I just eyeballed newly sworn-in Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., the undertaker of the Kennedy legend and the man who sent shock waves through Democratic Party. I watched his swearing in, chatted him up in the hallway, and then attended his maiden presser.
My conclusion: this guy is a heat-seeking missile aimed straight at Barack Obama, and anyone who thinks he is moved by the bipartisan spirit of, say, Ed Brooke, the moderate Republican of yore from Massachusetts, is deluding himself. This guy is a fighter.
A few minutes into the press conference he declared, in answer to a question: "The stimulus bill didn't create one new job." The reporters in the rows glanced at each other, all thinking the same thought I'm sure: steel-caged death match! Didn't the president just spend a week saying the "recovery act" had "saved or created about 2 million jobs?"
There's a little difference of opinion between 44 (Obama) and 41 (Brown), but if anything Brown was aggressive about noting it. Pressed on the point, he allowed as how the law might have "retained some" jobs, but that was it.
More generally, Brown may not be full strength Tea Party, but his economic and fiscal thinking seems to have at least some Darjeeling in it. Right away he expressed his alarm at the very size of the Obama budget—$3.8 trillion—40 percent of which, he said, would have to be covered by borrowing. Voters, he said, were concerned that "we are living beyond our means."
And yet he also said that the country needed far more aggressive tax cutting than the president is proposing. Those cuts, he said, would spur growth—and, he implied, would pay for themselves. He decried the reach of government regulation and, all in all, sounded more like "Don't Tread on Me" than "Can't we all get along?"
And the sense I got of his character—tough, confident, a little cocky—comported with the role he played as a shooting wingman on the Tufts basketball team a long time ago. His nickname was "Downtown Scotty Brown," in honor of his willingness to hoist the long shot.
Well, the shot went in up in Massachusetts, and he's just begun to fire away.