March 03, 2011
Got a tween or teen who whines about not having the latest digital
Force him or her to read the first 153 pages of Scott Brown’s Against
All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances.
Your kid will shut up.
The author is famous for an impossible mission: Winning “Ted
Kennedy’s seat” in the U.S. Senate for the GOP. But the first half of his
autobiography reveals that surmounting a brutal childhood was an achievement
far more difficult than ending the Kennedy family’s reign of political terror.
C. Bruce Brown and Judith Rugg were, to put in charitably, not
parental material. Their union quickly dissolved after the birth of their son
in 1959. The future senator would have three stepfathers. Two were wife-beaters,
and one didn’t like kids. Mom lurched from job to job and hopped from bar to
bar. She sporadically accepted welfare for her family, which included Leeann, a
daughter sired by her second husband. Dad was AWOL -- only occasional visits,
and child-support checks were first erratic, then nonexistent.
Brown writes that he “moved seventeen times and lived in at
least twelve different homes” by the time he turned 18. He was a boy no one
wanted, but he possessed two genetic gifts. He was athletic, and he was
With no reason to be at “home” -- food was scarce, mom was
either working or plastered, stepfather #3 was an equal-opportunity abuser --
Brown devoted himself to basketball. He realized that the sport, absurdly
popular in Greater Beantown, offered a chance to escape his hideous circumstances.
A high-school superstar, Brown received many scholarship offers, but chose Tufts University,
to stay close to his troubled family. He joined the National Guard, earned a
B.A., and prepared to enter law school at Boston College.
In 1982, Leeann submitted pictures of her brother to Cosmopolitan’s “America’s
Sexiest Man” competition. A few months later, Helen Gurley Brown -- he had
no idea who she was -- called. His win sparked a brief modeling career, but
life among the fashionistas in the Big Apple had little appeal for Brown. (“The
first time I went into Studio 54, club owner Steve Rubell and Calvin Klein
tried to rip my shirt off as kind of a prank to ‘see what you got,’ as I went
in the door. I was pissed; I didn’t know who they were or why they were doing
it. And I didn’t own many shirts.”)
Brown went back to Boston,
and become a lawyer. He got married and fathered two daughters. It wasn’t until
the early 1990s -- he was in his thirties -- that he entered government, first
as an assessor, then a selectman, in Wrentham. A run for state representative
followed, and by 2009, Brown was one of just five Republicans in the 40-seat Massachusetts
It’s here, at roughly the two-thirds mark, where Against All Odds abandons Horatio Alger
and veers into political calculation. Respect for Scott Brown the man quickly gives
way to disgust for Scott Brown the politician.
It’s obvious that the senator, with the aid of celebrity ghostwriter
Lyric Winik, aims the final chapters of his book at Bay State
voters. His U.S. Senate victory came in a special election held in the dead of
winter. Brown faces another contest in November 2012, and Democrats relish another
chance at him. This time, they’ll have a competent candidate, and their base
will be motivated to defeat the GOP’s presidential nominee. Tea partiers from
around the nation won’t be writing checks, nor will they be volunteering for Brown.
His votes, and comments (“I’m
not a Tea Party member,” he told The Hill
last month), have disappointed the nation’s new army of fiscally
Brown knows all this, so Against
All Odds serves up soccer-mom catnip (“I ended up representing my wife and
getting her eight weeks of vacation to cover her maternity leave … . After
that, [her workplace] instituted a policy for pregnant employees”), bipartisan
banalities (“I want We the People to come first”), and neoconservative nonsense
(“a strong military … will protect our interests and ensure security around the
world”). Typical talking points for Northeastern Republicans, who have no
desire to challenge federal spending and regulation in politically risky ways.
Scott Brown survived a harrowing
youth. His story would make Richard
Dawkins believe in miracles. But in deed -- and now, in written word -- it’s
clear that the senator will never be an agent of pro-liberty,
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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