Sunday is a good day to start a discussion of William M. Bulger, born February 2, 1934, who I will call by the name he is commonly known as Billy. He is the younger brother of Whitey Bulger, born September 3, 1929, who, as we know is called Jim or Jimmy in his family and by those who talk to him face-to-face.
Billy spent most of his career in politics. He represented his section of South Boston, Ward 7, in the Massachusetts House of Representative starting in 1960. After ten years doing that in 1970 he moved onto the Massachusetts Senate after Joe Moakley resigned to make a run for Congress. He was elected president of the Senate in 1978 and held that position for 17 years until he went on to become president of the University of Massachusetts in 1996, a position that he held for six years until he was forced to resign because he was the brother of Whitey.
Billy has been excoriated by those who have written about Whitey. Howie Carr links him with Whitey and calls him corrupt; the theme is picked up by others who hint at it without being as bold as Howie, but follow it along as the children of Hamelin chasing after the pied piper. The overwhelming adverse publicity that Billy has received has made it a staple belief that Billy must be corrupt. This is so even though a person such as Michael Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor from 1975 to 1979, and again from 1983 to 1991 (Billy was president of the Senate from 1978 to 1996) spoke of him otherwise. If there is one thing anyone can say about Mike Dukakis it’s that he was squeaky clean. He had an inborn intolerance to anything that was not on the level. He said of Billy: “There has never been any question about the integrity of the Senate since he has been president.”
Howie’s take on Billy comes from his conservative talk show perspective. This makes Billy a natural foil because of his liberal politics. Governor William Weld, who during his campaign against John Silber asked Billy not to run for election again as president of the Senate just because he was Whitey’s brother, told us of Billy’s politics that so infuriate Howie. Weld said Billy, is “the champion of the workingman and the guardian of the widowed, the trustee and protector of Massachusetts General [Hospital] and the patron of the public library, the man who would open the beaches of this beautiful state for all to enjoy, . . . the public servant who wants nothing more or other than to succor men and women as they toil on the graveyard shift to give their little children a humble home and a solid schooling, . . . “ Howie’s abhorrence of Billy is colored by his tendency to see any government program for the down-and-outers as a waste of money and also by the color green.
Another enemy of Billy’s who has propagandized against him is Alan Dershowitz the gadabout professor. I’d suggest that unlike Howie he comes from the liberal spectrum but that does not necessarily follow. Former US House Speaker Tip O’Neil is famous for saying “all politics is local;” Dershowitz is an example of all politics being personal. What I mean is Dershowitz can decry some treatment of incarcerated people while at the same time suggest we can issue torture warrants against others.Those others are people he disfavors.
An article in The Boston Daily, a blog of Boston Magazine, noted that, “As those who follow Boston politics well know. There’s no love lost” between Billy and Dershowitz. Dershowitz list of villains who facilitated Billy are, “the Dukakises, Whites, McCormicks, Welds, Moakleys, and Silbers, . . .cowards who appointed” him president of UMass, the reporters for 60 Minutes and The New Yorker. But he doesn’t stop there, he writes corruption “permeates every aspect of public life” in the “FBI, to federal prosecutors, to the state judiciary, to Beacon Hill, to building inspectors, to the State Police. Everyone — from governors to justices of the state’s highest court. . . .” The way he writes against the people of Massachusetts, if Dershowitz had his wish and could secure torture warrants we’d be continually surrounded by screams.
Unfortunately, along with Howie and Dershowitz, the media seeing it had become the de rigueur to jump on Billy all joined in as did the federal prosecutors. In my book, Don’t Embarrass The Family, I noted that attending the trial of John Connolly I came away with the distinct feeling that it was not so much against Connolly as it was against Billy.
This is all tragic when one considers the four-part Globe Spotlight series of 1988 titled The Bulger Mystique that discussed both Billy and Whitey. It is available on-line. That series, as we know, gave hints that Whitey was an FBI informant telling of the relationship that he had with the FBI. The Globe knew he was an informant because two FBI agents, John Morris and Robert Fitzpatrick, violated the most sacred principle of an FBI agent which is to keep the identity of an informant safe. Morris who had been taking bribes from Whitey gave the Globe the information hoping to get Whitey killed by the Mafia; Fitzpatrick who had all but been drummed out of the FBI for certain questionable acts, not the least accusing the FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Boston office, his boss, of doing wrongful acts, did it for revenge against the FBI.
The Spotlight article painted a fairly good picture of both Whitey and Billy. It did not link them together in any manner other than their sibling relationship. There was no hint of Billy being corrupt. Eight years later, in 2000 in a book Black Mass the attitude of members of the Spotlight team had changed. Howie who for years had been calling Billy a corrupt midget seemed to have influenced them. Howie added his book in 2006.
As I go along I hope to examine their allegations. Obviously, if you are of the mindset of Alan Dershowitz that everyone is corrupt except him and you, don’t bother reading anything I have to say. You’ve already figured it out, like a friend I ran into years ago who was serving as a juror in Suffolk who told me he didn’t need any evidence, he could tell if a person was guilty by looking at them.