Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy (again)

I’ve had a couple days to calm down over the Caroline Kennedy thing.

First of all, if you want thorough, reasoned analysis on the job of picking an interim senator, go see Phil at Racing in the Street or Robert Harding at TAP.

Moving on, I’d like to point out that this is not 2000. In 2000, a lot of people (me included) were irked at Clinton’s carpetbagging. She had even less to do with New York than Caroline Kennedy does. But there were certain factors in 2000 which made Hillary Clinton easier to swallow. For starters, the economy was not in the dire state it is in now. Yes, Upstate was in dire shape (as always), but around us was a perceived affluence continuing for others that people hoped could be somehow “brought back” to our region by a star player like Hillary.

That is not the situation today. The situation for all of New York is now truly dire, and it hasn’t even really begun to hit here yet, even with the truly hard blow of Syracuse China and now long-dreaded layoffs at New Process Gear. Rumored layoffs at Kodak, auto workers in Buffalo wondering what’s going to happen, Fort Drum families seeing no end to Afghan deployments. I’m afraid Caroline Kennedy blundered right into a hornet’s nest when she got out of the car today. People are loaded for bear in a way they never were with Clinton. They know the cavalry is not coming over the hill. They know they are alone, on their own. The mood isn’t just damp and gray now — it grows icy and brittle. Not a great time for an absolute newbie to elective (or appointive) politics to blow into town and refuse to answer questions.

Even worse, Democratic victory in the state Senate has left Upstaters feeling particularly shut out of power — Upstate Democrats especially. In 2000, there was just a continuation of the status quo in Albany. Now things have shifted and the joke is clearly on us — despite the fact that Upstate is getting nominally “bluer.” Noises about an Upstate caucus grow a little louder. To have a candidate from New York City (at best) and “out of state” pushed on us adds insult to injury, for some.

I also think Upstaters are tired of the “listening tours,” tired of candidates who have to learn all about us all over again. It would indeed be novel to have a senator who knew what comes after Oswego, Otsego and Owego. (Hint: It’s not Otego.) Why can’t we have someone representing our state who doesn’t have to do homework or memorize flash cards about one-third of its population and four-fifths of its land area? We are running out of time here. This may come as a huge shock, but I think we want to be represented in Washington, represented by someone who knows our state and loves it. A champion, not a Good Fairy.

It’s hardly personal, the animosity toward Caroline Kennedy as a candidate, but there is such a thing as the wrong person at the wrong time, in a time that’s out of joint. She can certainly be forced upon an ambivalent electorate, but I don’t think she’s going to go down as easily as Hillary Clinton did, and she probably will not energize Democrats, or demoralize Republicans, all that much.

Original rant is below the flip.

I’m sick of the Kennedys. They need to go away now. They’ve had their 15 minutes.

While Caroline Kennedy is maintaining her public silence about whether she wishes to succeed Senator Hillary Clinton, her uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, has been working behind the scenes on her behalf, according to Democratic aides. In recent days the Massachusetts senator has called Gov. David A. Paterson and Senator Charles E. Schumer, as well as Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who took over last month as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee when Mr. Schumer stepped down.

Mr. Kennedy’s message, according to Democratic aides who were not authorized to discuss the conversations, is that Ms. Kennedy — backed by the Kennedy family’s extensive fund-raising network — would have the wherewithal to run back-to-back costly statewide races without having to seek help from Mr. Paterson or Mr. Schumer.

I’m fed up with the rampant Baby Boomer sentimentality wrapped up in big money that passes for political representation these days.

And pardon my irreverence, but isn’t Teddy supposed to be ill? Didn’t we just have a big weepy virtual Irish wake for him? He certainly has enough energy to get on the batphone for Princess. The work of the good and the great is never, ever done…

Too nasty? Well, there was never a chance of my being invited to any Kennedy family functions anyway.

Updated: And Illinois governor Blagojevich goes down for wheeling and dealing the filling of Obama’s empty Senate seat.

He allegedly said a Senate seat would also provide him with corporate contacts if he needed a job and present an opportunity for his wife to work as a lobbyist. “I want to make money,” the affidavit quotes him as saying in one conversation.

Isn’t that the same carrot that the Kennedys are dangling in front of New York’s Democratic establishment? (Except, you know, in a legal way?)

Updated again: Now Kennedy and Paterson are denying they ever had any conversation about a senate seat. (Oh please. As if their people didn’t call our people.) It just shows how toxic the Blagojevich accusation is.

18 thoughts on “Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy (again)

  1. Phil

    Ok, but what qualities do we want in our US Senator anyway? We have three models: The national statesman (woman), Senator Pothole and the hybrid.

    The states(wo)man model is the HR Clinton, DP Moynihan, RF Kennedy type.
    The Senator Pothole type is the Jacob Javits, Al D’Amato type
    Our hyper-organized and ambitious Senator Schumer is the hybrid model–a little of both

    As they used to say, if you want a nuanced policy discussion on immigration, go see Moynihan. If you want a passport, go see D’Amato. The U.S. Senate is supposed to be a deliberative body, insulated from the need for incessant campaigning and focused on the big picture of our nation. As such, it is the place for thinkers and policy folk. So, eliminate the Senator Pothole model.

    Does anyone being discussed fit the bill for either a states(wo)man or hybrid? Cuomo seems to be a lot like Schumer–very bright, but whose ambition seems to outweigh all other character traits. He’s your classic hybrid model.

    None of the others mentioned seems to have any gravitas at all–Gillibrand, a one-term Rep. who is a Democrat, but barely. The dude in Congress from Buffalo–I can’t even remember his name. Nydia Velazquez–does she even know where upstate NY is located? Byron Brown–Mayor of Buffalo, with a control board doing all his work.

    Kennedy certainly has a name and the ability to self finance two very expensive campaigns. But when has she ever set foot into the public arena? She defiantly stayed away (something that made her distinctive amongst Kennedys, probably why there is a resevoir of goodwill now). But she is a legal scholar and she also has loads of Obama brownie points due to her campaign, VP selection and transition work. She’s the stateswoman type.

    It all boils down to Kennedy v. Cuomo (no, not the divorce again!). I’d say its “pick ’em”–money/charisma/Obama cred v. hard work/intelligence/ambition.

  2. Phil

    NYCO: do you think this may be what Teddy meant when he said in his 1980 Convention speech: “the dream will never die.”

  3. Phil

    P.S. Say what you will about the Kennedys, but having Teddy Kennedy in Congress for all these years is what drove almost every policy advancement for low income and working people–long, slow and arduous work, crafting compromises that continued to nudge the ball down the field. I only hope he lives to see the final push toward universal health care come to fruition. It may be boomer nostalgia to some, but it was progressive policy for all, an unwavering commitment to those less fortunate that drove Teddy Kennedy for his over 40 years in the Senate.

  4. JS

    There’s always (more than) two sides to crusading for the low income and working people…so I’m not going there. :)

    Lately it seems the illusion is slowly crumbling (being ripped off?) the veneer and fiction of the people deciding their representatives.

    The media and other commentators seem lately to have taken to saying, “Kennedy has the $30 million it will take “TO BUY” the senate seat”.

    It seems to me that this is a huge shift, from acknowledging the role that money plays in elections. Those observers seem to be admitting that political seats are now a commodity, to be bought and sold by those who can, just like yatchs or Aspen condos. Those without $30 million need not apply…so go away!

  5. Ellen

    I don’t know, I guess I’m just losing the narrative here. Reading too far ahead. I no longer believe in Santa Claus, free ponies, or the pure, statesmanlike magic of the Kennedy clan.

    “Change we can believe in.” Well, things are changing really fast for a lot of people in this country today. But the Kennedys, they never change. That’s what bothers me. They always get the same amount of ink and adulation no matter what they do — whether it’s sitting on boards as a career, or being hypocritical about wind farm siting, or snorting coke and crashing their sport planes into the sea, or whatever else it is that Kennedys do.

    I noticed Teddy has backed off from the media reports that he’s been making phone calls. I guess no one wants to be even remotely associated with Blagojevich’s possibly illegal behavior. Bad timing, that.

    Yes, Ted Kennedy was there at the creation of many of the advantages we’ve now lost. So I have to wonder if, since we’ve lost these advantages, the mighty Kennedys are really not all that powerful, so why should we appoint one — except for the election $$$?

    I’m not looking forward to the same old bullshit with the celebrity senator this time. The “listening tours,” the rote platitudes about “Upstate needs jobs,” the awed editorial boards getting hard-ons for how historic it is to be in her presence. You KNOW it’s not going to be any different this time. It’s just going to be another dog and pony show distraction from the actual political talent development problems of this region. I really rather would have Nydia Velazquez or Cuomo if it came to that. They would be far less of a distraction.

  6. Robinia

    I basically agree with the post. But, of course, it is a bit of a minority view, espoused by the nuanced and intellectual types who can’t stand reading the Style section of the NY Times, either.

    So, magnanimous individual that I am, I suggest that Paterson appoint Caroline NYS Princess, rather than Senator. Then, she could do all that stuff in your last paragraph of your comment above, but, they could be a tourist attraction instead of a governance distraction.

  7. Robinia

    They could even set up an election in a few years (for Princess), so that the Kennedys could spend all that dough on advertising and so on. Econ dev, you know.

  8. Josh S

    And the Illinois Governor debacle illustrates this all principle all too well (that we’ve moved from acknowledging that money plays a role in elections to money buys elections).

    I mean, if you can buy a senate seat for $30 million, why can’t you sell one to the highest bidder!!?!?!

  9. Josh S

    Meaning, if I had $30 million to spend on a NY Senate seat, and the governor sought appointments, why not just offer $15 million and save myself some money?!?!

    It’s as Robinia says, we’ve moved from capitalism/democracy to consumerism/corporate feudalism abetted by governments.

  10. Pingback: Vetting Caroline Kennedy « Still Racing In The Street

  11. KAZ

    I like Phil’s Three Models and think he’s quite correct. Kennedy, like it or not, is really a New Yorker, born and schooled (except for a hiatus at prep school and Harvard), with a JD from Columbia and a membership in the NY bar. The fact that she’s never been to the State Fair shouldn’t completely disqualify her. Yes, she would need to do a lot of homework, but I don’t see any indication that she’s not willing to do so. And like it or not, having a Princess as our junior senator, as we have for the past several years, puts NYS in the spotlight in a way that’s good for us.

    Part of my lack of antipathy toward Kennedy is that I have a strong visceral dislike for Cuomo, who is the kind of guy who’s always looking over your shoulder to see whether there’s someone more important behind you. Schumer’s the same way, really. I guess it’s a quality of hybrids. But she’d better improve with the media–parsing her words to the TV folks in Syracuse made her sound shockingly like Sarah Palin.

  12. Josh S

    What bothers me is the quote by the local power club guy, in describing Kennedy’s visit as, “we’re not seeking any publicity on this.” Between the lines, I hear: “leave us alone so that we can get Kennedy installed. We’ve obviously decided that she doesn’t need to speak to the press or to real people.”

    It is pure power behind the scenes, of men (and now women) in rooms with doors shut, giving the public the same old, same old: “We’ll talk to you when we want to talk to you. But don’t bother us or ask any questions until WE decide to…”.

    That’s why NY is broken, why people on boards like the OnCenter decide they don’t have to be subject to the cleansing public light of day, why people think they can sell Senate seats. It’s all connected.

    Why I won’t support Caroline Kennedy, then I guess has nothing to do with her, but rather because of the simple fact that she felt she didn’t have to head Upstate and actually talk to real people or even the press. That’s an inbred entitlement!! How many other prospective candidates enjoy the freedom to decide whether to make a public petition about seeking a public seat? How many others can activate a decades old power channel?

    At least I had a sense from Hilary, that she had and was going to go out and earn it by talking to the press, and to real people.

    Caroline is trying to fix the game before the public ever gets to watch it unfold.

  13. KAZ

    Hillary had to talk to the press and real people, because she was elected in a real election. The whole “appointment” thing means nobody has to do anything but rest on his or her laurels and hope for the call to come. I don’t think Josh should read more into this than is there. It’s a problem with the process, not the personality.

  14. Josh S

    That’s definitely the traditional, “conservative” assumption, KAZ.

    But process is personalities, and personalities, the process. She’s resting on her laurels, which happen to be much more comfortably connected than most other candidates.

    A real personality would have headed Upstate, taken the pulpit, and at least talked about how and why s/he felt most qualified to be appointed.

    You can bet anything, that had some form of publicity been necessary, the local power club guy would have been working and spending his way through the press.

    Instead, because of this quiet force of entitlement, this whole matter can be kept in the dark, out of public light, other than a short and quick speech from Patterson.

    Process is personality and vice versa. They are not separable.

  15. Josh S

    Meaning for Caroline Kennedy, it’s a direct line to the governor’s office and some backroom dealing. For you or me, and other candiates that have officially entered the “appointment” race, the best we’d have is YouTube.

  16. Ron R.

    amazing…caroline kennedy endorsed the change campaign and then turned around and seeks the appointment to senator, bypassing the votes of the people…..incredible

  17. Ron R.

    “silver spoon” politics??… least choose someone that at some time has sought to empower the rights of the people that will be represented through this appointment, to represent them…..Don’t you think that the next senator of NY should at a bare minimum….already established “legal representation of the people” by at least running for an elected office somewhere, sometime,?…..can we really think that someone that has never once asked the public to represent them be appointed to represent them by asking government officials?….I suppose that established “representation of the politics”…not representation of the people.

  18. Ron R.

    I wonder if Gov. Patterson would have even thought of Caroline Kennedy for the senate before she asked for it?….

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