Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Room Where It Happens

I wanna be in the room where it happens
The room where it happens
The room where it happens . . .

That hardly makes me unique but the other day I actually got to be in the room where it happens! I had left some documents at Boston City Hall for the mayor’s signature, and when I went back to pick them up his secretary noticed my curious glances down towards his office. She kindly offered me a quick tour (knowing he was in China for a few days, I could accept without worrying he would appear and find me gawking) and when she told me the mayor uses former Mayor Curley’s desk I was enthralled. “Sit down; I’ll take your picture,” she offered.
For those who don’t know, James Michael Curley (1874-1958) was a legendary four-time mayor of Boston (and one term governor of Massachusetts) whose popularity reflected the increased influence of the Irish community. Accused of campaign bribery, among other things, he was indicted twice but was still reelected to a fourth term. During his fourth term, he actually went to jail. John Hynes (grandfather of goalie John Hynes who took Shakespeare with me in college, now a big developer) served loyally as acting mayor, until Curley returned from jail in Connecticut, greeted by enthusiastic crowds and a brass band. Not the kind of person I would like in real life but intriguing to any historian!

James Michael Curley
Without any of the usual courtesies one would expect from the courtly Curley, the old mayor once back in his office brusquely pushed Hynes aside. Curley seemed to believe that it was important for him to quickly re-assert primacy over city government, and that the best way to accomplish this goal was to diminish the man who had ably served as caretaker during his five months in Danbury Prison. Later in the day, convening an impromptu press conference, Curley remarked that he had accomplished more in that one day than Hynes had done in five months. It was a disastrous miscalculation. Curley was a master of the political arts, but he made a fatal mistake. He had given the mild-mannered Hynes an invaluable political asset: passion. Hynes would not soon or easily forget the insult – his son would recall that he had never seen his father as angry as he was that day – and 1949 offered him the chance to exact revenge on the aging and increasingly out-of-touch Curley.
There was no fifth term for Curley. An outraged Hynes ran against Curley and won in a very close race, portraying Curley as out of touch and corrupt. As James Aloisi says in CommonWealth, also cited above, this election was a conscious choice by Boston voters to put aside nostalgia and elect someone who would move the city forward.

(Apparently it's not uncommon to get a tour of the mayor's office - his secretary wasn't breaking any rules.  But it still made me feel extremely special!)


Diane Coto said...

Politics has definitely become more 'dirty tricks' over time. I like the image of the little campaign ad -- only to show he has 'heart' and not to attack his opponent. :)

GSGreatEscaper said...

Vote often and early!

Now we need a review of The Last Hurrah! Caught the end of the movie with Spencer Tracy on TCM in March - wish I'd seen the whole thing.

CLM said...

I did start reading Advise and Consent the other day - isn't there a story that it was so popular in 1960 that JFK and Nixon ran into each other during the campaign and both had it tucked under an arm?