An inconvenient woman

Add Kevin Drum, Lindsay Beyerstein, and Steve Clemons to the "almost unanimous blogosphere consensus" (Drum's words) opposing the latest threat to the Republic: the possible appointment of Caroline Kennedy to the Senate seat being vacated by Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton. From listening to some of the more strident dissenting voices, you'd think we were going to have to fight the British all over again.

The reasoning behind the opposition varies somewhat, depending on who's doing the opposing: friends of Clinton who would view a Kennedy appointment as a "slap in the face," given Kennedy's support for Barack Obama (support welcomed and applauded by some of the same non-Hillary voting folks that would now just as soon see Kennedy disappear); activists angry that Kennedy didn't support the progressive cause du jour back in the day; pundits bemoaning the deleterious effects of "political dynasties," lumping Kennedys, Clintons, and Bushes alike into a single sinister subversive element, not unlike Cobra, SMERSH, or the Trilateral Commission. See Joe Klein for an example of such muddled thinking. Dynasty! Celebrity! Oh noes!

Seriously, when you find yourself on the same page as Klein - especially when it comes to what Democrats should do - you might want to check your assumptions.

A particularly troubling rationale among the Kennedy nay-sayers bears some scrutiny. Exhibit A, courtesy of Steve Clemons:
It seems hypocritical to on the one hand challenge Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's qualifications and readiness to have potentially assumed the presidency if something had happened to John McCain and if, of course, their ticket had won on November 4th and then on the other, say nothing about Caroline Kennedy's dearth of real policy and political experience to assume one of the most powerful offices in the country — even if a Senator is usually not as consequential as a President.
Never mind that Clemons partially invalidates his own criticism by the end of his statement; the disturbing thing is the amnesia at work here. It hasn't been so long since the general election that we should have forgotten that the issue with Sarah Palin was not merely her absence of experience, but her abundant and demonstrable disqualifications: most notably, an incuriosity that made George Bush look like a Rhodes scholar, and an opposition to serious thought on a wide range of national and world affairs. Any equation of Palin and Kennedy along these lines is strange reasoning indeed.

Perhaps Clemons preferred Palin's books on civil liberties and privacy rights to Kennedy's…oh, wait. Well, maybe Palin's work on funding public schools outshone Kennedy's…ah, right. But surely Palin's judgment and temperament were demonstrably equal to…oh, never mind.

I have to assume that Clemons knows better. Still, such wild comparisons and overstatements inform the mood of the "almost unanimous blogosphere consensus."

You'd think that if "political experience" was as important to some of these dissenters as they now claim, they would have voted for John McCain. But that was different, I guess.

I don't remember having ever seen this kind of contretemps involving what amounts to a caretaker Senate appointment. That we are seeing it now feels to me like a weird, delayed stress reaction: a backlash, however misplaced, against various high-level appointments made by Obama that may have displeased the progressive set. We'll show you! And by "you," we mean "somebody or other"! (Add: Perhaps it's an understandable case of PTSD after eight years of the Bush regime. As McCain once called us: "My fellow prisoners…")

At any rate: Too bad for Kennedy that she's in an inconvenient spot, eh?

It's possible that Kennedy could assuage some of the sturm und drang by, well, essentially campaigning. It's very odd that a (possible!) appointee would actually have to campaign, but that's the political mindset we have these days in Leftsville. When you're facing "observations" that range from "Cute little girl runs for Senate" to OJ Simpson comparisons (however oblique), it seems you have to work a little harder.

Add: Apparently we have just now discovered that political endorsements can result in consideration for political appointments. It's enough to make one clutch one's pearls and swoon.

There is a bout of holier-than-thou-ism making the rounds among the progressive set, and it's just weird.


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