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January 6, 2009
A Tale of Three Senate
Just a few months after winning a landslide victory that landed them the
White House and both houses of Congress, the Democrats have found
themselves knee-deep in complications and high drama involving not one,
not two, but three different U.S. Senate seats, all in blue states.
The three controversies are not only different from one another but
generally unique in recent political history. It appears that one has
been resolved, but the other two situations are likely to drag on well
after the new Congress actually convenes. At any rate, the party, and
the Chamber itself, should feel lucky that control of the Senate doesn't
hinge on any of this.
Oddly enough, a recount that has dragged out longer than Florida 2000
did may be the minimal headache of the three. In Minnesota, Al Franken
and Norm Coleman have entered their third month of challenge after
challenge in their recount battle.
As of this writing, it appears that Franken, the former Saturday
Night Live comedian, who was behind on Election Night, will emerge
victorious, pending any more legal challenges, of course. Minnesota's
Canvassing Board certified Franken the winner on Monday, with a 225-vote
lead, although Coleman is still planning an election contest and,
failing that, a lawsuit.
The Republican line since Election Day has been that Coleman won and
that Franken is "trying to steal" the election although I don't really
understand why. State law mandates a recount for elections within a
certain margin, which this one was. Coleman was never declared winner at
the time, and Franken exercised his legal right to a recount. How that
counts as "stealing" is beyond me. Both sides are attempting to use the
law to their advantage what's wrong with that?
At least no one involved in the Minnesota contest is facing criminal
charges, which is more than I can say for Illinois, where Gov. Rod
Blagojevich last week named Roland Burris to succeed President-elect
Obama in the Senate, despite an effort by his own party to impeach him
and threats to refuse to seat Burris.
Blago did so amidst a nauseating press conference during which he loudly
proclaimed his innocence. Then the proceedings hit yet another nadir
when Rep. Bobby Rush took the stage and implored the public and fellow
Democrats to avoid "lynching" the new senator, and all but accused
anyone opposing Burris's seating of being on par with segregationists.
It was clear, naked identity politics, argued in supremely bad faith,
and it would be offensive were it not so absurd. Is there anyone on the
planet who really believes that the Democrats oppose the appointment of
Burris not because he was appointed by a crooked governor, but because
they're racists who want to keep the Senate all-white? Blagojevich
certainly doesn't believe that, and I don't think Rush does either.
I had thought that throwing around casual references to lynching, and
comparing of political opponents to Bull Connor, was the sort of
bomb-throwing racial politics that had come to an end after last
November. Its to the credit of the Democratic leadership and to
President-elect Obama himself that none of them fell for it. That's
what makes the half-hearted conservative attempts to tie Obama and
Blagojevich so laughable. The display in that press conference was about
180 degrees away from everything our president-elect has stood for
throughout his career.
There's no alleged criminality involved in New York's Senate circus,
just an even bigger media frenzy than either of the other disputed
seats. That's because former First Daughter Caroline Kennedy has decided
that she wants Hillary Clinton's former seat, and despite having next to
no political experience and a skill in interviews reminiscent of Sarah
Palin, she appears the frontrunner, even though I've yet to hear
anything resembling a convincing argument that she belongs in the seat.
The strangest thing, the race seems to be like one of Saddam Hussein's
old sham elections the choice is between "Caroline Kennedy" and "Not
Caroline Kennedy." It's odd that in a huge state dominated by Democratic
officeholders, none have made a big play about wanting the seat. It's
been over a month since Hillary was picked as Secretary of State, and
I've yet to hear any viable alternative emerge.
Count me as against the pick. I'm sure she's a wonderful person and has
gone a good job with the various posts she's held. But she in no way is
deserving of a U.S. Senate seat. Picking her would open Democrats up to
every "limousine liberal elitist" charge there is, and besides, if she
wants the Senate seat so much she's free to run, in what should be a
lively Democratic primary, in four years.
After last year's marathon presidential election, perhaps its fitting
that we've gone into "overtime" on these three seats. But eventually, it
might be preferable to get back to the business of governing instead of
campaigning. Until the next cycle
starts, that is.
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