Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hail the Fallen Lion

Ted Kennedy's death brings to a close one of the great careers in the Senate, one of the top ten all-time in both longevity and significance.

The Senate is an institution which is very resistant to change and to rapid results of any kind; repeated blows on the anvil are required to make anything of the hot metal piece coming from the forge. Teddy The Hammer was good at that--his legacy in the Senate is marked by consistency, persistence, and the other required element--certain re-election at will.

Kennedy had more than his share of sins to answer for: his penance was staying the course in the Senate and staying true to his causes, on which he represented his family's long-standing, orthodox liberal stances, and his resulting public image is large, gnarly, and sufficiently shiny, like one of those modern-day bronze sculptures with rough features.

Teddy was never quite at the level required for Presidential politics, as his disastrous 1980 campaign to take the nomination from Jimmy Carter showed.

As the untimely death of Mufaza in The Lion King brought danger to his heir and an unworthy immediate successor, there will be someone put into the position in haste, who will not last. The next Kennedy to occupy the seat will emerge sooner or later, we can be sure. Possibly Caroline, who seemed interested in Hillary's seat that was given to another? I think if she took the trouble to run for it, she could win, even if her residency in Massachusetts is questionable or non-existent: sort of a reverse Bobby Kennedy-into-the-Senate-from-NY maneuver.

My prediction just weeks ago that Kennedy and Robert Byrd would rise from their deathbeds to break cloture and secure the public option has, unfortunately, already been proved wrong. I still think their names will memorialize a piece of health-care reform legislation this year. The general thinking is that it will be the whole bill, though with the current thinking that only "reconciliation" bills on health care will get through the Senate this year (budget reconciliation, not at all reconciliations with Republicans), there may not be any single great bill, and it may be done piecemeal. I would still propose that Kennedy's name be featured on the section relating to the public option, which needs his beyond-the-grave support more than any other part.

1 comment:

Chin Shih Tang said...

The post-Kennedy Senate seat political battle has shaped up: the current law, passed by the MA state legislature when Mitt Romney was Governor and John Kerry was ossibly going to leave his seat to become President (so, sometime between January and November, 2004, to be sure), provides for a special election at a time determined by the Governor. Dem. Governor Deval Patrick has thus duly set the date for Jan. '010 (oh-ten), which is OK but will leave Kennedy's seat empty for crucial votes on health care and energy.

So, he's given his support for the legislature changing the law to allow him to appoint someone in the meantime until the Nov. '010 elections.

I'm OK with either decision by the elected representatives of MA: leave the law as it is, or change it.