D. Dowd Muska


From Latchkey Kid to BMOC to Himbo to RINO

March 03, 2011

Got a tween or teen who whines about not having the latest digital doohickey?

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 handsome.

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 Senate.

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 conservative activists.

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, limited-government change.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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