November 17, 2015

Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Charlie Baker . . .  it’s tough to tell the difference, at least if you’re the Boston Globe Editorial Board. With emotions raw in the wake of the Paris atrocity this is a tough time for nuance, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask the Globe Editorial Board to read how the Globe reporters have quoted Governor Baker on the topic of Syrian refugees.

In a piece written by David Scharfenberg, Tracy Jan, and Matt Rocheleau titled Baker opposed to allowing Syrian refugees in Mass. for now, the reporters quoted Baker extensively, which I will repeat here:

“I would say no as of right now,” Baker told reporters at the State House Monday. “No, I’m not interested in accepting refugees from Syria.”

“My view on this is the safety and security of the people of the Commonwealth of Mass. is my highest priority,” he added. “So I would set the bar very high on this.”

Baker said he wanted more information from federal officials.

“I think at this point in time we’d have to be very cautious about accepting folks without knowing a lot more about what the federal government’s plan looks like and how it’s going to be actually implemented and executed,” he said.

 “As a general rule, I don’t like, completely without any knowledge at all, to just say yes or no to anything. I mean, I’m a data guy I always have been and always will be,” he said.

He also said, “I’m always going to be willing to at least hear what the federal government has to say.” But he added, “Hearing what they have to say does not mean saying yes.”

In Paris attacks: Baker, others wrong to reject Syrian refugees, the Globe Editorial Board acknowledges that “security concerns are reasonable in the wake of a terrorist attack” but nonetheless tarred Baker with “a knee jerk reaction” and then grouped him in with Cruz, Jindal, and Bush.

Read through the Globe reporting and you find Senator Ed Markey declaring that America cannot close our “hearts or our doors” to the suffering refugees, but also, according to the Globe, sounding “a note of caution” that he wanted more information from the federal government about the possibility of Daesh using the refugee process to send fighters across our borders. Congressman McGovern had a similar emphasis. Mayor Marty Walsh did too, but issued a later clarification that Boston would work with the federal and state governments to assure the safety of refugees.  New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate against Senator Kelly Ayotte, also says that the U.S. should stop accepting refugees until the federal government has a plan to properly vet them.

So in the news story, it sounds like Governor Baker and leading state Democrats have similar concerns, albeit with different emphases. That’s fine and fair, though we should at least note that no one but Governor Baker holds the ultimate responsibility for the safety of Massachusetts citizens.

From this story the Globe Editorial Board writes that “governors across the United States — including our own governor, Charlie Baker — have announced that Syrian refugees are no longer welcome in their states.” But that is not really what Governor Baker said; not according to the Globe’s reporters.

The really useful part of the Globe editorial describes the arduous process by which refugees can enter the United States – “security checks so rigorous that they take an average of two years to complete.” So given the two year time frame, one would suppose that the Globe Editorial Board would then go back to Baker’s actual statement – reported by the Globe – and take note of “no as of right now” and “at this point in time” and “I don’t like, completely without any knowledge at all” and “I’m always going to be willing to at least hear.” Instead, the Globe editorial Board conjoins Baker with Jindal, Cruz, and Bush.

How Massachusetts’ role in the Syrian refugee crisis will play out is unknown. As President Obama stated, many of the refugees are themselves the victims of terrorism. When I first heard of Governor Baker’s position, I thought he seemed somewhat like President Obama: waiting for facts to surpass emotion, willing to assess the evidence, not getting knocked off his best judgment by the turbulence of understandable passion. 

We might have reasonable conversation, acknowledging any of us can be wrong in an environment of uncertainty, or we could just lump politicians we disagree with in with obvious charlatans like Ted Cruz. Whatevs.

Boston Globe, Charlie Baker

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