Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dynastic Rumblings In The Empire State: A Kennedy for a Senate Vacancy?

Some parts of the world suffer from diseases that are wiped out elsewhere. Cholera, measles , dysentery and other diseases all but wiped out in Europe and North America persist in Africa and impoverished regions of Asia and Latin America.

America has its own backwater stronghold of diseases that are not organic but political. When the rest of the country cured itself of a case of acute Clintonia through the safeguard of Presidential term limits, a local outbreak was reported in New York State was recorded with the election of Hillary Clinton to the US Senate.

A double outbreak is now being reported of two political maladies. Although monarchy was constitutionally banished from the United States, the Kennedy family has provided us with its closest substitute. Three Kennedy brothers made the Senate one made the presidency. A host of smaller officeholders owe their tenure to Kennedy fame and clout. Even Governor Schwarzenegger is married to a Kennedy. In many parts of Massachusetts, the Kennedy name is intoned with reverence. At one time, there was the vicarious pride of Irish Americans with collective memories of discrimination and the potato famine. But the Kennedy mystique has taken on a life of its own. It almost seems to be price America continues to pay for Prohibition, in which the Kennedy family made a fortune that bucked the tidal undertow of prohibition. Kennedymia seems to be America’s answer to hereditary monarchy.

Friday, December 5, the 75th anniversary of Prohibition’s repeal. It was noted by some liquor stores with special sales in its honour. It is an odd coincidence that this anniversary of repeal finds us with a Kennedy in the news.

The New York Post with the poorly chosen headline “Ted wants Caroline” reports as follows.

“Powerful senator and family patriarch Ted Kennedy has been working back channels to promote niece Caroline as the replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate, family sources told The Post.

The elder Kennedy (D-Mass.), who’s battling brain cancer, has sent word to Gov. Paterson’s office that Caroline Kennedy, 51, has contacts and family connections that would mean legislation affecting New York would receive prompt attention, family sources said.

It is interesting to note the willingness of the kennedy dynasty to sidestep popular will and to cross state lines to push upon the people of New York a candidate from a fading political dynasty with overweaning presumptions of entitlement. Even the arguments for Caroline Kennedy being Senator are couched in terms that have the whiff of dynastic ambition.

The arguments for her candidacy are advanced with a focus on her personal life that I could not care less about.

A family member told The Post that a second Kennedy in the Senate is a “strong possibility.”

Caroline may have been the most famous young girl in America in the early 1960s when dad John F. Kennedy was president, but she has never held public office and has spent most of her adult life out of the limelight.

She has yet to publicly express interest in the Senate seat, but a New York Democratic source said she has “made numerous overtures to get into politics.”

“She’s looking for a mission in life,” the source said, now that her three children are mostly grown. “Preferably in politics.”

Caroline had been more interested in being ambassador to the United Nations, the source said. But after that position went to Susan Rice last Monday, she called Paterson and the two discussed Clinton’s Senate seat, the governor confirmed Friday.

I am disgusted that personal ambitions and professional goals are being discussed in such a self absorbed manner when there are specific issues and problems that should be the focus of impassioned debate. How do we encourage people to invest in New York and employ its taxpayers? How do we put pension funds in stable investments? How do we protect our gains in the war on crime? These issues are of a lot more interest to me than the latest Kennedy in or out of a job or in or out of bed.

Last time I checked, there were many people in New York City and New york State Politics who are climbing the ladder. The thought of calls being made to Kennedy family members about New York’s future while those who live and work here are ignored is a slap in the face to New Yorkers. Caroline Kennedy has worked in public service but has never run for office. I would welcome local talent like State Senator Eric Adams or New York State Comptroller Bill Thompson. I am sure many other counties in New York would like to weigh in with qualified applicants. This is after all a Senatorial seat in a large state. We are not talking about a consular appointment in the Falkland islands or Bhutan.

Even though Governor Patterson is constitutionally entitled to appoint a replacement Senator if Hillary becomes Secretary of State, it is a matter of common decency that he broaden his search beyond those with dynastic qualifications.

I grew up among the grandchildren of Irish immigrants who took pride in their history in America and in Ireland. The sadness of the Irish people when their country was occupied by the English is vivid to me. I feel a similar sense of sadness as the Kennedy dynasty extends its self promoting reach across the political landscape. In New York City , there is no ideological contest. New York State is apportioned among political parties in some sort of Yaltic division into spheres of influence. It is hard to find genuine contests of strategy and political ideology. It is the people of New York who pay for this political landscape that seems bereft of ideas and convictions. (non-criminal)

I do not want a Senator who applied for the job like she is going to work for her uncle any more than I want matters of public interest decided by judicial decree. New Yorkers should wake up if Hillary’s Senate seat becomes vacant. The job of a Senator is to represent the people of New York. And it’s not hereditary.

No comments: