Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Conservative Viewpoint
- Will Caroline “Inherit”
NY Senate Seat?

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

In the fall of 1966, Sen. Bobby Kennedy (D-NY) paid a visit to our college campus in upstate New York. Those who gathered to meet him were captivated by his presence. The famous younger brother of the late President John Kennedy had been elected to the U. S. Senate in November 1964, one year after his brother’s assassination.

A continuing rift between Bobby and President Lyndon Johnson finally provoked Kennedy to resign as U. S. Attorney General in June, 1964. Only 38 years old, Kennedy was beginning to think about furthering his own place in history.

The senate seat in Bobby’s home state of Massachusetts formerly held by Jack was open. His brother Ted held that seat. But across the border in New York, incumbent Republican Senator Kenneth Keating was facing reelection in a year when controversial Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) was the party standard- bearer. He was no favorite of Bobby’s. In 1962 it was Keating who released photos to the press given to him by frustrated CIA personnel showing new missile launching pads in Cuba, just 90 miles off the Florida coast. The Kennedy’s saw this as meddling in crisis management, but more importantly worried about how voters would perceive their managing of the Cuban missile crisis. Bobby vowed revenge and this would be a perfect opportunity to extract it. He moved to New York and filed to run against his nemesis. In spite of Keating’s portrayal of Kennedy as an interloping carpetbagger from New England, it wasn’t enough to overcome President Johnson’s coattails and the Kennedy mystique.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) also proved you don’t have to be a New Yorker to be elected there. Being the wife of a former popular president with access to unlimited financial resources, she too changed her residency to New York and easily defeated Republican congressman Rick Lazio for the senate seat formerly held by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

President –elect Barack Obama has asked Clinton to serve as Secretary of State, and she has accepted. Her confirmation is certain. Later this month, New York Governor David Paterson will need to select someone to fill Clinton’s unexpired term. Enter Caroline Kennedy who has expressed her desire to become New York’s new junior Senator. She certainly has the right pedigree. Ms. Kennedy is the only surviving offspring of our late 35th president and a niece of New York’s former fallen senator. And, unlike her uncle Bobby and Sen. Clinton, Caroline is already a resident of New York.

There are however, several individuals who appear to be better qualified. Andrew Cuomo, the 51 year old former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton and the state’s current Attorney General is worthy of strong consideration. So, too, are six members of New York’s congressional delegation along with the mayor of Buffalo, all of whom have expressed interest. But if it comes down to who can raise the most money for the Democratic Party- Kennedy will get the nod.

In America, we tend to treat presidents like monarchs and members of congress as royalty. And if an aspirant is a member of a prominent political family, the electorate seems less concerned with qualifications than lineage.

There have been many political dynasties in our nation’s history in addition to the Kennedys of Massachusetts. Among them are the Longs of Louisiana, the Daleys of Illinois (Chicago), the Roosevelts of New York and the Tafts of Ohio.

President John Quincy Adams was the son of President John Adams. President George W. Bush is the son of President George H. W. Bush. Another son, Jeb, served as governor of Florida. He is contemplating a run for the U. S. Senate in 2010, possibly envisioning his own run for the White House.

Unfortunately for us, politics today is about money, power, prestige and access. Our founding fathers’ concept of part- time “servant” citizen legislators disappeared long ago. According to recent numbers available, members of the Senate today have a median income of $1.7 million. The members of the House have an average net worth of $746,000. One in four members in the House has an annual income at least a million dollars; in the senate, one in three. Contrast these numbers with the less than one percent of average Americans who earn a seven figure income. Our government has an identity problem: they no longer identify with us.

This brings us back to Caroline Kennedy; she is wealthy and has a rich and varied life. She and her family have many accomplishments. But Ms. Kennedy does not appear to have the passion, the temperament or the experience to hold the office of United States Senator.

In her recent New York Times interview, Kennedy continually dodged, showing little aptitude for addressing problems in the ailing banking and auto industries; nor for other issue oriented questions regarding the state of the union. Listening to her interview was painful. Kennedy struggled with responses, injecting one “you know” after another. Even the New York Times, the citadel of America’s liberal media, suggests she’s not Paterson’s best option to replace Sen. Clinton.

Ultimately it’s unlikely to be about experience. A Senator Caroline Kennedy will insure Democrats add millions to their coffers nationally, and Governor Paterson is under tremendous pressure from liberals across the nation to make it happen. Will he succumb to the left and end up playing the “name game,” or will he do what’s best for New York and the nation by choosing a more politically savvy and experienced individual? In a state steeped in the tradition of great theatre, we’ll have to wait for the final curtain.

It is funny how Democrat voters seem never to care about anything but the cult of personality. The poor are always ready to vote for those who inherited money and are outrageously rich. The only thing that the Democrats seem to care about is that the person has not themselves ever earned their money through actually producing something that they have to sell. Strange.

At least one interesting event has just happened. Drudge has a link reporting the latest poll that Cuomo is the choice of New York voters by more than 20% over Caroline. It will be interesting to see if that influences the corronation of Caroline in any way.


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