Saturday, December 27, 2008

Politics as Comedy

An entirely new wrinkle has been introduced into politics with the entrance of Caroline Kennedy/Schlossberg into...what? Ordinarily, office-seekers campaign in a structured race to get the most votes by the electorate, but the electorate has no say in who the next senator from New York will be, since Senator Clinton’s replacement will not be elected but merely appointed by New York Governor David Paterson. So...there's no race for the seat and the only "crowd" to which an appeal must be made is just that one man. Kennedy, however, is making the stops and pushing the buttons in an effort, apparently, to manufacture so much pressure that the governor will be forced to make her an offer she can't refuse.

There's already enough pressure in that Paterson would be tempting fate and perhaps inviting the scorn of more than half the voters if he doesn't appoint a woman to the job, since a woman holds the seat now and political correctness must be observed. Someday, Paterson probably will run for the governorship, which he simply inherited a while back when former governor Elliot Spitzer was caught in hanky-panky with the ladies of the night. Obviously, he needs the distaff vote.

Six ladies from New York now hold House seats in Washington and would be likely choices, especially since Kennedy's governmental/political experience amounts to zilch minus, especially when compared to theirs. Or in the state, the likely appointee would be experienced Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who also was head of HUD in the Clinton administration for four years. Ironically, he was at one time married to a Kennedy cousin.

Adding a wrinkle to the wrinkle, though not as new a wrinkle, is the fact that Kennedy can use her huge wealth to buy just about anything, even a Washington political office, though folks like Mitt Romney discovered in 2007-08 that money can't buy everything...even a Washington political office.

Or, take the case of Bruce Lunsford of Kentucky. In 2003, a few years after serving as the head honcho of a company, Vencor, that went into bankruptcy, Lunsford, apparently having provided himself a golden parachute, decided to run for the governorship of Kentucky and entered the democrat primary race with a view toward buying the seat. He spent $7 million but somewhere his train ran off the tracks and he fell out with the party, switched sides, and opted to support the republican, Ernie Fletcher, who won the seat.

He decided to make the run again in 2007, dropped another $7 million on the project, made nice with his party...and lost in the primary to Steve Beshear, who won the seat. Not to worry, since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's seat was up for grabs this year. Yep...Lunsford went for it, won the primary, dropped another $5.5 million...and lost. Total expenditure to unsuccessfully buy a seat somewhere: $19.5 million.

About half of the 100 senators in Washington are millionaires, so Kennedy, Romney or Lunsford certainly would feel at home in the Senate, counting their money and casting the votes (accordingly?). Since maybe one percent of the population is made up of millionaires, it seems a bit unseemly for this deep differential to obtain. Half the senators are millionaires and they all are slated to make at least $174,040.40 per year, beginning in January. Add to that the salaries of the wives who work, probably most of them, and the senators might have a hard time grasping what the so-called "little guy" is facing these days.

In 2005, 28% of House members had million-dollar incomes (according to dissidentvoice.org and not much has changed), so the "people's house" is not hurting as much as the citizens' house and the reps get the same wages as the senators. Median family income in 2005 was $56,194, so the solons might do well not to inordinately criticize the nasty entrepreneurs who make too much. The lawmakers (just think of the expense accounts, great pensions, and the perks) have taken good care of themselves.

Obviously, Kennedy-Schlossberg doesn't need the money, has no experience in government, and is so naive or opportunistic that she runs for election when all that's at stake is an appointment. This is the kind of New York politics that sickens. Caroline's uncle, with little to do and wealthy enough not to have to work after leaving the Johnson administration, moved to New York and won the Senate. Hillary Clinton, with even less to do after hubby Bill was done and her White House digs were gone, moved to New York and went to the Senate. Robert Kennedy at least had had government experience as attorney general, but Clinton had none, as is the case with Caroline.

It's the celebrity thing, of course, coupled with the feminist attack on that monstrous "glass ceiling." As Father Pfleger might have it, Caroline is "entitled," as he sardonically similarly satirically ridiculed Hillary in the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright's church in Chicago, adding considerable body language to provide accent. Perhaps Pfleger should pull that act in a New York church vis-a-vis Caroline in behalf of getting Al Sharpton appointed. After all, it worked for Obamessiah.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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