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Posts Tagged ‘Caroline Kennedy’

Progressive Fail

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

David Paterson has made his choice to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate, and the winner is…a Blue Dog. I confesss, I’m mildly amused. The progressive blogosphere spent an awful lot of time arguing against Caroline Kennedy and the appointment process itself, and they get rewarded with a Blue Dog Senator for their efforts. But at the same time, I’m quite pissed about it all, because what this means is that the online progressive movement is still “led” by people who just don’t understand politics.

It was always clear that Paterson, for his own political reasons, wanted to pick a  minority or a female from upstate/Western New York who would owe him for the seat. In retrospect, Gillibrand is a pretty obvious candidate. And progressives should have been trying to prevent that from happening. It very well could have been prevented when Caroline Kennedy, and the political muscle behind her, began angling for the seat. But instead, progressives pressured him not to appoint Kennedy, without pushing any progressive alternatives. There were a couple of exceptions to this rule, but by and large they were pushing for Carolyn Maloney, who was never going to get considered. Not because she’s not a capable candidate, but because she chairs the House Subcomittee on Financial Institutions, and any Governor of New York would catch hell for giving up that position in Congress.

So, without any progressive support for a Kennedy-alternative, Paterson was free to wait Kennedy’s campaign out, let it collapse in on itself, and then fill the void with his first choice, the Blue Dog. It was masterful politics on Paterson’s part, but still, it was all made possible by the fact that there was no strong progressive hurdle to climb, because they campaigned against themselves, and torpedoed the only serious progressive in the running.

No More Dynasties!

Monday, January 5th, 2009

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In today’s Kennedy blogging, it seems New Yorkers have soured on the idea of appointing Caroline Kennedy to fill the seat Hillary Clinton is vacating, signaling a clear distaste for the politics of surname amongst the populist masses. Or something like that:

44% of the state’s voters now say they have a lesser opinion of Kennedy than they did

before she started vying for the position. 33% say it’s made no difference, and 23%

report now having a more favorable opinion of her. A plurality of Democrats,

Republicans, and independents all say that her efforts have caused them to view her less


When it comes to whether they would prefer to see Kennedy or Andrew Cuomo

appointed, 58% now prefer Cuomo to 27% for Kennedy. Cuomo is favored by 65% of

Republicans, 59% of independents, and 54% of Democrats. A PPP survey conducted a

month ago showed Cuomo as the top choice for just 23% of Democrats, compared to 44% who wanted Kennedy.


So the public has soured on Kennedy as a result of media pushback and some fairly negative coverage, and they’ve gravitated to the only other name they’re familiar with, someone who just happens to be the son of a prominent former Governor.

This is why the new push for special elections to fill all vacancies is really rather useless. Unless you think the seat ought to remain vacant for an extended period of time, something that I think you’d have a hard time arguing serves the peoples’ interest, especially in a state that’s underrepresented in the Senate like New York, then you have to submit to an abbreviated campaign in which the winner is determined primarily by name recognition. There just isn’t enough time for a lesser known candidate to challenge a Caroline Kennedy or an Andrew Cuomo, absent a very lenghty period of vacancy. And this seems to make even less since when you factor in that special elections, especially statewide elections, cost a lot of money and that there will be a special election as part of the next regularly scheduled election anyway. Hardly the most effective allocation of limited state resources, in my opinion.


Talk Radio Liberals Watch

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

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I don’t want to make this the “Respond to Open Left” blog, but this post by Matt Stoller is way too ridiculous to let go. Arguing that Caroline Kennedy is “no liberal:”

This is where Kennedy really shows her colors. 

She did not provide answers about other issues that may prove more controversial. Ms. Kennedy did not say whether she supports a cap on local property taxes in New York, something that has sharply divided Democrats and Republicans in Albany. And she did not say whether she supports raising state or federal income taxes for the rich to help balance the budget and pay for government programs.In her responses, Ms. Kennedy expressed strong support for Israel and said an undivided Jerusalem must be the country’s national capital.

New York Governor Patterson just proposed a cruel and regressive budget that closes a massive budget gap without raising taxes on the wealthy, a budget Kennedy endorsed.  I get that Kennedy can’t go against Patterson, but refusing to answer a question about Federal income taxes is a pretty clear indication that her instincts are not yet honed enough for a major political seat.  And you can throw in the deeply problematic answer on Jerusalem for good measure, which I see simply as evidence that her campaign is being entirely driven by a center-right aristocratic New York consulting class.

This is why elections are useful, though to be fair, they do have those pesky voter people.

There’s not much to unpack there, but it’s just so ridiculous I almost don’t know where to start.

First of all, lets make sure we note that Stoller makes no mention whatsoever of Kennedy articulating unambiguous support for gay marriage, a position that would put her in the minority of the Senate Democratic caucus, and is a departure not just from Hillary Clinton, but from Barack Obama as well. That would seem pretty relevant in judging Caroline’s progressive credentials, but Stoller just ignores it. And that he ignored it is really the only conclusion you can come to, since it’s the position given the most prominence in the Times article he cites.

On the “merits” of his complaint, Stoller is just flat out self-contradicting. In regards to the tax question, he acknowledges that it’s problematic to go against the position of the person who is going to make the appointment, but he deems this evidence that Kennedy’s political instincts are lacking. Most people, I think, would see that such a quick recognition of the precarious nature of the question is a strong indication that she’s got very good political instincts. It’s certainly what I take away from it. On the second point, though Stoller goes on to snark about elections, he chalks up Kennedy’s support for an undivided Jerusalem to the “Democratic Consultant class,” the Snowball of the the netroots, as opposed to, say, the large Jewish population of New York. I’ll say without equivocation that I support making Jerusalem an international city outside the jurisdiction of either Israel or Palestine, but I understand that a Senator from New York is going to run into problems if they’re on the record agreeing with me on this matter. And that’s fine, because that’s democracy.

The point of the “talk radio liberal watch” is to catalogue instances in which the “netroots” demonstrates characteristics of the talk radio right-wing. Far from being designed to run them down, it’s meant to be a constructive excercise, to keep the left from cocooning themselves into total irrelevance and detachment from reality the way the right did over the past 8 years. But in this instance, it’s something more entirely, because the only way to understand this instance is through the prism of complete hackery. Stoller is far too smart not to realize he’s contradicting himself, and certainly has to realize, in the wake of the Rick Warren controversy, that he’s completely ignoring the fact that Kennedy is willing to go on record supporting same-sex marriage at a time when most Democratic politicians still are not. So it seems to me that the point of this posting is simply to cover for the people at Open Left and elsewhere who have been pushing against Kennedy for so long, which was always going to be interesting if and when Kennedy largely aligned herself with progressives on the issues. But instead of acknowledging the obvious, that Kennedy cast her lot with progressives on a major issue very few Democratic politicians are willing to stand up for Stoller bent way over backwards to use the same article to proclaim a Kennedy isn’t a liberal.

Hannity couldn’t do better.

Friday Kennedy Blogging

Friday, December 19th, 2008

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Another day, another unconvincing argument against Caroline Kennedy being a United States Senator. Today, it’s Andrew Sullivan arguing that Kennedy is less qualified to be Senator than Sarah Palin was to be Vice-President:

In fact, Sarah Palin was more qualified to be vice-president than Caroline Kennedy is to be a Senator. Both are celebrities, but Palin made her own way herself, winning election as mayor and governor without the kind of raw nepotism now on display in New York State. The model now, of course, is similar – finding a way to get elected without actually exposing your inadequacies.

This is just plainly ridiculous. On the one hand, the jobs are not the same. The Vice-President is one heart beat away from being the President of the United States, and in Palin’s case it would have been a very old, multiple cancer survivng heartbeat. That’s quite a bit taller order than being one, low ranking, member of a body of 100 Seantors who’s going to do little more than cast votes for the next 4-10 years while they accrue seniority. Also, I don’t know anyone who thought that the only problem with Palin was her thin resume. To be sure it doesn’t really inspire a lot of confidence when a candidate for VP is citing their tenure as a “small town mayor” as a chief qualification, but what was most troubling was Palin’s obvious lack of knowledge on the major issues of the race. After all Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton didn’t have terribly long, formal, histories of holding office, and if that’s what you were looking for, you would have had to have gone with John McCain’s 25 years in Congress.

And, of course, I’ve got to point out that there seems to be a noticeable gender pattern in the candidates for office Andrew decides to wage war on.

Thursday Kennedy Blogging

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

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So, if anyone was worried that Caroline Kennedy couldn’t handle herself when it comes to politics, think again:

In her first visit to Rochester, U.S. Senate hopeful Caroline Kennedy met Wednesday with Mayor Robert Duffy and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, asking questions about upstate but not asking for an endorsement….

“It’s my first time in Rochester, but I’ll be back as many times as Chuck Schumer,” Kennedy said, referring to New York’s other Democratic senator, who coincidentally also stopped in Rochester on Wednesday.
Asked whether she would run for the office if Gov. David Paterson doesn’t appoint her, she replied: “Absolutely.”

Steve Benen wonders if she isn’t putting some pressure on Governor Patterson by promising (threatening?) to run in 2010, but I think it’s more appropriate to say she’s putting some pressure on the other candidates. If you’re someone like Carolyn Maloney, do you really want to give up your safe seat in the House for a Senate seat if you’re faced with the prospect of a primary race against Caroline Kennedy in 2 years? It certainly makes for a less appealing prospect to be sure.

Wednesday Kennedy Blogging

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

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Apparently this is going to be one of those topics you have to address daily.

While reading Dana Goldstein’s post on the matter over at TAPPED, it did occur to me that whomever is appointed to the seat is going to be among the very most junior members of the Democratic caucus, in a body where seniority means everything. To that extent, one “qualification” Kennedy certainly does bring to the table is the ability to trade on her name and her connections, most notably to the (next) President, which will give her more of an ability to exert influence on the larger body than any of the other candidates could possibly manage. That might seem trivial on the face of it, but New York is a big state with a lot of interest in what goes on in the Senate for a number of reasons, and it’s very important to a state like that to have representatives with as much influence as possible. Chuck Schumer is both fairly senior in the caucus and a member of the leadership team, and while being fairly low in the seniority ranks, Hillary Clinton was able to leverage her national profile to get more results than the average person in her position would be able to. Is that reason enough to put aside the unseemliness of it all? Maybe not, but it’s probably at least worth keeping it in mind when considering the state’s interests in the matter.

And while we’re on the subject, this article is really bad, even by Politico’s standards (or lack thereof). Leaving aside that it doesn’t even try to address the irony of the party of George W. Bush croning about “Democratic nepotism,” it’s biggest problem seems to be that it’s acting as if all of these instances are exactly the same situation, which is just absurd. For example, even if we concede that the Kennedy talk is totally without merit, that doesn’t really say anything at all about, say, Beau Biden. Biden has already held statewide office in Delaware, and he will not be appointed to the seat. If he wants to fill it after 2010, he’ll have to win a statewide election in Delaware to do so, and if the people of Delaware want him to represent them in the Senate, I don’t see how it’s anyone else’s business to tell them they can’t do that because his dad held the seat and will be the Vice-President of the United States. Similarly, the case of the Salazar brothers has a distinctly square peg feel to it. For one thing, they’re not father-son, or grandfather-grandson, they’re brothers. John was elected to the House the same year Ken was elected to the Senate, although I suppose you could argue he traded in on his brother’s two terms as Attorney General, but he held state level positions over the same tenure. Basically he has a political background of his own in the state, and it’s hard to say that either Salazar brother is where they are because of the other. It certainly seems, to me, that John Salazar may indeed be among the most qualified candidates to replace his brother in the Senate, and I think you’d have a much harder time arguing the opposite.

But the most galling example in the article is, surprise, how it treats Hillary Clinton. In noting her designation to head the State Department, Politico refers to her as “the wife of a former President” and…well nothing. That’s it. And obviously, when you frame it that way, it looks really bad. Who wants their Secretary of State picked on the basis of being the spouse of a former President? But of course that’s not all Hillary Clinton is by any means. She’s a Senator who sits on the Armed Services Committee, she’s a very prominent national, and international, political figure, and she was a trailblazing Presidential candidate who received somewhere between 15-20 million votes to be the Democratic nominee for President. In other words, she’s a qualified figure in her own right, and her marital status is secondary at this point. Of course, if you start pointing these things out, then you sort of erode all of this talk about nepotism and “dynastic politics,” and then reporters might have to talk about boring things like the economy once in a while.

And we wouldn’t want that.

A Pony? For Real?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

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I don’t always agree with Jane Hamsher, obviously, but I usually feel she makes strong arguments whether I agree with them or not. But her latest argument against appointing Caroline Kennedy to Hillary Clinton’s vacated Senate seat isn’t just weak, it’s downright offensive. She starts:

It seems Caroline Kennedy has decided she’d rather have a  US Senate seat than a pony for Christmas[…]

And it really doesn’t get much better from there on. Jeff Fecke responds:

A pony? “Getting her nails done?” Really, Jane?

If this were Jim Kennedy, would you suggest he was getting a manicure, asking for a pony? Of course not. You might pick out other symbols of idleness, but those quintessentially feminine grace notes would be left out. It’s not enough to suggest Kennedy isn’t a good pick for the seat — she has to be derided as idle and, most damningly, an idle woman.

That’s ridiculous. To Kennedy’s credit, she hasn’t been idle. She’s been active. I don’t know if that activity is enough to merit her a seat in the U.S. Senate (though if Tom Coburn can function there, she’s probably smart enough to handle it), but it’s not as if Kennedy has been living in a secluded mansion since 1963.

To wit, Caroline Kennedy has been a director for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, raised over $65 million for the NYC public school system, and is the vice-chair for the Fund for Public Schools, among various other (less impressive) boards and foundations. If Jane Hamsher or Ross Douthat don’t find those to be compelling qualifications for the office of unior Senator from New York, they ought to say so and make the argument. If they think they’re fine qualifications, but think Kennedy a bad pick anyway, or feel someone else to be more qualified, then they should say so and make the argument. But couching their opposition in such sexist and dismissive tones indicates that they’re either unaware of Caroline Kennedy’s resume, or simply don’t have better arguments to make.


Sunday, December 7th, 2008

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I think I’m probably more tolerant of the idea of political “dynasties” than most. The whole Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton thing never bothered me all that much, and if voters want to elect a past-or-present politician’s spouse/son/daughter/niece/2nd cousin once removed to represent them that’s their right, and their business, and that’s largely ok with me in a representative society. There’s certainly nothing to say that Beau Biden or, perhaps, Chelsea Clinton wouldn’t make a good elected official, and indeed their proximity to government may make them better public servants, as they get an understanding of government few others have short of actually serving in office. That said, I do largely agree with Jane Hamsher that it’s problematic when someone is appointed to office almost soley on the basis on familial status, the success of Ted Kennedy notwithstanding.

But I’ll do Hamsher one better. When you look at the vacancies in New York and Illinois, two heavily Democratic states, the governors of each state are basically hand picking the person who is going to fill those seats for the foreseeable future. Whomever ultimately gets the appointment is unlikely to face serious challenge from within the Democratic Party, and is even more unlikely to lose to a Republican in a statewide general election. It strikes me as a bit untoward to have so much power vested in one person, and to that end I propose a simple solution; anyone appointed to fill out a term, or part of a term, of a vacated Congressional seat is subsequently ineligible to run to fill the seat permanently, at least in the election immediately following their appointment. That’s basically what happened with Joe Biden’s seat, and I think that’s a pretty good model of how appointments ought to work. The replacement is likely to very closely mirror Biden in terms of views and votes, which respects the will of the majority that elected Biden in the first place, and by not running for re-election Kaufman gives the people of Delaware a chance to pick a long term representative in much more Democratic fashion.

It would be nice if other states took note.

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