't running lay off employees or break the law. We learned that Russert doesn't know how to pronounce "Finneran." And we learned that O'Brien can't add.

Asked by Russert how she would close the looming $2 billion gap in next year's budget, she gave another filibuster -- something about "bulk purchasing blah blah blah energy effiency blah blah blah abandoned property blah blah blah." Whereupon Russert was tactless enough to point out that her numbers -- "at best" -- added up to $500 million."

The missing $1.5 billion? It'll come from the O'Brien-Finneran tax increase of 2003. That's the one we'll all be paying if Beacon Hill reverts to the way it used to be under Michael Dukakis: all-Democrats-all-the-time.

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