No Damned Nonsense About Merit

It looks like New York Governor David Patterson is going to give in and make America’s Princess the next Senator of the state. Mrs. Schlossberg, whose résumé makes that of the present occupant of the Office of the President-Elect look statesmanlike, glides to what she must feel are her just desserts on the power of what she can deliver to the Governor: smoosh for 2010.

Nepotism has an amazingly long tradition in American politics. In the Senate, James D. Cameron succeeded his father, Simon Cameron as Senator from Pennsylvania; Harry F. Byrd, Jr. succeeded his father, Harry Flood Byrd as Senator from Virginia; Robert M. La Follette, Jr. succeeded his father, Robert M. La Follette as Senator from Wisconsin; Davis Elkins succeeded his father, Stephen B. Elkins as Senator from West Virginia; Ernest W. Gibson, Jr. succeeded his father Ernest W. Gibson as Senator from Vermont; Lincoln D. Chaffee succeeded his father, John H. Chaffee as Senator from Rhode Island. And of course, Robert Taft, Jr., Al Gore, Jr. and Russell Long followed their fathers into the Senate, though not immediately nor the same seat. Most remarkably, in 1941, the 87-year-old Andrew Jackson Houston was appointed to the Senate after the death of Morris Sheppard, 82 years after his father, Sam Houston, occupied the same Texas seat.

However, these were political families. The Kennedys, of course, are a famously (and ruthlessly) political family. The difference is that Mrs. Schlossberg was five years old when her worthy father was assassinated; afterwards her inexplicably iconic mother kept her and her brother far away from politics.

If Governor Patterson needed a Kennedy for the “carpetbagger” Senate seat (previous occupants: Robert F. Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Hillary Clinton), he could have gotten one with actual experience: Mrs. Schlossberg’s drug-addled bipolar maniac cousin from Rhode Island. Is there a Kennedy courtier who can explain all this? Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. is dead; is Ted Sorensen available?

Actually, what’s really sad is that with great and immediate challenges facing the nation, the Senate in the 111th Congress may include a lightweight from New York (America’s Princess), a old party hack from Illinois (Roland “Tombstone” Burris) and a comedian from Minnesota (Al “The Unspeakable” Franken). Clown time, but the joke’s on us.

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