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The fiery debate over Massachusetts state government landed in the heart of the "Harvard-Brookline axis"--the Kennedy School of Government--last night as vocal conservatives besieged beleaguered defenders of the current establishment.
Speakers addressing an audience of 150 in the Arco Forum all agreed on one thing: the story of Bay State politics is, in the words of moderator and Institute of Politics Director Charles Royer, "not a happy" one. They did not agree on much else.
Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr blamed the problem in state government on a group of unscrupulous politicians who use public office for their own personal financial gain. He began his talk with an attack on Governor Michael S. Dukakis, whom he regularly calls "Pee Wee."
"Mike Dukakis has become everything he ran against in the early days," Carr said.
Globe columnist Bob Turner questioned the "hack labels" that he said Carr and other anti-Dukakis activists liked to employ.
Claiming that Carr needed to give reasons for his dismissals of "hack" politicians, Turner said that the public perception of public service would "continue to be hurt until people stand up against empty charges."
Carr struck back at Turner, calling him a "bum kisser." He said that Turner and his Boston Globe colleagues are Dukakis apologists whom the Herald cannot "out-liberal."
The Dukakis administration has not been fully discredited before now because "the state had been influenced by Kennedy School types and the Harvard-Brookline axis," Carr said.
In a more calm manner, Avi Nelson, a commentator on WCVB's "Five on 5" television program and a conservative activist, continued the anti-establishment barrage. Nelson said 10 years of Democratic Party rule have resulted in a "one-party system" that "does not work."
The current state fiscal crunch is much worse than the woes of other Northeastern states because politicians here "don't have the guts to pass a tax package or tax cuts," Nelson said. "The problem isn't getting solved."
Professor of Government, Michael J. Sandel put the state's troubles within a national context. He said the fusion of three major trends--a sense of frustration from 1970s politics, former President Ronald Reagan's anti-big government rhetoric and the "unraveling" of inter-generational agreements--helped create the rancorous climate of state politics.
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