Politicians of all stripes have taken a bashing in the past few days but none more so than Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett last Saturday night. The Democratic Mayor took his family to the Wisconsin State Fair in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis and was returning to his car to drive back home when he witnessed a domestic dispute involving a baby, a young lady and an agitated young man. Someone, likely the young lady, called "Call 911, Call 911" and the Mayor was in the process of responding to the woman's cries for help when the 20 year-old-man blindsided him, breaking his cell phone and knocking him to the ground. Barrett didn't give up and rose and defended himself, breaking his right hand in the process as the mayor's punch was likely deflected by the assailant who had practiced boxing and martial arts. The assailant also used either a metal pipe or a metal police-type baton to beat Barrett, knocking out 3 teeth, cutting his face from the cheek to the nose, and hitting him over the head. The Mayor was not accompanied by security because it was a family outing made on the "spur of the moment" but one of his family called 911 and the West Allis police arrived scaring off the alleged assailant who was arrested the following day.
Fortunately, Mayor Tom Barrett was quickly taken to a hospital, treated, hospitalized, and despite the severity of the beating, seems to be doing well now recovering at home. Just recently Barrett, whose hand was operated on and who had plastic surgery on his face, gave a news conference outside his house talking about the encounter. "Virtually any citizen in the city would have reacted in the same way," says the self-deprecating Barrett. "When someone says call 911, you call 911". "We're on the mend, and I just want you to know that I'm still standing" joked the Mayor (who appears not only to be extremely articulate but also possesses a keen sense of humor).
Aside from the fact that here's a "feel good story" about a politician, no less, who acted as a hero at great personal expense (complimented even by President Obama in a nice "get well" call to the Mayor), this story may have more widespread political implications. Note that I am writing this as an analyst and have no connections to anyone involved. Moreover, neither the Mayor nor his party is making any such implications as found in the following. So this is purely my take. But just a few days before this incident, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, also a Democrat, announced he would not rerun for office in 2010. Barrett, who has also served as a Congressman from the Milwaukee area for 10 years, had in 2002 contended for the Democratic nomination for the Governor and lost in a close race to Doyle, who has turned out to be a competent manager but not an inspirational or transformational leader even with Democratic majorities in both houses (sound familiar?).
There is no question that this horrible attack has generated a lot of news and that news has all been favorable to Tom Barrett and his heroic action. It can't but help Barrett, who has been a good friend of labor unions and average Americans, should he want to seek higher office. At any rate, let's wish Tom Barrett a speedy and full recovery and thank him for his personal sacrifice.
NOTE: Excellent coverage of this event, including video of the news conference, over at "Barrett Shrugs Off The Hero Label and Praises His Niece" at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at:
Tom Barrett was first elected Milwaukee Mayor in 2004 with 54% of the vote. He was relected in 2008 with 79% of the vote, the highest percentage win in more than 40 years.