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No muzzle, no debate in Massachusetts

<p>As Rachel explained last night, "Something weird is going on with Republican Sen.</p>

As Rachel explained last night, "Something weird is going on with Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts." As we discussed yesterday, Brown and his campaign team have been highly reluctant to debate Democrat Elizabeth Warren, and announced this week that the senator would only participate in a Kennedy Institute event if Brown's demands were met.

And what were the demands? There were two: (1) msnbc could not air the debate and (2) Vicki Kennedy, the late senator's widow, had to agree not to endorse Warren, even after the debate.

The first condition was easy to meet -- msnbc had not even been approached about airing the event -- but Vicki Kennedy didn't see the need to be muzzled by the Republican lawmaker. It led Brown to reject the debate yesterday.

Senator Scott Brown [Tuesday] rejected a debate proposed by Victoria Reggie Kennedy, after the widow of Senator Edward M. Kennedy refused his precondition that she not endorse a candidate in his reelection campaign against Democrat Elizabeth Warren. [...]In a letter today to Brown and Warren, Lisa McBirney, chief operating officer of the Kennedy Institute, and Christopher Hogan, chief of staff in the chancellor's office at UMass Boston, the other debate co-sponsor, made clear that Vicki Kennedy would not relinquish her right to endorse in the race."Given the goodwill and understanding of the nonpartisan mission of the institute that Senator Brown has thus far shown, it seems inconsistent that he would now attempt to restrict the activities of Mrs. Kennedy as a condition of accepting a debate that is co-sponsored by an organization with which she is affiliated," McBirney and Hogan wrote.

Remember, the Kennedy Institute also co-sponsored a debate in the 2010 Senate race, which Brown won, and which Brown participated in without trying to silence the late senator's widow. What's more, Vicki Kennedy wouldn't be a part of the debate itself, which would have been moderated by Tom Brokaw.

Indeed, the larger point is that this sitting senator, in the middle of an election year, thought it'd be a good idea to try to muzzle the late senator's widow, and then refused to attend a debate after she reserved the right to speak. As Rachel asked last night, "What is going on with Scott Brown? What is wrong with Scott Brown?"

Those need not be rhetorical questions.

Certainly, it's deeply strange that Brown is afraid of televised debates that he wants to silence Vicki Kennedy. But let's not forget that the senator's recent troubles go much further. Rachel noted in last night's segment, for example, that he falsely accused her of launching a campaign against him. For proof, the Republican pointed to ... nothing at all.

But we can go further. During a debate on Wall Street safeguards, Brown opposed the legislation, but couldn't say why. When he was asked what kind of changes he'd like to see to the bill, Brown asked a reporter, "Well, what areas do you think should be fixed?"

Around that time, a deranged man crashed a small plane into an office building in Austin, Texas. Brown said the incident reminded him of his own campaign.

Last year, he also looked deeply foolish falling for an Internet hoax on a photo of Osama bin Laden. A writer for the conservative Boston Herald went so far as to call Brown "Dan Quayle in a barncoat" after he decided to engage in a pointless feud with the non-partisan League of Women Voters.

And now Scott Brown wants to muzzle Ted Kennedy's widow. What strategic genius at Brown Campaign HQ thought this was a good idea?