When you are wrong, you are wrong, and you must be prepared to say so. Even if it’s not so much that you are wrong, but that reasonable doubt remains.
Just last week, on Friday, I likened Robert Healey’s ethically challenged unqualified candidacy for Governor of Rhode Island and Ken Block’s proximity to Healey’s co-conspirator, the Moderate Party of Rhode Island to the tale of vengeance in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I imagined that Healey’s sudden last minute substitution for James B. Spooner, as the Moderate Candidate was contrived and perhaps even a vengeance play on the part of Ken Block, a spite move to disadvantage Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.
I wasn’t the only columnist who criticized Healey’s candidacy. But in Gardiner: The Wrath of Khen, I made the case that circumstantial evidence pointed to a revenge play by Ken Block. There was sorry arising that Ken Block’s post primary silence and Healey’s candidacy might be a gross diabolical dishonor of the two candidate’s mutual pledges to support the victor in the primary, which Fung won.
Healey speaks out
On September 13, Healey published this statement: Truth is that Ken Block and I have not spoken for months. The truth is that the current Moderate Party is comprised of followers of the old Block movement and, quite frankly, were extremely disappointed with the bolting of Block. I doubt that there is any conspiracy, and I know that I had no role whatsoever in one. There is a possibility that I am an unwitting pawn in this, but I trust in the integrity of James Spooner, the candidate I replaced, and so I cannot let this be a worry to me. Let them spend their time exploring the conspiracy in that it will be less time they can spend on other matters.
First, “them” is me. Yep. I write this stuff all by myself. But I digress.
One thing for sure, Healey is not an “unwitting pawn.” He seems well informed on the state of mind of Moderate party members following Ken Block’s departure. He is completely aware that he is not an equivalent replacement to the completely unknown Spooner., Spooner is so unknown, the Yorke offered a potentially deflating tidbit, that, sort of “ after all” wasn’t Spooner a Republican? Well, not according to the Votesmart website this has Spooner with a Democrat history, even as a town chair. But Spooner hasn’t run for statewide office four times and endeavored to make himself election season “color” into a fourth decade now. Healey acknowledges the switch of him for Spooner loads the dice and loads them against Fung. He didn’t make the rules he says.
I’m still not sure what movie really fits, but one where the police are confounded by clever answers and don’t have enough to hold the guy would fit. Oh and if you don’t think you are getting snookered a little, get this. Healey says he only ran because Raimondo beat Tavares and Pell in the Democratic primary. Oh, and he’s a “Moderate” running on an “austerity” program. (Think “ let’s have a crash and play the dead cat bounce.. Ha! I’m the TRUE fiscal conservative NOT Fung) It’s all smart ass counter culture insurgent bull. Toying with the man and the man is all of you establishment suckers. So many experts have said, more or less, there is very little room for the state to engage in an “austerity” program given the large percentage of the budget that is entwined with federal money and requirements. But let Bob have his fun, and steal his book when he self publishes it.
Now, as for Spooner, you aren’t supposed to doubt Spooner’s integrity because the Chairman of the Moderate Party has somehow “certified” Spooner’s medical disability. (I’d like to see a medical attestation please) It will be interesting to see if either Secretary of State Candidate from either party seizes the opportunity to protect the public’s right to be certain that the extraordinary circumstance required to allow a substitution has been fulfilled, medically.But don’t worry. Healey has “trust in the integrity of James Spooner.” That’s great. I don’t know James Spooner except as a guy who thought it would be fun to run for Governor as a Moderate at the last minute, and then found himself endorsed by the Moderate Party Chair by that very evening. Vote Smart says he has a long Democratic history, Dan Yorke says he’s a Republican. Thank goodness Healey at least knows who Spooner is and “trust’s in the integrity of James Spooner.” Buy the whole life and the disability rider plus the nursing home coverage. Take that to the Bank. For God sake, replace the Federal Reserve with James Spooner.
On to City Hall
Meanwhile, Buddy Cianci is recovering from cancer and is running and I think there might be a couple of candidates out there who could withdraw for mental disability at any time and nobody would be surprised, but the statute at issue requires more than a letter from a party Chair with a spoiler substitute candidate in tow. I hope Spooner has healthy and wins the lottery to boot. But when a party is substituting candidates who never qualified because somebody opts out, I want to see the law was followed to the letter.Healey did feel the pressure in the radio interviews a bit. It was probably the first real interview he ever had. He wasn’t mistaken for Jesus.
As a result ,reacting to “member of the Republican Party” and “Die hard supporters of Allan Fung’ (Present!), Healey has promised to provide an affidavit. Good, Stand by for the promised affidavit. But let’s face it; the elephant in the room is, as Tara Granhan emphasized, “where is Ken Block?” Block started the Moderate Party. He has to appreciate the idea that some might suspect him of a vengeful trick, or at least enjoying the Moderate perversion of the election by endorsing Spooner’s last minute candidacy, as if he had been vetted at all by that shambolic party. We want to know, and deserve to know whether or not Ken Block knew this was in the works and never warned anybody, was aware but not protesting, was aware and encouraging, was aware and planning, or didn’t know.
Healey doesn’t say Block didn’t know. Healey says he hadn’t talked to Block in months. Months could be since as recently as July 2014. In July I think, everyone running but Healey was filing and out there in the hot sun getting one thousand signatures of registered voters, 1000 signatures that all had to be turned into the proper town so the names could be checked against the voter rolls. Or, months could be since June. In June the RI Republican Party had its convention and by a vote of more than 2-1 endorsed Allan Fung over Ken Block. Is that near the time Healey talked to Block? How would we know? Healey is rather broad in his description of when he last talked to Ken Block. We know he did, but we must assume that because it hasn’t occurred in months, than any theory of cooperation must be unlikely. Who knows, maybe the affidavit will narrow things down a bit.
Of course, my argument that Block might be having revenge was purely circumstantial. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the denial of any role by Block, and Healey’s claim that, if there were a conspiracy, he had no knowledge of it, is also, is also circumstantial apart from Healey’s statement that he was not aware of a conspiracy. We just don’t know because Block is missing and silent. But Healey is just enjoying the ride again. In his mind he’s a hero Maybe it really is all a feel good story. Maybe it’s most like Star Trek IV, the Voyage home. You know the often funny one about the humpback whale. As the Enterprise must journey back in time to the twentieth century to find a humpback whale in order to save Earth, the Moderate Party, in order to save itself must travel back in time to the very same era to find a Moose. Can the Moose save the Moderate Party? Is that really a happy ending? Why save it? So it can impart to Rhode Island elections, a permanent “MoMo” effect (See Katz, J Predicting retrograde effects of MoMo’s in ocean states.). Thanks for nothing Bob.
Know when to fold 'em
But the real tragedy in all this is that Ken Block may have spoiled a promising future in the Rhode Island Republican Party by misplaying his hand.
A more patient Block might well have avoided the “voted for Obama twice” attacks, if he had simply sought another office in 2014. There were other options. Why not Lieutenant Governor or Treasurer? The GOP has no treasurer candidate and look how Gina Raimondo used the pulpit. That was Ken’s thing. All he needed was a pulpit. But Ken just had to have it his way and with a complete disregard of how hard it is to parachute in and become Governor. it took Sundlun three times and a Governor going down ethically. Carcieri was exceptional. Carcieri, the former humble math teacher, had some Corporate CEO swagger and polish that Block has lacked at times. A man has got to know his limitations, and be patient when a little experience will fix that.Now, since primary night, though the party hoped he would be magnanimous in defeat, and get right back to building with the party, Block has been by all accounts less than gracious.
And while on a reasonable doubt standard, one would at this point have to acquit Block of complicity with the Moderate party, Block has not appeared to defend at all, and refusing to take the stand. Healey claims “no knowledge” which is a roomy sanctuary, and Block is still missing.It is unclear whether Ken Block will ever come forward and speak to the actions of his creation, the Moderate Party and this is a “safe” posture. But it is a definite refusal to be accountable as a leader in a matter that concerns the party he formed and its actions in this campaign. And, while everyone understands that the pain of defeat makes it hard for primary losers to overtly honor those campaign promises, Anthony Solomon is already seizing victory from his Tuesday night defeat by helping the victor Jose Elorza in the Providence Mayoral contest.
Where there was opposition, now there is unity. And everyone wins.
Block possibly feels the Fung campaign is adamantly opposed to him and that is a mistake too. They are actually just disappointed he shrank back and seemed the angry victim after a fight where his campaign was no innocent. Block, being missing in action just leaves everyone disappointed and frankly, the vacuum allows conspiracy fears to survive. And the longer Block stays silent, the more it seems he was pleased at Healey’s entry and the Moderate party electioneering. If so, that wins him no points and builds none of the political capital that Solomon is building right now by helping Elorza.
Not every primary loser is obliged to help the victor. In 2012 I said I would support the likely winner, and he rewarded me by saying he would support the guy who filed at the last minute and never seriously campaigned. But Fung’s campaign would accept Ken Block’s support, no question about it. Strong drink and a few laughs is all that’s needed. Sometimes parties have to have their fight in order to truly begin to be friends.
Giving Ken Block the benefit of the “reasonable doubt” standard unless proven otherwise as I think you must, and picturing the disappointment of the Block supporters in his loss on primary night, and remembering that this is Healey’s fifth launch at statewide office, let’s, after sharing and liking it, put aside the Wrath of Kehn analogy. But there’s still a tension and an ending that has not been fulfilled. Don’t miss Moosetrek V: the Search for Block.
Mike Gardiner is an attorney based in Providence, former Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, and host of the Mic Gardiner Show, Tuesdays at 6 PM.