Monday, December 29, 2008

Bill Clinton for Senate, not Caroline Kennedy

Let's do this dynasty thing right.

The seat is supposed to be passed down within the same family as the resigning politician. So, isn't Bill Clinton the obvious best choice?

And having a Senator with actual merit would be nice.

Being a famous woman who was sired by a president of the appropriate party shouldn't count.

I'm a resident of New York state. We unfairly get just two Senators -- the same as states with less than a tenth of our population -- so we have a particular need and ability to get first-rate people for the job. If Governor Paterson chooses an inadequate Senator, it'll be an outrage. 

Yet smart liberals like Michael Kinsley are making a dumb argument for Caroline Kennedy: hey, we already have lots of Senators who got the job purely through nepotism. Well, if that's true, then that's bad too!

Let's say we grant that the US has a lot of unqualified lawmakers who were appointed based on nepotism (though he all but admits his own examples don't really support this claim). That still doesn't explain why we should be complacent about this state of affairs.

The only thing we should worry about is trying to do the right thing in the future, since that's the only thing we can change. Critiquing what's happened in the past is a convenient way to dodge our actual responsibility.

The issue of the day isn't whether the Wisconsin plutocrat Herb Kohl should be a Senator; he already is. The issue we're facing now is whether Caroline Kennedy should become a Senator now.

I have no idea what her true convictions are -- does anyone? She's certainly had a lot of solid liberals in her family. But to assume she doesn't have her own distinctive views that might be quite different from any of them is belittling and shamelessly anti-feminist. Based on everything I've heard about her, it sounds like she's coasted through life lending her name to utterly uncontroversial causes ("patriotism, poetry and public service") that shed no light on her privately held ideology.

Finally, we have no idea if she has what it takes to succeed in national politics, and the fact that this is an appointment prevents anyone, including her, from knowing beforehand. (This point has been made before.) It's a rough, sometimes brutal business; most people probably couldn't stomach it. It might make you feel good to praise her as a thoroughly decent and competent human being, but that's just not enough. The question is whether she has what it takes to excel at this specific job, and I haven't seen anything to remotely suggest that she does.

SIDE NOTE: The blog post I linked to in the first sentence is headed "Chelsea for Senate," and it goes on to suggest either Chelsea or Bill. I changed it to just Bill because Chelsea would be unconstitutional -- too young.


Anonymous said...

I'm a resident of New York state. We unfairly get just two Senators -- the same as states with less than a tenth of our population -- so we have a particular need and ability to get first-rate people for the job.

No silly. You fairly get two senators, so that your state's population does not cause unjust representation issues.

Your number of representatives is based on population count, and this body is thought to represent the country. The Senate also handles foreign policy, and you wouldn't want any states unfairly influencing America's foreign policy, say, based on inflated populations of this state or that, right? (lol -- imagine where that would leave the whole of the country, particularly those who don't share the concerns of New York's population say...)

dbp said...

Bill Clinton has another couple of advantages not yet mentioned:

He might be the only Senator not nursing ambitions to be President someday, so he will stick with the job sans ulterior motives.

He could be a place-holder for HRC: Bill could resign if and when Hillary leaves the state dept. There would be no guarantee but a fair expectation that she could be re-appointed to the Senate.

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