February 1, 2017

Charlie Baker on leading in the era of Trump … and constant protests

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Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Gov. Charlie Baker

BOSTON — A moderate Republican governor who did not support President Donald Trump’s candidacy, Gov. Charlie Baker now finds himself having to advocate for his state’s needs in Washington while keeping the new — and unpopular in Massachusetts — president at an arm’s length.

Though he has taken heat from some for attending Trump’s inauguration but not either of the large demonstrations held in Boston over the past two weekends, the governor suggested this week the best way for him to deal with the White House is through intergovernmental channels and not public rallies.

“I made my views clear on Donald Trump as a candidate, I’ve made my views clear a number of times on issues that have taken place since he took office, and I will continue to do that,” Baker said during his “Ask the Governor” segment on WGBH. “But I also have a job to do and the job I have to do is to represent the state’s interest every day around federal policy that has tremendous import to Massachusetts.”

During the campaign, Baker said repeatedly that Trump does not have the “temperament or the seriousness of purpose” to be president. Baker said he did not vote for his party’s nominee on Election Day.

At a rally Sunday that attracted thousands of people, including high-ranking elected Democrats, to Copley Square, protesters noticed Baker’s absence and, according to the Boston Globe, began chanting “Where’s Governor Baker?”

Baker listed examples of issues on which he now has to work with the man he’s never supported: education, research, health care, technology and defense. He is voicing concerns over Trump’s executive order on refugee and immigration policy while also seeking the administration’s cooperation elsewhere.

“I have a $52 billion waiver to support the MassHealth program that was approved just prior to the election by the Obama administration. We have a $1 billion Green Line Extension that’s currently sitting before the Federal Transportation Administration,” he said.

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump

“We will work this week … to put together a brief on what some of our concerns are in the commonwealth with respect to the Trump administration’s executive order, which we believe we have to comment on but have to comment on in a way that gives us some ability to believe that we may be able to move the conversation.”

Baker said he and his administration will work to make sure everyone who wants to attend protests or demonstrations “can do so recognizing and understanding this will be a safe and welcoming place to do that and that we will support people’s rights to do that.”

“But I gotta also make sure we represent our interests strategically and forcefully in Washington with Washington, where we have tremendous interests,” he said.

Host Jim Braude pressed Baker on whether he would have attended either demonstration had his schedule allowed — Baker was meeting with the Massachusetts Municipal Association on the day of the Boston Women’s March, Jan. 21, and attended funerals Sunday — but the governor did not directly answer.

“I think my job is to represent the interests of the commonwealth, and the most important way I can represent them to Washington, D.C., is through the channels that exist,” Baker said.

When Braude said he would take the governor’s answer as a no, Baker added, “My view is my job is to represent the commonwealth and the best way I can represent the commonwealth is directly to Washington.”

Baker also said, “Anybody in my administration who wants to attend any [of] these things can.”

The governor last week suggested that his administration would work with the federal government, not just the White House, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed to seek authority for Massachusetts to strike out on its own and provide access to health coverage in a manner similar to the 2006 Massachusetts law that was a model for the ACA.

The governors from Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington — all Democrats — this weekend participated in public rallies or protests of Trump’s most recent executive action.

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