Thursday, July 07, 2005

Johnny Doc Doesn't Get It

Last week, Dave Davies wrote a column in the Daily News, talking about an odd conversation that he had with John Dougherty, the head of the electrician's union, the treasurer of the Philly Democratic Party, and general Philly mover and shaker. In the column, Davies said that Dougherty both threatened him, and said that Dougherty said that he had Councilman Jim Kenney's phone records. (He likely does not really have the phone records.)

The main point of the Davies column was that Dougherty, a likely candidate for mayor, was acting like a bully. Who says they have a rival politician's phone records, and use it to threaten one of the most respected local journalists we have?

In today's DN, Dougherty responds. And, fundamentally, it is a good example of why Dougherty is going to have a lot of trouble running for mayor.

He starts the letter by saying:
IN LAST week's column, Dave Davies got one thing right. Buried deep in his attack, he acknowledged my exemplary work ethic, passion for worthy causes, and the charity and community work conducted by IBEW Local 98. Let me first address the worthy causes:
Dougherty then goes on listing his causes, and discussing his work ethic. And, hey, Dougherty does have his union do some very worthwhile things. They donated labor to Live 8, they were almost solely responsible for boathouse row being re-lit when it was. And, given how he has turned the local IBEW into a political force, I have no doubt he has a strong work ethic. But, and this is a big but, that was not that point.

Notice what Dougherty does not say in the letter? He does not say, for example, the conversation did not happen that way. He does not say, "I lost my temper, and I apologize." No, he just lists his accomplishments, and leaves it at that. But, that kind of attitude, where because you have used some of your considerable power for good, you can act like a bully, will not get you elected mayor. People are not going to vote for you because you demand they do, they are going to do it because they want to see you every day for four years, because they like you.

The considerable power of John Dougherty will undoubtedly make him a player in the mayoral race, and will get him the support of a lot of local politicians. But, unless he understands that people want to like their leader of their City, not fear him, he will not win in 2007.


At 10:57 AM, Blogger QueenVJean said...

Absolutely right on the money. Don't get the guy. What was he saying? I did this but the good things I do outweigh the bad? He needs to take the summer off and think this one over again.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger RSN said...

Notice that, although the Daily News published Johnny Doc's own letter in response to the Davies article, as referenced above, and, although they published three letters by others defending Johnny Doc - they did not publish a single letter criticizing Johnny Doc or defending Davies.

This is the text of my own letter to the Daily News which was confirmed and cleared for publication - but which was simply never published:

Re the recent Davies article ("A Little Hardball from Johnny Doc", 6/28), it's frightening that IBEW Local 98 leader and Democratic City Committee treasurer John J. Dougherty might run for mayor in 2007. Put aside the issue of whether he's even qualilified to serve as mayor, and we're still left with the image of a bully, whose preferred method of addressing critics involves threats and intimidation. Call it "hardball" or "in-your-face" politics, but, at bottom, it's using power to intimidate - and that image does Philadelphia a great disservice.

Under Dougherty's leadership, his union has virtually monopolized electrical work in the city, not by competing fairly, but through a history of employing thuggish tactics against adversaries and competitors. Under his leadership in the Democratic City Committee, factions aligned with him use similar tactics agaist political rivals within the party.

As Davies notes, anytime this issue is raised, Dougherty responds by rattling off the many civic deeds and charitable works he's involved with - and may God bless him for that. But convicted mobster Joseph Merlino also enjoyed a certain folk hero-type status for all of his well-meaning charitable acts and donations as well - yet it didn't make him any less of a gangster.

If Dougherty ever ascends to mayor, the image that comes to mind is the 1989 movie "Back to the Future II" - when "Biff" controls everything. At least the movie is old and outdated.


Ok, so maybe my letter is a little harsh, but it still strikes me as unbalanced to publish nothing critical of Johnny Doc, while publishing only letters supporting him.

But my fear is that Johnny Doc appeals to the baser instincts of the masses. He has a distinctly Philadelphia old style charisma that resonates well in the rowhomes of south philly as well as the twins of the northeast. People will vote for him as someone who can get things done and who represents the sentiments of the angry blue collar middle class. There is a certain amount of danger in not taking the threat of a Johnny Doc candidacy seriously enough.


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