Manchester, N.H. – Carol Shea-Porter toured Manchester’s famed social club circuit last night accompanied by former Manchester alderman Mike Lopez, Welfare Commissioner Paul Martineau and School Board members Kathy Staub and Katie Desrochers. The tour focused on the Queen City’s three American Legion posts and social clubs on Manchester’s West Side, where I reside, so I went along for the ride.
Manchester is famous for its social clubs, private clubs that are allowed to serve alcoholic beverages to its members but serve the even more important function of hosting events such as dances, high school reunions, and musical entertainment. Most of the clubs were established many years ago, typically to serve a particular community in the Queen City, such as the different ethnic groups.
Being New Hampshire born and bred and having been a political correspondent for many years, I’ve met and interviewed more than my share of politicians. I saw Lyndon Baines Johnson in late September 1964, while perched upon the shoulders of my late father. I was five years old. LBJ was visiting Manchester a little more than a month before he annihilated Barry Goldwater in that year’s presidential context,
After interviewing many politicians, particularly that breed of pol who has aspirations for the presidency (a peculiar type of lunacy, dementia white houseis), I would often feel like I needed a bath afterwards. A shower would not do.
The first politician I ever interviewed was Jerry Brown in 1980, when he visited Boston during his own presidential bid. Jerry was by far the most intimidating person I’ve met outside of Army boot camp, before or since. His face was as sharp as a hatchet, and he reminded me of Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor himself. That was quite a baptism into the fine art of political journalism.
I had last seen Carol earlier in the week, when she gave a speech at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Manchester headlined by none other than the great William Jefferson Clinton, the 43rd president of these United States. It was wonderful to be with her away from the rubber chicken circuit while she socialized with the folks of Manchester on a Saturday night. Watching Carol talking to the people sitting at the bars and the guys playing pool, I got the sense she was in her true milieu, being with the people she cares for and is dedicated to serve.
The Manchester veterans hospital is my healthcare provider, and New Hampshire’s veterans don’t have a better friend than Carol Shea-Porter. When the Republicans controlled the Granite State’s congressional delegation, the Manchester hospital was allowed to decay as President George W. Bush pushed his program of privatization of veterans healthcare. Former U.S. Senator Judd Gregg, the head of the delegation who was notorious for never attending veterans events, allowed this sad state of affairs to occur. Under Gregg and his fellow Republicans, New Hampshire’s veterans hospital ceased to be a full-service facility, and vets were shipped out to Boston-area veterans hospitals for care.
After the election of Carol and Paul Hodes in 2006, things began to get better, vastly better, a process that was helped along when Jeanne Shaheen replaced Republican John Sununu in the Senate. Over 160 positions that had been allowed to fall vacant were filled, and new construction at the hospital was undertaken.
I bring this up as I find that both the staff and vets at the Manchester hospital have fond feelings for Carol. Carol’s staff are dedicated to helping veterans, and that type of service is appreciated. In contrast, I have heard comments that Senator Kelly Ayotte uses the hospital mostly as a photo op. And as for Carol’s opponent, Frank Guinta…. When even the Union Leader newspaper faults you for your failure to provide services to veterans, as that reactionary newspaper did with Guinta, you are doing something very wrong. Guinta is a return to the Judd Gregg school of neglect.
When you interview a career politician like Scott Brown, someone who astonishes you as you think of a Macy’s mannequin having come to life and miraculously being given the gifts of speech despite the plaster-filled head, you are conscious they are serving not only themselves, but something else, like the defense industry or Wall Street. Serving something or someone with a lot of hundred dollar bills to put in their pocket, certainly not the people they are meant to serve.
My representative in Congress is different.
Carol Shea-Porter is the most down-to-earth person I’ve ever met. She’s so unpretentious, such a regular person…so…normal. (So unlike any other politician I’ve met.) Three terms in Washington hasn’t spoiled her. She’s still a great voice for us — we, the people of New Hampshire.