The images of President Barack Obama and Gov. Deval Patrick landing at Logan Airport aboard Air Force One, the most recognizable plane in the world, are as powerful as any you will come across.
There is the smiling president, with the smiling Patrick at his side, like co-presidents, posing by the door seal of the United States of America, waving to imaginary crowds. Obama descends the stairs, with Patrick at his side as though joined at the hip, to be greeted by various Massachusetts Democrats who are simply crazy about both men.
If images were reality, all would be well in the world, in the country and in the state. Unfortunately, such is not the case, despite the studied smiles, the poses and the waves.
There are no hordes of enthusiastic Democrats at Logan waiting to greet the president. There is no buzz. Those days are over.
It is 4.15 p.m. on a Wednesday, a working day. It is rush hour. What politician arrives in Boston at rush hour? People are at work, or preparing to leave work. Workers heading home are totally unprepared for the extraordinary 5 p.m. traffic jam that Obama causes as he heads to a couple of fundraisers, one in Cambridge and the other in South Boston. Streets are blocked, traffic is diverted, Storrow Drive is jammed, the Expressway is a parking lot, waits are long, tempers are short. But Obama and Patrick are smiling.
Outside of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, there are no prominent Democrats on hand at Logan to greet the president.
Unlike the heady days of hope and change, candidates now flee from the president, not toward him. Obama is leaking oil badly.
Despite all of the smiles and waves, Wednesday was a bleak day for Obama and Patrick, both lame ducks.
Earlier in the day seven Democrats in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate turned on Obama when they joined minority Republicans to block Obama's nomination of the controversial Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Justice Department. Adegbile was the attorney associated with representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted of killing a Philadelphia cop in 1981. It is still a hot political and racial issue in that city. Critics said Adegbile not only defended the killer but attended political rallies on his behalf.
Adding to Obama's political embarrassment of being unable to muster through the nomination in a body controlled by Sen. Harry Reid, the most partisan of partisans, was the fact that Vice President Joe Biden was on hand to cast a tie-breaking vote if necessary. But Biden was not needed as the vote against the nomination was lopsided. Reid ended up voting against the nomination to keep the nomination open on a technicality.
In harsh words usually reserved for the Republican-controlled U.S. House, Obama called the Senate vote "a travesty," although he took no responsibility for his inability to get enough fellow Democrats to vote for his nomination. It was nothing less than an embarrassing defeat for Obama.
Patrick went through the same thing on the same day, only in Patrick's case it was not the Massachusetts Senate or the House that handed him a stinging defeat. It was the usually much maligned Governor's Council, which has approval authority over judicial nominations and where seven of eight members are fellow Democrats.
This rebuff to the governor came when the council, on a four to four tie vote, shot down Patrick's nomination of Attorney Joseph S. Berman of Weston, a Patrick campaign contributor, to a Superior Court judgeship. That tie vote would have been broken if Patrick had a lieutenant governor, who sits as a voting member of the council. But the office has been vacant ever since Lt. Gov. Tim Murray resigned to take a job in Worcester. Patrick, who now chairs the council meetings, has no vote.
While Berman had wide support among many prominent Massachusetts attorneys, opponents on the council resented his lavish campaign contributions and his alleged role, as an executive of the Anti-Defamation League, in opposing resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
Successful presidents or governors do not lose votes like these, especially at the hand of fellow Democrats. Effective political leaders do not proceed unless they already know that they have the votes to win, whether it is before the U.S. Senate or the Governor's Council. Yet in both cases both Obama and Patrick had their heads handed to them, thanks to their utter incompetence.
Image is one thing, reality is another.
Peter Lucas' political column appears Tuesday and Friday. email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.