Thursday, January 22, 2009

 

Not-So-Sweet Caroline

Sen. Ted Kennedy has the health problems -- and had to be whisked away from President Obama's Inaugural luncheon Tuesday. Bednesday evening demonstrated that it's the fabled Kennedy dynasty that is actually in collapse.

Caroline Kennedy, Ted's niece and daughter of the former president, withdrew her name from consideration as the appointed successor to Hillary Clinton as New York's junior senator. This is nothing but a shock to the state's political class.

(Clearly, the Empire State got upset by all the attention Illinois was getting in having a dysfunction process in filling a vacant Senate seat.) She had been long-considered Gov. David Paterson's likely pick. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was strongly pushing for her, with his top aide having been working behind the scenes trying to push support. President Obama -- who Ted and Caroline endorsed right after his loss in the New Hampshire primary, giving his campaign an essential boost when it needed -- was said to be in her corner. Paterson himself made it clear he wanted someone with both name background and the ability to raise enough money to run consecutive elections (the appointee would have to run in 2010 to finish Clinton's unexpired term and then for a full term in 2012).

But one major cloud hung over the process -- the elephant in the room: Kennedy wasn't a good candidate. A media rollout in December was nothing short of a disaster. Far from displaying the trademark Kennedy eloquence and charisma, Caroline's pre-New Year's interviews were punctuated with "ums" and "you knows." She irritated a city and state dominated by Democrats by equivocating on whether she would support the Democratic candidate for mayor later this year. She thus looked like she was in the tank for her friend and quasi-mentor, independent Mayor Bloomberg. She hadn't even voted in several recent elections.

No wonder recent polls indicated a clear public mood shift away from Caroline toward yet another dynastic choice -- Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Yet while Kennedy's Senate withdrawal is somewhat shocking -- it shouldn't really be that much of a surprise. If anything she is rather symbolic of the current Kennedy clan. The name is not what it once was. Arguably, the Bush family may have eclipsed the Kennedys as the "First of First Families" -- having elected two presidents and a possible third in waiting (ex-Florida Gov. Jeb (who recently decided not to run for the Senate in 2010).

Caroline's cousin, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend had a disastrous run for Maryland governor in 2002 -- losing the office to a Republican in a state where the GOP hadn't been victorious in 20 years. The only member of the younger generation to have much electoral success in recent years is Teddy's son, Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

The fact that the new front-runner for the seat previously inhabited by the wife of former President Bill Clinton may be Andrew Cuomo -- son of former Gov. Mario -- shows that dynastic politics isn't completely dead yet. However, Caroline's stepping aside says that one particular dynsasty is running on fumes.

As mentioned a month ago, perhaps a trip overseas might be a good face-saving move?

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Loving the Veep

As an American, I'm proud that Barack Obama is my president. However, as a journalist and part-time comic, I am ecstatic beyond words that Joe Biden is vice-president. Thank you, Lord, oh thank you!!

Can you imagine how many international incidents he would initiate on one trip abroad had he -- as his equally gaffe-prone wife suggested this week -- been appointed secretary of state?

(As an aside, Obama will have to get a little bit of humor on these matters. But it's obvious he was trying to set an appropriate tone among White House staff on the first day. But, Joe Biden, a la Jason Sudekis -- God bless him!!! -- couldn't quite play along!)

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

 

The World Was Watching

All eyes on DC.

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Rev. Lowery Fires Folks Up

Michelle Malkin didn't like civil rights Old Schooler Joseph Lowery's closing remarks at the inaugural benediction.

In today's Post, I have a different take.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

 

New Day Rising

It's a special day in the United States of America.

I can't allow any instinctive partisanship or default cynicism to get in the way of recognizing the uniqueness of this moment. It's easy for us to become tired of all the racial "overcoming" talk that has dominated airwaves, newsprint and internet bandwidth over the last few days. The constant references to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have been fortunate to be part of the American story for 38 years (as of tomorrow, January 21st). As an immigrant, I was adopted by the greatest country in the world. Still, I came here as young West Indian born boy, with a British background, and still had to navigate the choppy, sloppy and sometimes treacherous waters of race in America. Fortunate as I was to have a mother who insisted on the importance of education -- a predominantly Catholic education, at that -- I benefited from basic tools that helped me navigate those waters. But I was not blind to the world around me.

Not everyone was blessed in that way. Legacies of slavery and Jim Crow created institutional barriers for many who otherwise looked like me -- and not just in the South. Not all of those barriers have been torn asunder on this day in 2009 -- hello? the public education system? -- and social inequities can still be seen all around us. These are, it should be noted, inequities built up as much from class as they are about race.

That all said, the inauguration of Barack Obama is a major leap forward for this great nation. No, he doesn't have the power to "cure" racism -- any more than a clergyman has the power to "cure" sin. But the invocation of both Lincoln and King in recent days isn't mere liberal media navel-gazing and talent for self-congratulation. It's a solid, honest reflection that two great men lost their lives, partly from an attempt to battle a deep wound midwived with America's founding.

And now, 220 years after George Washington became this nation's first president, a black man will take the oath of office to lead the country Washington helped found. And, that he is "black" by way of an African father who came to America as a student -- rather than being part of the "black American" 400 year lineage -- is of no matter. To the contrary, his background marks him as the man for the moment, with a heritage combining heartland and immigrant experience. He arrives to lead a country that is more racially and ethnically mixed than at any time. And, more than recent occupants of the office he is about to enter, he appears to be a man who is solidly aware of who he is, where he is and when he is.

Goodness knows there will be many times for policy and political disagreements with this new president. The dire challenges of the time will require earnest and heartfelt debate. But, those are put aside for now. I am optimistic that he is, a fundamentally good man (with a generous spirit who honors both trailblazing forebears and one-time rivals). I am proud to call him my president and thankful that I am able to watch his bold step into history today.

More Inauguration Day thoughts of mine can be found here and here.

UPDATE: My late afternoon thoughts can be seen here.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

 

Open Thread

It's MLK Day -- right before BHO Day! And, I've blown off the entire weekend without even putting down an Open Thread.

Feel free to share your hopes, dreams and nightmares about what total Democratic Party control of the federal government for the next four years (sorry, kids, the GOP ain't taking back Congress in 2010) means to you.

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