Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Caroline, Be a Kennedy, Not a Bush

I always thought it was fitting that George W. Bush was appointed President by the Supreme Court in 2000. It's just so declasse to be elected by popular vote don't you know, so much germ exposure, and do you know some of those people have never even traveled abroad (er...never mind). All the good stuff - RNC chairman, CIA director, baseball commissioner - these are appointive posts.

The case of the Bushies comes to mind this week with the news that Caroline Kennedy has announced that she is actively seeking New York Governor Paterson's appointment to the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton. It's one thing to announce that one is running for election. That is the first appeal in a campaign of appeals to the voters, who are many. But to announce that one is running for appointment is not an appeal to the appointer, who is one. You appeal to one person, preferably, in person. A public announcement puts pressure on the appointer, enough so that this may have been a miscalculation. Maybe Paterson will feel obliged to decline to appoint her so as not to appear to have caved in. (And Paterson himself has not ever been elected governor: curiouser and curiouser.)

Another curious thing is the kind of boutique nature of this Senate seat since the patently carpet-bagging Hillary Clinton moved to New York to campaign for it in 2001 (granting she did an exemplary job by all reports). Caroline Kennedy is someone who, like Hillary Clinton, might easily be elected to this Senate seat by the voters of New York on the basis of associations, popularity and name-recognition. But as a potential appointee she conspicuously lacks any formal qualifications, and the governor, presumably, is supposed to appoint a professional caretaker (a politically adventitious one of course) to fill the seat until the next election. I think it would be great to have Caroline Kennedy in the Senate, but there are fundamental procedural problems here that she may not overcome.

(Three days later: sure enough, now some are in favor of Kennedy and some opposed: Cuomo had more support in a poll reported on MSNBC last night. So now Paterson will take a political hit whether he appoints her or not, through no fault of his own. If I were him I'd be mad. And I wouldn't appoint her.)

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