By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: Caroline Kennedy

Democracy and the Senate

Ted Kennedy, battling brain cancer, strikes exactly the right balance in his letter (pdf) to state officials on how his seat in the U.S. Senate should be filled.

In a story broken by the Boston Globe’s Frank Phillips, Kennedy endorses a 2004 law that took away the governor’s ability to fill a Senate vacancy and gave it to the voters instead. But Kennedy also calls for an amendment allowing the governor to appoint an interim senator who would serve during the five-month period preceding the special election. Finally, Kennedy suggests that the governor appoint someone who promises not to seek election.

The law was changed five years ago when it looked like Sen. John Kerry might be elected president. Legislative leaders wanted to make sure that then-governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, would not have the ability to choose Kerry’s successor. Once and future Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom refers to that on Twitter today:

Wishing Dems now calling for Gov to appt Kennedy replacement stood with Romney in 2004 when they took that power away from him.

(Fun random fact: I ran into Fehrnstrom on the summit of Mt. Monadnock recently.)

But Democrats did the right thing then, even if it was for partisan reasons. As Kennedy suggests, they should leave the law alone, but not let the seat go unfilled for five months.

The wisdom of the 2004 law was proved after President Obama’s election last fall. First, then-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich disgraced himself and his office by putting Obama’s Senate seat up for sale — an action that led to federal corruption charges against him. The appointment went to the supposedly incorruptible Roland Burris, who turned out to be highly tainted himself.

Then, after Obama named Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York as his secretary of state, Gov. Donald Paterson turned the appointment of a successor into a circus, using anonymous aides to smear Caroline Kennedy, who wanted the job but was clearly unprepared. The post eventually went to an obscure Albany-area congresswoman, Kirsten Gillenbrand.

No one is suggesting that Gov. Deval Patrick would pull a Blago or even a Paterson. But senators should be elected, not appointed, as has been the case since the 17th Amendment took effect in 1913. Kennedy’s proposal honors that proposition while plugging an unnecessary gap.

Photo of Kennedy (cc) by Will White and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Why Caroline Kennedy dropped out

Looks like the truth is starting to come out about Caroline Kennedy’s now-ended bid for the Senate. The New York Post reports that Gov. David Paterson is letting it be known through an unnamed spokesman that he never intended to choose her. Among other things, it appears that she may have tax and nanny problems.

The New York Times is catching up, but according to the Politico’s Glenn Thrush, the Post is “lead sled dog on the Caroline exit fiasco.” No gold star for the Post, though, as it adds some entirely unsupported sleaze to the mix.

Accurate, but almost certainly not true

If the New York Times doesn’t want to run with something it can’t confirm, I’ve got no problem with that. Still, it’s a little unsettling to see the paper go with the patently ludicrous explanation from “a person told of her decision” that Caroline Kennedy is dropping out of the running for the U.S. Senate because of Ted Kennedy’s illness.

The New York Post, citing anonymous sources, reports that Kennedy withdrew after she learned that New York Gov. David Paterson wasn’t going to pick her.

Ted Kennedy has been fighting terminal brain cancer for months. His seizure yesterday, while scary, changes nothing.

It’s been obvious for some time now that Caroline Kennedy wasn’t going to the Senate. I guess her uncle’s health problems gave her a graceful exit. But that doesn’t mean the Times has to play along.

Just say no

The New York Times should have refused to run this crapola — written answers from someone working for Caroline Kennedy, responding to a series of questions about where she stands on the issues. Let her sit down for an interview.

Between Kennedy’s impending coronation in New York and the Rod Blagojevich fiasco in Illinois, I’d say it’s time to get rid of gubernatorial appointments for vacant Senate seats, wouldn’t you?

The Kennedys and the Clintons

It’s hard to imagine that anyone would base his or her vote on what a Kennedy says. (Especially this one!) Still, it’s pretty interesting that both Caroline Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy would endorse Barack Obama on the same weekend.

Caroline Kennedy’s choice, which she reveals in an op-ed piece for the New York Times, is all the more impressive because she submitted it before last night’s South Carolina blowout. For all she knew, her op-ed was going to appear on a very good day for Hillary Clinton — that is, the day after a narrow loss in South Carolina and bulging leads in most other states. Whatever the opposite is of inevitable, that’s how Obama was starting to look, and Kennedy endorsed him anyway. As it turns out, she looks prescient.

As for Ted Kennedy, I have to assume his endorsement has been in the works for some time, and that he’s been waiting for the moment when it would have maximum effect. With Super Tuesday coming up on Feb. 5, and with Massachusetts being a part of it, now’s the time. I’m surprised by Kennedy’s choice. The Clintons have always been wildly popular here, and Kennedy seemed to have enjoyed a good relationship with them. Did something happen? Or does he simply find Obama too impressive not to support?

With Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Deval Patrick also supporting Obama, that’s the trifecta for the state’s top three elected officials. House Speaker Sal DiMasi’s endorsement of Clinton isn’t looking all that significant right now.

Predictions, always futile, have been especially so this year. But I can confidently predict this: The next few days are going to be the roughest of Clinton’s campaign, regardless of whether she has a happy Super Tuesday or not.

Photo (cc) by toastiest. Some rights reserved.

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