There were awkward unintentional pauses that are par for the course with technology-assisted communications. And during Joe Biden’s brief pre-recorded remarks at Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfast by Zoom, the host, state Sen. Nick Collins, clipped the president’s final line, stepping on his comment about the nation’s bright future.
But at this point in the pandemic, who among us has really mastered Zoom etiquette, much less the art of pulling off a virtual comedic breakfast on TV?
After the 2020 St. Patrick’s Day breakfast was canceled at the start of the pandemic, Collins, a South Boston Democrat, brought it back Sunday, giving politicians an opportunity to reflect on the pain and suffering of the past year and look ahead with gratitude and optimism.
Between stay-safe messaging and tributes to essential workers, elected officials also reflected on aspects of the old in-person breakfast.
“I’ll miss the light breeze of alcohol on everyone’s breath at 9 a.m.,” quipped US Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “Most of all I’ll miss Marty Walsh because he’s a hot shot now and doesn’t need to suck up to us anymore.”
Warren joked that “dark holes” remain on the nation’s landscape despite Covid-19 vaccination progress, a new president, and a $1.9 trillion “rescue” plan.
“We are still doing the annual Not-Funny St. Patrick’s Day celebration,” she said. “With a good vaccination plan and a little luck, next year I hope we can be not funny together.”
US Sen. Ed Markey also swiped at Gov. Baker, whose popularity has dipped lately. “It’s been a very hard year for Gov. Baker,” he said. “Now he’s getting a lot of criticism for his vaccination rollout. But in his defense, he has managed to do something no one has ever done before – failed to give out free shots in a place full of Irishmen.”
In a self-referential spot, Attorney General Maura Healey zeroed in on some of the deliberate phrasing politicians use when making big announcements as she made light of her own longstanding possible-candidate-for-governor status.
Each time catching herself midsentence by coughing and taking sips of water, Healey declared: “I’m exploring ... my artistic side. “I’m running ... a lot more.” “I am planning a run ... along the Charles this weekend.” And finally: “I’m ready to take on the challenge ... of baking.”
Mayor Walsh, days away from stepping down to become US labor secretary in Biden’s cabinet, reflected on his Irish roots, spent time talking about the impact of missed community traditions, and saluted the widespread sacrifices made during the pandemic.
“We all came together,” Walsh said. “We made tough decisions and hard sacrifices. And we endured a crisis by focusing on how we can help each other. That’s a core value of the Irish community and our entire city. ”
Walsh joked about his would-be successors wanting to drive him to Logan Airport, before mentioning his immediate successor, City Council President Kim Janey, who will become acting mayor when Walsh leaves for Washington.
“She’ll be walking me to a Silver Line stop and waving goodbye,” he said.
Collins in recent weeks has done nothing to confirm or deny speculation that he may run for mayor. Recording his portion of the bring-your-own-breakfast show from inside his South Boston home, he mused, “I have always wanted to have a mayor in my home. Will the next mayor come from the Golden Dome?”
Collins introduced the Republican governor, who enjoys popularity among Democrats, as “the elephant in the room” before quickly adding: “We know he’s a RINO anyway.”
Baker had a ready response. “Nice to see you, senator,” he said. “And I’m pleased to be part of your campaign to kick off your race for mayor.”
Collins just chuckled.
During her turn, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins pounced on Baker’s claim that he’s 25 percent Irish.
“I honestly guys didn’t realize this was going to be an Irish funeral. This isn’t even 25 percent funny. Like Gov. Baker’s false claim of 25 percent Irish. Come on,” Rollins said, before delving into her own Irish roots.
The field of candidates for mayor of Boston was a predictable focus.
Said South Boston City Councillor Michael Flaherty, “They’re all left of me. So, it’s getting a little crazy in there. It’s like a circus, I guess. We’ve got four of my colleagues running for mayor. So that’s a full clown car.”
Added Rollins: “We have 37 people who’ve announced and unfortunately we’ll have about 20 more who are unqualified to do the job but of course believe they will be.”
One of the candidates, Councillor Andrea Campbell, said there won’t be any white Irish men running for mayor “for the first time in a hundred years.”
That means the Irish vote is “up for grabs,” she said, joking that candidate Annissa Essaibi George had gotten a shamrock tattoo, candidate Jon Santiago had dyed his white doctor’s coat green, and that candidate Michelle Wu has teamed up with Bill Linehan to make him Boston City Council president.
“Because, of course, there’s nothing more progressive than electing another Irish man as council president,” said Campbell, revisiting Wu’s support in 2013 for a Linehan presidency. “Michelle, I’m sorry but no amount of Irish Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is going to make folks forget that one.”
The political barbs were fewer than in previous years as the seriousness of the deadly and ongoing pandemic was never far off.
“We’ve been through a difficult time,” said Congressman Stephen Lynch, a former host of the breakfast. “Especially among nursing home residents. We lost the most cherished members of our society really. We lost a lot of World War II veterans. We lost a lot of Korean War veterans. And not only did we lose them, but because of the circumstances, we were unable really to provide the comfort that we would have otherwise.”