Thursday, January 5, 2012

Steer into the skid

Good God, just look at these photos (courtesy Fox25).

As a friend quipped recently, it looks like Lt. Governor Murray somehow found his way onto President Obama's top-secret elimination list and was nailed by a predator drone as his Crown Vic sped down I-190 in the wee hours of November 2. Whatever the political fallout of the ongoing scandlet, Murray has to count himself among the luckiest sons of a gun currently walking the earth. He wasn't wearing a seat belt. He drove into a stone ledge at ninety-two miles per hour. One of those photos shows a single air bag deployed from the steering wheel. And he walked away, for all intents and purposes utterly unscathed.

Fox25 Photo
I know what my daughter's first car is going to be - just put a reminder in my calendar to start watching for a police surplus auction in 2024.

As is always the case when a politician gets himself in a bit of dutch and decides in the moment to fudge the truth, each new revelation about Murray's early morning accident raises additional questions. He didn't hit ice, and he didn't brake. He fell asleep, the new story goes. "It's the only reasonable explanation that I have," says Murray. Well, this week anyhow.  But Fox cites an accident reconstruction expert who has reviewed the data from Murray's "black box" data recorder who doubts that explanation. “There is no indication that the driver fell asleep.” Seems sleepy drivers let up on the  gas, whereas the data indicates that Murray put the pedal to the metal just before leaving the roadway. Maybe he had one of those vertigo-inducing "sleep-falling" episodes.  Even self-described Murray apologists are skeptical.

Whatever. Everyone has a theory. Here's mine - worth what you pay for it:

The LG says he left his house for a pre-dawn drive because he couldn't sleep and wanted to pick up a newspaper and some coffee. I think that's probably true, so far as it goes. Except Murray told reporters he was out in search of a Herald. I think he was actually looking for a Globe (Fox reports that in fact a Globe - not a Herald - was found in the wreckage, though there's no word on the date of publication).

The accident happened on November 2. Just three days earlier, on October 30, the Globe ran its first story about the Chelsea Housing Authority and Murray's phone pal Michael McLaughlin. Although Murray's close relationship with McLaughlin didn't hit the papers until November 18, by the 2nd Murray probably knew reporters were on to the relationship, were seeking his cell phone records, etc.  In all likelihood by that point the Globe's and Herald's investigative reporters were pinging Murray and his staff on a regular basis, so Murray would have known there was much more to come. He would not have known when the next shoe was going to drop, or when his name would be tossed into the mix.

Hence the inability to sleep. Hence the impulse rise early and head out in search of the morning headlines. Hence the general fatigue that might well have caused the Lt. Governor to drift off to sleep and drift off the road.

The "surveying storm damage" line is likely something that Murray came up with on the spur of the moment, and now is stuck with. It has never made sense. Anyone who is obligated to rise before the sun and hit the roads knows that the only thing one can "survey" in the pre-dawn hours is that which lies directly in the narrow beam of the headlights. All else is darkness. But going out for a paper? That makes sense.

Anyhow, the whys of this whole thing don't much matter. What does matter, for a young politician whose highest aspirations lie ahead of him, is that Tim Murray is headed into month three of a controversy that just keeps getting worse each time he steps to a microphone to try and tamp it down.

Personally I think those who are predicting that this episode will kill off Murray's chances to succeed his boss in the corner office are kidding themselves. Voters in Massachusetts have forgiven much worse transgressions - we build our politicians' metaphorical cars with quality airbags you might say.

And Murray seems to be getting his talking points in order. His new line is the one he should have started with.  “[A]ccidents happen in seconds… I must have nodded off, and it happened. I tried to answer questions shortly after. I don't know what else I can say.”

Apparently the LG has remembered the rule of thumb that he forgot on November 2: steer into the skid.

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