One of the most curious aspects of the whole Peter Galbraith/Wikipedia sideshow is the furious debate over whether or not he was a candidate for Congress in 1998.
The stuff about the Kurds and Galbraith’s oil wealth and his frequently contentious career as a diplomat, that’s understandable. It seems clear that Galbraith himself, or a close ally, has been scrubbing his Wikipedia page of negative material. On the other hand, some critics of his diplomatic adventures have been just as obsessive about his Wikipedia entry.
But this Congress thing? Why does that matter?
Here’s the background. In 1998, a rare vacancy opened up in a very safe Democratic Congressional district in the Boston area. The retiring incumbent was a Kennedy; his predecessor was none other than Tip O’Neill. Politicians (and others) flocked to the race like moths to a flame. The field included several politicians including a former Boston mayor, a couple of millionaires, a radio talk show host, and a certain former Ambassador to Croatia.
Galbraith was mentioned in a Washington Post preview of the race. His unlikely candidacy was the subject of an article in The Economist — which treated his effort with skepticism, noting that he seemed a poor fit in a very strong Democratic field.
…why on earth should a solid citizen from Charlestown or Chelsea cast a vote for such a man? It is not that Mr Galbraith’s domestic politics are different from anyone else’s. … Mr Galbraith can lucidly wonk his way through almost any discussion of domestic policy issues; but his rivals bill themselves as genuine localists, who were never tempted to go off beyond this blessed bit of Massachusetts and have not lost touch with the concerns of the citizenry.
At some point between May 1998 and the September primary, Galbraith stepped out. His name doesn’t even appear on the ballot. Most likely, he abandoned his bid before the filing deadline, either because he didn’t collect the signatures or it became clear to him that this wasn’t going to end well..
Here’s how Galbraith explained his Massachusetts adventure in a Reddit AMA from earlier this year.
Why indeed. He didn’t respond to that question.
The same issue was a bone of contention on Galbraith’s Wikipedia page, with the Galbraith-obsessed editor “Westerncivil” seeking “to minimize Galbraith’s status as a candidate.” VTDigger:
Westerncivil looked to delete the entire paragraph describing Galbraith’s short stint in Massachusetts politics, though the change was overturned by other Wiki editors.
Westerncivil then worked within the paragraph, changing “briefly campaigned” to “explored running.” Westerncivil also deleted reference to the eventual winner of that race, Mike Capuano.
The fundamental issue comes down to, as Bill Clinton might say, what your definition of “candidate” is. Galbraith clearly wanted to run for Congress; he campaigned in the district as a candidate; he had volunteers working with him. That seems more serious than a mere “consideration” or “brief exploration” of a candidacy. He was actually boots-on-the-ground long enough for the media to consider him an active candidate. But if you want to be technical, it appears that Galbraith was never formally, legally a candidate.
By this point, exasperated readers might well ask “Why are you writing about this, and why should I care?”
Fair enough, but I would turn the question around. Why should Peter Galbraith care? It’s awfully petty of him and Westerncivil (or him slash Westerncivil if you prefer) to obsess over a two-decade-old footnote in Massachusetts politics. It’s really petty to obliterate Mike Capuano, who is still a sitting Congressman.
To me, it’s emblematic of Galbraith’s overweening pride. He can’t acknowledge failure. He is argumentative. He can’t let anyone else have the last word. It’s hard to imagine him having the consensus-building chops to be a successful governor.