AFTER LAST year’s Marathon bombing, Representative Bill Keating shouldered a thankless but vital responsibility. A second-term congressman from the South Shore and Cape Cod, Keating began investigating why law enforcement hadn’t stopped alleged bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before the attack.
Posing questions that could be interpreted as second-guessing law enforcement never earns much popular acclaim, but Keating’s actions were crucial to learning from the incident. By pressing for explanations over many months, sometimes over the opposition of the FBI and members of his own party — and by laying out plans to continue his inquiries — Keating showed why he deserves reelection on Nov. 4.
Keating’s efforts helped uncover details that Russian intelligence had passed to the United States about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Those reports apparently never reached the local police after Tsarnaev returned, triggering inquiries into information-sharing among US law enforcement agencies.
But too many other facts about the Marathon bombings remain unknown, and even more than a year after the attack, too few politicians have shown much passion for unearthing them. No definitive report on the shootout in Watertown has been released. If reelected, Keating says he wants to get to the bottom of why the FBI released the photos of the two suspects in the manner it did.
Residents of the Ninth District may wonder what good Keating’s investigatory efforts do them. But there’s also no evidence that Keating's efforts have come at the expense of his district’s needs. On an issue of major concern on the South Shore, Keating helped raise concerns about the accuracy of new federal flood maps, winning a temporary implementation delay, and worked with communities in this district to take advantage of federal programs that would help them reduce insurance rates.
Meanwhile, Keating’s Republican opponent, John C. Chapman, disqualifies himself with his irresponsible stance on the federal debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is a limit on how much the government can borrow to cover existing debts; it has nothing to do with future spending. But last year, the Tea Party wing of the Republican party brought the government to the brink of default by voting against raising the debt ceiling unless it got its way an unrelated budget negotiation.
Trying to link the debt ceiling vote to budget cuts was a preposterous tactic, and now it’s a clear litmus test of candidates who have no business going to Washington. Congress needs fewer members who repeat partisan platitudes, and more who are willing to seek out hard truths.