***Caroline Kennedy - I've said it before and I'll say it again: NO. I like the Kennedy family in general. I especially like the Kennedy's who have served in public office. I'm not from New York, Massachusetts, or Rhode Island- all places represented in Congress at one time or another by a Kennedy, but I greatly respect their dedication to public service, and I quite frequently find myself in total agreement with policies they support (read: healthcare, education, equality). However, the idea that Caroline Kennedy can just walz in to New York and basically declare herself Senator is absurd. Is there precedent for this kind of stuff? Absolutely. Just look at the seat being held for Biden's son in Delaware or that was held for Edward Kennedy in Massachusetts after JFK's election as president. I'd say that ended up working out well for the nation given the enormous influence Senator Edward M. Kennedy has had on public policy in America. But that doesn't excuse the less than desirable way in which the seat was handed down to him.
Let me pause here and say that I have a great affinity for the British Monarchy, especially as castrated from power the Royal Family is presently. I appreciate the pomp and circumstance that goes into have a royal head of state and occasionally long for that level of pomposity here in the US. That being said, we don't have inhereted positions of power in America and I hope we never do. True, there have been occasional dynastic leanings from time to time. One need look no further than our current president. But the incidence of 'handing down' these positions seems to be growing more and more common. There is obviously the large and powerful Kennedy family, but also look at Senator Murkowski of Alaska (appointed by her father, the now-former governor), Al Gore (who took his father's senate seat), Chris Dodd (who took his father's senate seat), Lincoln Chaffee (who took his father's senate seat) or the siblings/cousins in Congress: the Diaz-Balart brothers, Sanchez sisters, Levin brothers, Udall cousins, etc. It seems to be getting a bit out of hand. And this isn't even including the wives of politicians who take their husband's seats.
All in all, there should never be a sense of entitlement to an elective office, even if a temporary replacement is being appointed. We live in a democratic republic. Let's not forget the first operative word in that phrase. Not even for a Kennedy.
*** Frank Rich in the NYT (SHEAm's paper of record)- Frequent readers (both of you out there... hello!) will know that I've ranted a few times about the whole Rick Warren flap with Obama. If you've been asleep the last month, Obama invited the head of a megachurch in California, who helped lead the charge to pass Prop 8, to give the invocation at his inauguration. Yes, behind the seal of the President.
I've gone through a few stages of emotions here. First just general outrage, especially since this is supposed to be the first 'pro-glbt' president. Then I moved into the more activist, 'let's make sure he knows this decision hurts' phase. Part of that was feeling rather dejected/taken for granted by the incoming administration. Following that little flirtatious with activism, I took a more long-term view shared by many in the 'community' that perhaps this wasn't so bad, and that while Obama was just showing that he's welcoming to all, he would still be sure to fight for some of our big ticket issues like workplace protection. Maybe. Hopefully. After all, if there's a good kinf of evangelical political activist, it's one like Warren who helps fight poverty and HIV/AIDS.
I let things go for a little while. Now, today I read Frank Rich's op-ed in the NYT and it has me thinking about the whole episode again, this time with a little less raw emotion and hopefully a little more long-looking maturity. I basically agree entirely with Rich's column, which has some interesting persepectives from openly gay Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson and others. I'll include some of the better quotes:
There’s no reason why Obama shouldn’t return the favor by inviting him to Washington. But there’s a difference between including Warren among the cacophony of voices weighing in on policy and anointing him as the inaugural’s de facto pope. You can’t blame V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and an early Obama booster, for feeling as if he’d been slapped in the face. “I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” he told The Times, but “we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most-watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he’s praying to is not the God that I know.”Warren, whose ego is no less than Obama’s, likes to advertise his “commitment to model civility in America.” But as Rachel Maddow of MSNBC reminded her audience, “comparing gay relationships to child abuse” is a “strange model of civility.” Less strange but equally hard to take is Warren’s defensive insistence that some of his best friends are the gays: His boasts of having “eaten dinner in gay homes” and loving Melissa Etheridge records will not protect any gay families’ civil rights.
Warren’s defamation of gay people illustrates why, as does our president-elect’s rationalization of it. When Obama defends Warren’s words by calling them an example of the “wide range of viewpoints” in a “diverse and noisy and opinionated” America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a “viewpoint” defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable.Like SHEAm, I encourage you to read the entire column. It's a good bit of perspective from someone who is not directly effected by this particular slap in the face, but why Obama's lack of civility toward any one community should be a warning to all those who supported him.
It is even more toxic in a year when that group has been marginalized and stripped of its rights by ballot initiatives fomenting precisely such fears. “You’ve got to give them hope” was the refrain of the pioneering 1970s gay politician Harvey Milk, so stunningly brought back to life by Sean Penn on screen this winter. Milk reminds us that hope has to mean action, not just words.
By the historical standards of presidential hubris, Obama’s disingenuous defense of his tone-deaf invitation to Warren is nonetheless a relatively tiny infraction. It’s no Bay of Pigs. But it does add an asterisk to the joyous inaugural of our first black president. It’s bizarre that Obama, of all people, would allow himself to be on the wrong side of this history.
***Rahm Emanuel is scheduled to resign from the House by the end of the week, per WaPo. Let's just hope this doesn't somehow, someway end up extending the Blago story. While the Gov doesn't get to appoint a replacement, he is in control of setting up the special election to replace Emanuel, something I'm sure he could find a way to sell...
***Update in Minn: According the unofficial counts by the two big papers in MN, Al Franken is up by only a mere 47 votes in the Minnesota recount debacle. They are now in the process of deciding which mistakenly rejected ballots are going to be counted. The state Supreme Court ordered the campaigns to find common ground and agree on which ones to count, but we all know that's never going to happen. Instead, it looks like local election boards will decide the contested ballots 1 by 1. This process has already been excruciating, and way longer than the 2000 insanity with the Presidential election (though this is preferable to SCOTUS' decision to just not count the ballots in 2000). There simply has to be a better way. While I generally hope that Franken was elected, this just looks like it's going to be a complete mess for whomever is eventually declared the victor.
***Slick Willy Auditions! Are you an aspiring actor? Maybe slightly overweight, white, and can throw a gentle southern accent? Then this is your lucky day. Posted on BizJournals (via DCist) is a story about open auditions being held for the part of President Bill Clinton in a 'non-political comedy' about ol' Bill an Monica called "The Blue Dress". While this seems like an insane joke, it's legit. There are several roles cast, but many seem to still be open, including the role for Al Gore, Kenneth Star, and others. Good luck if you go!
***DEAN is a Prophet- As you all know, Howard Dean should have been nominated and then elected President in 2004. Fact. But since he was sandbagged by the media, instead he took over the Democratic Party. Good for him, good for Democrats, and now it seems good for the country. While many were very skeptical of Dean's 50 state strategy (mainly of using DNC dollars to build the party in remote GOP places like the deep south or Montana, etc), it seems to have paid off. In addition to President Bush's enormous help to the Democrats by being a monumental fuck up, Dean's strategy laid the groundwork for the new Democratic Congress and now our incoming President. The Nation has a great piece on it here. I may post more about it later on.
That's all for now. Have some more coming up later on Transformers, Public Service, and maybe more on Dean...