Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 24, 2009

MEET THE NEW SENATOR.... This morning, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), acting on a new law approved this week by the state legislature, appointed Paul G. Kirk Jr. to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created by Ted Kennedy's death a month ago.

Patrick's decision reflects the expressed wishes of the Kennedy family. Indeed, there were reports this week that Victoria Kennedy, Edward Kennedy Jr., and Rep. Patrick Kennedy all encouraged the governor to select Kirk for the seat.

Kirk's ties to Ted Kennedy were strong and extended back many years. The newly-appointed senator served as a close aide to Kennedy in the 1970s, and became chairman of the Democratic National Committee in the late 1980s. Kirk, who is 71, is currently serving as the the chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation board of directors.

In the 100-seat body, Kirk will be the sixth appointed senator, joining Sens. George Lemieux (R-Fla.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

The NYT noted this morning, "Democrats in Washington and Massachusetts expressed enthusiasm for his candidacy, saying Mr. Kirk was familiar enough with Capitol Hill and Mr. Kennedy's priorities to seamlessly pick up where the senator left off."

It's a safe, smart pick, adding a seasoned voice to the Senate who, while lacking Kennedy's obvious influence, will vote as his old friend would have if he were still serving.

Kirk, who expects to be sworn in tomorrow, will remain in the Senate until January. Massachusetts will hold a special election on Jan. 19, at which point voters will elect a senator to fill the remaining years on Kennedy's term. Kirk made clear this morning that he will not be a candidate in that race.

Steve Benen 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Finally, some good news!

Posted by: Insanity on September 24, 2009 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

a little french roast toast to cap'n kirk, and i hope he brings fire in his belly, and a baseball bat to the clown car.

Posted by: neill on September 24, 2009 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Now will be the true test for Reid--if he can't keep the caucus together just for cloture on healthcare reform, then he will officially be 100% useless and the worst majority leader in the history of democracy, as opposed to being only 99.99% useless now.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on September 24, 2009 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

You somehow forgot to mention his ties to the insurance industry or the fact that he's a PHRMA lobbyist. Given the story in the Boston Herald today, that is an odd oversight.

Posted by: soullite on September 24, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

soullite: can you link to a source for that, please?

Posted by: Shade Tail on September 24, 2009 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

As a MA Democrat, this whole process was pretty pathetic -- we turned the laws of the state upside down and Gov. Patrick goes off and weakly rubber-stamps the Kennedy family's choice. Kirk will be a fine Senator for the time he's in and this gets us to 60 again. But this was a ridiculous game that just got played and Patrick's the big loser here as he comes off looking like the Kennedy family poodle.

Posted by: paul on September 24, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Sen. John Barasso of Wyoming was appointed after Craig Thomas died. He will be the senator for almost an entire 6 years since Thomas was diagnosed with leukemia shortly before his re-election and died a few months later.

Posted by: J Bean on September 24, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Cute that the fake-Democrat concern trolls are so quick to post. Paul Kirk and Michael Dukakis were the two obvious choices: policy wonks with interests in the right area, and with legislative experience. Dukakis as an actual legislator, but at the state level, and Kirk as an aide to Kennedy, but of course in the US Senate. I think the capper was that Kirk knows Kennedy's staff, and can function well with them for the few months he'll be senator. Massachusetts is better served if the interim senator doesn't have to start from scratch. Time enough for the elected senator who'll be in office the rest of the term to do that, come January.

But, hey, better MA-bashing story if it's portrayed as the Kennedys pushing him because he's their buddy, and Patrick meekly doing what he's told.

Posted by: Lis on September 24, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

I am trying to figure out how much I am annoyed with this move. On the one hand, it is clearly Calvinball. On the other hand, it expressly follows all the previous rules set forth in the Calvinball game to date. Clearly partisan, yes, but also within the confines of acceptable action. It certainly is no more offensive than mid-decade redistricting, nor any more anti-Democracy. In the end, I find myself solidly in the "meh" camp.

Posted by: socratic_me on September 24, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Any minute now there should be some Republican outrage about the politicization of the Senate.

Posted by: doc on September 24, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Lis, I assume I'm one of your "fake-Democrat" concern trolls.

I'm a lifelong MA Democrat and I can guarantee you that I'm to your left on just about any issue -- I've only voted for one Republican in my life (a sad vote for Bill Weld against the vile John Silber in 1994). I have had trouble with the way the Kennedys operate since the 1986 race to replace Tip O'Neill. Lots of good liberal Democrats lined up to run, but Joe Kennedy II swooped in, avoided most of the debates, and walked off with the seat. Now one of his sons is said to be eying the seat if Mike Capuano (who now holds it now) wins the special election for Senate. Joe does great work with Citizens Energy, but it's a huge relief that he decided not to run for the Senate himself --- sad to see that one of his sons thinks he's entitled to a seat in Congress as a birthright (and sad that the voters might just give it to hime).

The family kind of worked the system in 1961 to line up the seat for Ted in 1962 -- and it's hard to argue with how that turned out, but it still was an ugly backroom deal back then. Maybe this is how all political families operate -- this is the only one I get to see up close and the view isn't always pretty.

You can call me a concern troll if you want, but I think entitled dynasties are incompatible with democracy, even if they are solid on liberal causes.

Posted by: paul on September 24, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Joe did great work as a congressman, too, and was so wrapped up in his "entitlement" that at the end of the work day, you could call his office and have a fair-to-middling chance that he'd be the one who picked it up.

Yes, that was the district I was living in at the time. I'm sorry your guy didn't win--no, actually, I'm not. I remember the blithering idiocy about how he wasn't really responsible for Citizens Energy, that he was the dumb one and couldn't have come up with an idea like that, or made it work.

This is an appointment to fill Ted Kennedy's seat for a few months until we have a special election. Until the people vote, it's appropriate to have someone in that seat who will work to advance the agenda of the last guy that we elected to it. When we have the election in January, then the people--and not the Republican Party, or frothing-at-the-mouth Kennedy-haters, can decide who we want next.

As for the Calvinball reference above--in 2004, if Kerry had one, his successor would have been chosen by the guy who ran as a moderate to get elected, and then turned hard-right and was traveling around the country bashing Massachusetts in order to boost his standing with the GOP "base" for his own planned run. And that successor, under the old law, would not have been senator for a few months until there was a special election, but for two years. We'd have had a hard-right nut "representing" us, doing everything possible to undermine the state and the values and political ideas of its citizens.

The idea that we should have allowed that to happen--uh, sorry, no, we're not actually required to be patsies. The law they've passed now, the gov appoints a short-term placeholder and then we have a special election to fill the seat for the remainder of the term, is what they should have done then, but it's not like the GOP was trying to help come up with a good, fair, well-grounded solution.

And, gee, politicizing--what is it we're "politicizing" ? Oh, yeah, a political office. But, we must remember, it's not nice for Democrats, and especially liberal Democrats, to be forceful about pursuing political advantage, or to use their majority, or anything like that.

That's only allowed for Republicans.

Posted by: Lis on September 24, 2009 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

The people speak in Mass. ha

Posted by: zek202 on September 24, 2009 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Shade, I told you. The Boston Herald.

I can't do links, so you'll have to cut and paste.


Posted by: Soullite on September 24, 2009 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Good. Glad the Dems in MA ignored all the idiot pearl clutchers and got this done.

Posted by: Disputo on September 24, 2009 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Trivia question -- is this Senate now the record for the most appointed members?

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