Boston, Mass.–Say what you will about John Kerry. He may be a flip-flopper, he may put Kofi Annan in charge of the war on terrorism, he may raise taxes on everyone whose fortune is not related to Big Ketchup, and he may answer every single interview question on every topic with a reference to Vietnam. But the man knows a good bar when he sees one.
McGann’s Pub, located at 197 Portland Street, in Boston, advertises itself as “John Kerry’s favorite pub.” Kerry told USA Today, “This is a great pub, with sentimental value for me. After our Senate race in 1996, and after getting to know each other well in the course of seven statewide televised debates, Gov. Bill Weld and I put aside our differences a day after the election and hoisted a pint together.”
According to a press account of that meeting,
Weld went with a pint of Guinness stout while Kerry favored Sam Adams. Weld, dressed in a business suit, arrived early; Kerry, dressed casually in a plaid shirt and jeans, arrived later. Weld originally proposed to meet Kerry at Foley’s pub in South Boston, but in the true spirit of bipartisan compromise, they settled on McGann’s. Weld said McGann’s was central to both candidates’ headquarters. Kerry, proudly wielding a pair of hockey tickets, said he was glad the bar was close to the Fleet Center so he could make the 7:30 p.m. faceoff for the Boston Bruins-Edmonton Oilers game.
Serenaded by choruses of “They’re jolly good fellas,” Kerry presented Weld with a kitchen sink. On election night, Weld said, “[Kerry] never cracked, he never buckled, he never snapped. And we threw the kitchen sink at him, matches, everything.”
Upon accepting the sink, Weld cracked, “I hope I don’t throw up in it.”
The décor is classic Hibernian pub–yellowed copy of the Irish Times, a street sign pointing to Dublin Airport, a soccer jersey and caricatures of soccer stars, and plenty of Guinness plaques featuring their pelican mascot.
There is also a Kerry Corner, filled with pictures of him from the Weld bread-breaking and other visits.
Joe Dunne, the owner, adds a few details to the story. Weld and his staffers hung out at the aforementioned J. J. Foley’s, a bar closer to the governor’s office. Weld had said, at a moment when the campaign had gotten particularly heated, that no matter how intense the campaign attacks became, the two men would have a beer together afterwards. When Kerry won by several points, Weld repeated his offer, but Kerry insisted it be on his “home turf,” the bar that was close to his campaign office and had become an after-hours hangout for his campaign staff.
Dunne says Kerry came in “quite a bit” before the presidential campaign season picked up its intensity in late 2003, usually before a Celtics or Bruins game. Sam Adams, brewed in Boston, is Kerry’s preferred beer, but he doesn’t have a favorite dish on the menu.
Dunne says the convention has been okay for him, but not great. Enough cops, security personnel, and other folks have come in to provide a regular stream of customers, but the place is far from mobbed. Just around the corner, Halftime Pizza shut down, lamenting security barriers and free food offered to the journalists in the media center directly opposite. (Halftime should have stayed open; pizza would beat the mediocre hot dogs they’re serving up on the other side of our two-level tent.)
McGann’s clam chowder and chicken sandwich went down well Wednesday afternoon. And the atmosphere, the coverage of European soccer matches, the cops-and-firefighters atmosphere… It must be a great place to get away from Teresa for a few hours.
–Jim Geraghty is the author of NRO’s Kerry Spot.