Saturday, January 03, 2009

Senatorial musings

Some thoughts on the three as-yet undecided Senate seats:

Democrats should reverse course and seat Roland Burris as the senator from Illinois; Burris should announce that he will not run for reelection in 2010. For all the apparent strength of the case against Illinois governor Ron Balagojevich (D), he has not been convicted of anything (indeed, there is some chance that he will not be, given the difficulty of proving cases involving political favor-trading). There is, as far as I know, no suspicion of anything untoward in Burris' background, his relationship with the governor or his appointment. Despite the unsavory atmosphere surrounding the appointment, if he is willing to serve under a cloud (and he certainly appears to be), he should be seated.

Democrats should not attempt to seat Al Franken until the process of law has worked its way out in Minnesota. Although Franken has "surged" to a lead of more than 200 votes, that is still and infinitesimal margin. Norm Coleman (R.MN--although his term expires tomorrow) has said he will go to court, as is his right. The Senate--that is, the Democratic caucus--should stand aside and let Minnesota decide the race, as it is entitled to do under the Constitution.

In New York, the candidacy of Caroline Kennedy has been talked up and talked down and, as of the past twenty-four hours, talked up again. Attractive as she is, picking her could engender not only talk of elitism among Democrats (the GOP is desperate for ANY point of leverage), but conflict between Gov. David Paterson (D) and many powerful political figures in New York, in all likelihood without gaining him a reputation for independence that he could use when he has to run in 2010. New York has many qualified candidates. One of them is Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D.NY). A lifelong Republican until her husband was killed in a massacre on the Long Island Railroad, she became a Democrat when Republicans would not support gun control. She has been an effective legislator, she knows her way around Washington, she is not one of the state's powerful political families, she's a woman, and she's not from New York City--all points in her favor. Paterson could do a lot worse--for the nation, the state, the Democratic Party and himself--than to pick her.

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