Be Careful What You Wish For…
William Ellery Channing, from The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
In 1997, Congressman William Delahunt was asked by the Cape Cod Times how his first year in office had gone, and what grand, bold scheme was in the future. Delahunt unveiled his plan to close the Massachusetts Military Reservation, a ‘Cold War Dividend’ and create a wildlife sanctuary. But we’d keep the Coasties! He liked them!
This vision was quickly embraced by anti-military zealots, notably the late Joel Feigenbaum, who decided the best way to eliminate the military was to use environmental laws against them. They had a certain degree of success – they even taught seminars on Vieques Island, near Puerto Rico, on how to shut down a military base. That effort was more successful, and the island is now destitute.
But Camp Edwards and Otis stubbornly hung on, even though the Marine Corps was forced from the Base in 1998. Legislative efforts to close the Base stalled, as a lease was held by the Pentagon on the land and they did not choose to leave. Constant complaint, constant demonstration, constant misrepresentation – these were the techniques of the base activists, determined to prove that the Base was the source of all pollution and disease on Cape Cod.
Then Sept. 11, 2001 happened. The Base suddenly wasn’t superfluous anymore.
Today, that same William Delahunt stands exasperated on the Steps of the Massachusetts State House, complaining that ‘his’ Otis Air National Guard Base is being closed.
Really, Massachusetts didn’t fare too badly with the Base Realignment and Closing Commission, called BRAC. A far-sighted Mitt Romney described to a group of startled Republicans last winter the relationship he had developed with his one-time opponent, Sen. Ted Kennedy. Together, they wandered the halls of Congress, visiting the Republican leadership, with Kennedy standing well behind Romney at first to prevent ashtrays from being hurled at his hoary head. They offered to make capital improvements to Hanscom, Natick Labs, and other Massachusetts bases in return for keeping them open. Of course, John Kerry never bothered to accompany them on these forays. This novel strategy worked well – and today, Hanscom will gain over 1,000 new jobs. Overall, Massachusetts will gain 471 new jobs at bases throughout the state – even with the 550 lost at Otis. Compare that with complacent Connecticut, which will lose thousands of jobs on bases because they thought they were immune.
Delahunt, Romney and Kennedy held their press conference at the State House today, and vowed to try to keep Otis, too – even though they know the BRAC is 90% certain, and they actually did pretty good. Kerry, as usual, was nowhere to be seen, even though the event was held only two blocks from his Louisburg Square home - absent from duty once again.
And Bill Delahunt finally got his wish. The Base will be closed.