Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Fall of Rosenberg

Even the most harsh critic of Massachusetts State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg would have to feel pity for the pain expressed in the Senator's face in this Boston Herald photo by John Wilcox.

That is truly the look of a man whose whole world is collapsing right before his eyes. Rosenberg has stepped aside as Senate President while an investigation of undetermined length is undertaken into a sordid sex and influence peddling scandal involving Rosenberg's young husband Bryon Hefner. The step aside is supposed to be temporary, but no one expects Rosenberg to return. As Boston Globe columnist Scott Lehigh put it, “Make no mistake, he is done. When you step aside, you don’t step back, and Rosenberg knows as much.”

It is hard not to sympathize with Rosenberg, at least to some degree. He had spent most of his 32 year career as a state legislator, first in the House and then the Senate, as the ultimate political nerd and policy wonk. It is a common complaint that politicians don't bother to read the bills they pass, but that was never a complaint of the Amherst/Northampton voters who lived in Rosenberg's district. Everyone knew that Stan had no life, and spent most of his weekends in his lonely apartment, pouring over legislation. This made him invaluable to his fellow colleagues as the one to consult on questions about the finer points of legislation, which no doubt helped to pave the way for Rosenberg's long career climb. But Stan wasn't happy.

Or so he said when he suddenly announced that he was gay, which was something everybody already knew but which no one would talk about because Stan himself never did. While his emergence from the closet was greeted with yawns, people were quite surprised when he soon made another announcement: Stan was in love and having a serious affair with a man young enough to be his grandson. This was treated as happy news by most, who were glad to see that poor old nerdy Stan finally got himself a steady boyfriend! Almost everyone wished him and his young companion, ultimately his legally wedded husband, all the best.

However, problems surfaced early. It turned out that young Bryon wasn't content to just be Rosenberg's loyal companion, instead he seemed to want to get involved with some of the back room drama of statehouse political intrigues. Social network postings surfaced showing Bryon saying insulting things about major political players and trying to use his closeness to President Rosenberg as a means of injecting himself into policy discussions. The resulting uproar caused Rosenberg to promise that he would erect a "firewall" between Bryon and legislative activities. Thus did Bryon fade from view, at least officially.

There were, however, tidbits of gossip about the couple that kept surfacing. Unverifiable back channel sources long whispered that the sexual side of the relationship between Rosenberg, who is in his late sixties, and Bryon, who is barely thirty, was partially an open marriage. Allegedly, in deference to the stronger sexual appetite of the younger man, Stan agreed to look the other way if Bryon had an occasional fling with younger guys on the side. If so, this is not unheard of even in straight marriages, where the aging tycoon marries a young trophy wife and pretends not to notice that she has a thing going with the pool boy. If any of this accurately describes the Rosenberg/Hefner marriage, then perhaps the groping behavior alleged to have been committed by Hefner is merely this side of their relationship having gotten out of hand, quite literally.

Whatever the truth is, more and more salacious details are bound to keep surfacing for as long as Rosenberg is still on the statehouse scene, with a drip, drip, drip string of revelations that will keep producing sordid headlines like this:

So c'mon Stan, it's time to officially call it quits. You've been in the legislature over three decades, dude, it's supposed to be a legislative body, not a freakin retirement home! You've already had one cancer scare, go out and have some fun while you still can. Get Bryon out of that substance abuse rehab you stuffed him into to get him away from the media and instead take your cute, bow-tied boy-toy on a long, luxurious, around the world vacation, far from the reach of bad publicity back home, and don't come back until after the 2018 elections, when somebody else will have been elected to your seat. At this point, that's the only happy ending scenario you've got, Stan.

By the way, it will be interesting to see who will run to succeed Rosenberg. The instant front-runner would probably be Northampton State Rep. Peter Kocot. Another major contender would be Amherst State Rep. Solomon Golstein-Rose, although he is a political neophyte who is still in his first term. There are also other ambitious people in Northampton politics who might also be interested. Narkewicz? Dwight? Adams? Will Hampshire Gazette columnist Dr. Jay Fleitman seek the GOP nomination? Whatever happens, the battle to replace Rosenberg promises to offer political entertainment of the highest order.

A Majestic moon nestled in turbulent clouds over Amherst this week.

photo by Mary Carey

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