December 21, 2008
POLITICS: King Arthur's Daughter
I am torn on the issue of Caroline Kennedy being appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill out Hillary Clinton's term. On the one hand, as a New Yorker, I'm appalled. On the other hand, as a Republican, this is the best thing that could possibly happen short of Gov. Paterson deciding he likes the ring of "Senator Spitzer."
Kennedy is one of scores of wealthy Democrats in this state who have never held public office or accomplished really all that much in the public or private sector; all she has is her family name. That the Democrats are even considering her tells me that they've basically fallen into one of two dangerous delusions:
(1) That it's the 1930s again and all you need is a D next to your name to win;
(2) That Obama's victory proves that glamor and celebrity are more important than experience, accomplishments or a substantive platform.
I don't think much of David Paterson, but I'd have thought he has more backbone and independence than to let Kennedy's base (the media and the Obama camp) bully him into choosing such a poor candidate rather than the other available options, all of whom have more political experience and, frankly, all of whom would pay more (public) political dividends to Paterson, himself an accidental Governor who has yet to receive a mandate from the public.
Now, it is far too late in the game for either party to object on principle to political dynasties, given the scores of political families in this country (few states are without at least one major one). Nor is it wholly a bad thing - we accept politics as a family business for the same reason why we accept Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey jr., Jakob Dylan, Ben Stiller, Kate Hudson...every business is a family business, and the children of the pros do often learn things early. But of course, legacy politics has also given us more than its share of brain-dead empty suits like Bob Casey and Linc Chaffee who could never, ever have gotten elected to public office on their own. And this is still a democracy; even if we're willing to vote for second or third generation politicos, they still need to prove that they can run the gauntlet of seeking public approval first (George W. Bush, for example, cut his teeth working for his dad's campaigns but had no public office until he was elected to one by the people of Texas). The idea of just handing office to a 51-year-old who has never, so far as I can tell, accomplished anything in the practice of law or in politics simply because of her famous name is repugnant.
On the other hand, the GOP actually has a pretty strong candidate in Pete King, and Kennedy is about the worst possible matchup to a pugnacious Long Island Irishman with a blue-collar edge. She has no separate and distinct geographic or ethnic base, other than perhaps her gender, and it's sad that modern feminism's political icons seem to be women who only got jobs because of who their husbands or fathers are. She can't match King's long record in office and his many years sparring on the political talkers, nor his common touch. Kennedy would start out with pole position against King purely on party identification, but from there that's all she has - her nomination would be the ultimate example of what we have seen a lot of the last month, the hubris of Democrats who think they can never lose what they only just won.
You have more faith in New Yorker than the rest of us if you think Peter King would have any chance against whichever left leaning Democrat Paterson appoints. King won't even bother running in 2010 because he knows how that state leans.
Keep in mind NY went for Kerry a couple years after 9/11 despite his position that it should be handled as a minor criminal matter rather than an act of war. If a Bush couldn't carry NY in 2004 then that state is hopeless.
I gotta go with largebill here. NY is so democratic that ANYONE with a D next to their name carries this state. It's a wonder that a Republican bothers to run at all. I don't think McCain even made one appearance here. Just a waste of Republican time. This state is hosed for the foreseeable future.
I am struck by the fact that the crowd that excoriated Palin on her qualifications are swooning over Caroline's qualifications... her bloodline. It's in her DNA you see. Having said that I don't think it matters who gets appointed. They will all vote the same.
I thought King was going to run also. While I don't agree on all of his stands, he admits that they are his, and feel free to not vote for him. He's a pretty upfront person. I thought, until a Kennedy got into it, that Nita Lowey would be the front runner. And she is a differently leaning King. Experienced, smart, good campaigner.
That said, a lot of this argument was the one used against Hillary when she first ran for Senate, with a carpetbagger tag thrown in for good measure. It's hard to think that Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, who has indeed been active in public education, will suddenly develop an interest in Utica or Buffalo, but then, I didn't think Hillary would either. In the end, she's pretty bright, so you never know.
Pretty much anyone can be a Senator, if they have a good staff and are willing to work at it. Caroline Kennedy can presumably pick from Uncle Ted's staff, who are among the best, so if she's willing to work she ought to be okay. Which is not to say she deserves the job. Paterson will appoint whomever improves his own fortunes. and he'd probably be better served by a qualified Hispanic, since there are none among New York's current statewide officers.
Pete King is pretty qualified to challenge whomever is appointed, but it will be an uphill battle. And if it's Kennedy, he'll be running uphill financially, which will make things harder.
Notable differences thus far, Hillary was readily accepted upstate, the princess was hooted at by press and public during her initial tour. Second, the party is split on her, and internal brawl Clinton never had to face. It is a very different race, and King is a vastly superior opponent if it goes down that path. He is not the chalk, but he can win.
Hillary was NOT accepted by us Upstaters! She has done nothing for us!
"Pretty much anyone can be a Senator, if they have a good staff and are willing to work at it."
Hasn't the complete mess that Congress has gotten us into in regards to the Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac fiasco proven that this isn't necessarily true?
Well, Tom, to be more accurate, I should probably have said that pretty much anyone can be as good as most Senators if they have a good staff and are willing to work at it. :)
From one perspective -- ridding oneself of a possible future primary opponent -- Patterson should choose Andrew Cuomo. To a certain extent, Cuomo is also a beneficiary of a famous political father (although he rebounded from his gubernatorial primary loss to Carl McCall in 2002 to win election as AG), so the "nepotism" charge would still be in play.
In the end, Patterson, as an accidental governor with no real political base outside the Harlem Democratic machine in which his father (Basil Paterson, one of the original "Gang of Four" with Percy Sutton, Charles Rangel and David Dinkins) is still a force, will have to appoint Caroline Kennedy. Patterson has no money of his own, and will need money and backing from organized labor. One or two well-placed calls from Ted Kennedy can make that money and support disappear overnight. Add to that the reality that whomever Patterson appoints (assuming that person wants to keep the seat, and not be just a two-year caretaker) will have to run two statewide races for the U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2012. In New York, the biggest media market in the country.
Without either an independent fortune (think Bloomberg) or an established fundraising and political support system (Kennedy), it's almost impossible to raise enough to run two Senate races in four years, unless the GOP puts up less than token opposition (and Pete King is no one's token). Nita Lowey wouldn't be able to do it; neither would Gary Ackerman, Nydia Velasquez, or even Anthony Weiner -- although in the latter case, Chuck Schumer would presumably help his former aide. But Patterson himself is no political superstar, so he needs one at the top of the ticket in 2010. For all Chuck Schumer's political acumen and vote-getting ability, that's not exactly what Patterson has in mind.
So bet on Caroline. Of course it's appalling. But all the Democrats who allowed Hillary Clinton to come straight from the Lincoln Residence to an unopposed Democratic Senate primary in 2000 have no one but themselves to blame for this situation. Handing a Senate seat from New York to a woman whose chief accomplishment is handling a terrible family tragedy with grace and dignity is a lot easier the second time around.
I don't think she gets the nomination. Editorial boards and talking heads love her. The voter is not pleased, no connection with rank and file or party players. She has Obama support, but plenty of opposition from elected Dems, some vengeful Hillary supporters and some longing for the appointment. Even Basil Patterson's kid can see something is not quite right here. First she refuses to speak to the press on her upstate tour, now she refuses to disclose any financial and legal background information until she is a senator. This upper class, high society act plays poorly during a recession.
Lee, Hillary did nothing for the entire state. My point was I never saw her as poorly received during her listening tour as the Princess was. In a time of great need we need a senator, from either party, that takes an ethical D'Amato approach, a Senator Pothole. Fight for NYS and deliver results. King fits the bill, as do several Dems, Caroline fails the test.
As I have pointed out, NY is a totally Democratic state. So whoever Patterson pick's (or who he is told to pick), they will be the NY Senator for as long as they want it.
It does not matter who the Republican's put up (even Rudy), the democrats rule the Senate races. So the only question is who the Democrats tell Patterson to pick. If he is smart, he will make sure he get's something out of the deal. Just hope he does not get caught asking for too much!
Perhaps I'm cynical, but I assume that her nomination will be a quid pro quo for Caroline and Ted Kennedy backing Obama at a crucial phase of his run for the nominaiton. Clinton's designation as Secretary of State was one of the first appointments that Obama announced. It both removed the Clintons as possible opponents and cleared the deck for Caroline Kennedy to be appointed to the Senate.
What's in it for Patterson? Massive support by Obama and the Kennedys in the form of providing staff and raising money; Patterson has no independent base, is going to have to do some unpopular things this year to balance the state budget, and needs all the help he can get.
Had he appointed Cuomo, Caroline Kennedy might have run against him with the support of Obama, and much of the NY Democratic party.
lee, I disagree. There are few dems that could lose statewide. The princess is one. That is why several party power brokers are going to war over the free seat to royalty. With Obama knee deep in blago, transition, and the economy he has litlle time to give a damn over the next junior senator from nys.
Allan, Caroline vs the sitting dem gov? You can be serious, she would laughed out of the race in days.
Stick a fork in her, she done. And it is a shame, as King could have beaten her like a drum.