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

Tag: Rod Blagojevich

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.

Soon to be ex-senator Burris (III)

I ought to get some props for calling this as early as I did. As Zachary Roth notes, Roland Burris is now under investigation on multiple fronts (including whether he perjured himself), and both the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post have demanded that he resign.

Soon to be ex-senator Burris (II)

Check out this statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office, as reported by Talking Points Memo: “Senator Reid supports Senator Burris’ decision to cooperate with all appropriate officials who may review this matter, including state agencies and the Senate Ethics Committee.” Whoa.

Here’s why Roland Burris is a goner. Shortly after Rod Blagojevich appointed him, Reid adamantly insisted that Burris would never be seated. On Jan. 4, for instance, Reid appeared on “Meet the Press” and essentially said the Senate would not accept anyone appointed by Blagojevich, whom he called “obviously a corrupt individual.”

Reid backed down because he had to, and because Burris appeared to be ethical. It wasn’t pretty. And now Burris has made Reid look like a fool for a second time.

If Burris won’t resign, I say the Senate will expel him, with Reid leading the charge. Good riddance.

Soon to be ex-senator Burris

I can’t imagine Sen. Roland Burris will (or should) survive his latest admission — that he actually tried to raise money for then-Illinois govenor Rod Blagojevich at the same time that he was asking him for the Senate appointment. (Via TPMMuckraker.)

Wednesday morning odds and ends

A few items for your consideration:

  • Why didn’t the Illinois legislature use the last few weeks to pass an emergency bill taking away Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s power to fill the Senate vacancy, and then do it again over his veto? Given that failure, I can’t imagine how anyone can stop Blago’s choice, Roland Burris, from being seated.
  • Lobbyist Vicki Iseman’s libel suit against the New York Times may be a classic case of a story that’s accurate but not true. No doubt the Times was accurate in reporting that anonymous former aides to John McCain had worried eight years ago that he might be having an affair with Iseman. But when you put it that way, you can understand why she’s suing.
  • Adam Reilly does a nice job of deconstructing Boston Magazine editor James Burnett’s weirdly obsequious interview with Mike Barnicle. But I’d love to hear from Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, a longtime Barnicle nemesis with whom Barnicle now claims to have kissed and made up. That would be pretty damn interesting.
  • D’oh! When I recently wrote that I like Globe columnist Bob Ryan on New England Sports Network, I didn’t realize his show, “Globe 10.0,” had been canceled. You certainly wouldn’t know it from the NESN Web site. Truth be told, I only watched it during baseball season. But it was good! Really!

Obama shouldn’t have waited

Barack Obama’s transition is of considerably more importance to the nation than U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

So if it’s true that the Obama team has found nothing improper in Rahm Emanuel’s contacts with Blago, then it should have released the news last week rather than giving in to Fitzgerald’s request for a delay.

Fake Rahm Emanuel has his say.

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?

In search of a crime

Jay Fitzgerald rounds up more on the matter of whether Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich broke the law simply because he wanted something in return for a Senate seat.

Everybody wants something. Some somethings are legal, some aren’t. But simply being a foul-mouthed, arrogant moron is not a crime.

Jon Keller doesn’t like Barry Coburn’s op-ed in today’s New York Times, in which Coburn takes U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to task for his inflammatory anti-Blago rhetoric.

I think Coburn makes some good points, though. A prosecutor in a high-profile political-corruption case has enormous credibility with the public, as the charges invariably play into (often justified) cynicism about politics.

I come neither to praise nor bury Blago. But let’s calm down until we see the specifics.

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