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The Logic of Paul Kirk

In naming Paul Kirk, the former Democratic National Committee chair, to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) of Massachusetts followed the cardinal rule of Hippocratic politics: First, do no harm.

Patrick clearly learned from the experience of New York Gov. David Patterson (D), who turned the opportunity to name a replacement for Hillary Clinton into a political nightmare. Patterson made more enemies than friends in the process -- notably in the Kennedy family and in Obama circles -- by not picking Caroline Kennedy, and also by putting her through a very difficult process.

Kirk’s choice was obvious as soon as the Kennedy family endorsed him. Kirk is a likable man who managed to make many more friends than foes as party chair -- not an easy thing among Democrats, particularly in the ’80s, when things weren’t going altogether well for them.

The alternative choice was former Gov. Michael Dukakis (D). Dukakis has gotten an unfair rap. He was actually a very good governor. He is smart about health care. He’s fun to talk policy with -- for those who find talking about policy fun. He is a thoroughly decent and honest person.

But Dukakis has both great friends and fervent detractors in his state, and controversy still surrounds his governorship because he did a lot of tough things -- including courageous things -- when he was in office. Patrick would have gotten both cheers and boos if he had picked Dukakis. He got only cheers for Kirk, and the loudest were from the Kennedy family, which is not a bad thing if you want to get re-elected as governor of Massachusetts.

By E.J. Dionne  | September 24, 2009; 4:28 PM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Comments

So, bowing to cronyist pressure from the Kennedy family is a good thing? Just want to make sure we're clear on that.

What about being the best man or woman for the job? Isn't that a legitimate consideration? I think Patterson deserves kudos for standing on principle. He'll be punished for it, of course, but that's politics.

Posted by: ZZim | September 24, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

So, in order for him to be appointed, the Democrats had to change laws they put in place to keep a Republican from being appointed Senator back when Kerry was running for president. This is hypocrisy without limit and is why the mainstrean of America is growing more and more angry with our self serving politicians.

Posted by: DL13 | September 24, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

"the Democrats had to change laws they put in place to keep a Republican from being appointed Senator back when Kerry was running for president."

Well if they're going to ram an unwanted bill down our throats, they need a 60 senator majority. That is unless they push for reconciliation and violate the constitution. Honestly, the founding fathers would've revoked the citizenships and deported these criminals for what they are doing in Washington.

Posted by: axxionx12 | September 24, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Well, another elitist goes to work for the public. That's just great. Now we have elitists reserving spots from the grave for elite friends, and changing laws - even declaring a state of emergency - to make sure the rabble doesn't get a voice. THIS is the democrat party? You, Mr. Dionne, and the rest of your Democrat friends are a bunch of self-righteous, albeit vicious, frauds, claiming to be on the side of the "little people." Your enlightened selves are convinced that these "little people" are dupes who will fall for a free hand-out anytime, as long as they keep their noses out of the business of running a country and mind their manners with the liberal owners of this plantation, lest they become unruly mobs who dare to question.

I can hear you scornfully laughing from here.

Maybe one day your democrat scam will be seen for what it is: the most pathetic distortion and corruption of our democracy. We have arrived at a very sad time in the history of our country. And you, Mr. Dionne, as a journalist, should know better than to scrape and bow to political power. You are at once shameless and shameful.

Posted by: jpfannen | September 24, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

"Kirk’s choice was obvious as soon as the Kennedy family endorsed him."
Do the Kennedy's own this Senate seat? This is kind of bizarre when you consider we are in a Democracy.
Also, don't blame Governor Patterson for the Caroline Kennedy drama. He was right not to choose her. The woman would never have filled Hillary's seat!!

Posted by: paris1969 | September 24, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Changing the law to create an appointed rather than elected senator is a grotesque abuse of power. If the late Sen. Kennedy was so concerned about uninterrupted representation of the people of his state, why didn't he RESIGN when he found that he had terminal cancer ? This abuse of process by the political class is brazen, but its end will come more quickly than they imagine.

Posted by: dan1138 | September 24, 2009 11:18 PM | Report abuse

David PATERSON's name ONLY HAS ONE T.

Posted by: uh_huhh | September 25, 2009 5:07 AM | Report abuse

Yes, of course, EJ, let's not do anything to upset the Kennedys. On the contrary, I note that the Kennedys have never worried about upsetting anyone.

I'd like to hear how the the real people of MA feel about the family of a self-serving drunk being allowed to [basically] dictate which person to pick to fill their open United States Senator's seat? What a farce this is.

Posted by: flintston | September 25, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

jpfannen says: Well, another elitist goes to work for the public. That's just great. Now we have elitists reserving spots from the grave for elite friends, and changing laws - even declaring a state of emergency - to make sure the rabble doesn't get a voice.
---------------------------------------------
Here is exhibit A in making a case for how the right-wing in this country has duped some of the "rabble" that jpfannen mentions, including apparently, jpfannen him/herself. Who are the real "elitists" in this country? Is that term best used to describe those who have wealth and privilege, but commit themselves to the betterment of the lives of those who have the least? Or, should it be used to describe those who have wealth, privilege and power, and commit themselves to gaining ever more of it, and helping their peers do the same? The latter, are some of the same people and entities that are now spending millions of dollars propagandizing the "rabble" into rejecting health-care reform in the name of protecting their own huge profits. Yes, the true "elitists" are the corporatists who use their money to control the political process in order to keep the "rabble" in their place, and convince the more gullible among them that it's in their best interests.

Posted by: bienefes | September 25, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

This whole process has been a travesty and will do harm to health reform. Paul Kirk was a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company and until just this week a board member of Hartford Insurance. The process of selecting a Senator was completely corrupted in order to put an industry lobbyist in this seat.
The people who installed Mr Kirk were so afraid of public scrutiny that they didn't even dare float his name until about 48 hours before he was annointed, and then Mr Kirk counldn't be reached, and didn't return reporters' phone calls.
In other places people run for office: Mr Kirk ran and hid for the Senate.

Posted by: rsg67 | September 25, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Kirk followed the rule of "Hippocratic" politics? Shouldn't that be "Hypocritic" politics - the under-pinning of the system in Massachusetts? Change the law to have an election to deprive a Republican Governor of his power to appoint - then quickly move to change the law back when a Democrat Governor is deprived of the same power because they can't trust the people of Mass to make a correct decision. To steal a line from a former Senator - Massachusetts politics has the smell and shine of a rotten mackeral in the moonlight.

Posted by: Galasso | September 25, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Same old Politics: Obamba owes his presidency to the Kennedy Clan - which - means pay-back time and pressure on his old pal Deval, who also used Axlerod to craft his successful gov. campaign of, "Yes, we can!"

However, many claim Paul Kirk's resume is the best suited for the Massachusett's Senate appointment given the facts:

1. Pharmaceutical lobbying (Aventis) with sales that totalled $14Billion worldwide
2. Hartford Financials, the umbrella for The Hartford who provides senior health insurance
3. Owns Kirk & Associates Consulting firm
4. Career as a Democratic Lobbyist

Lastly, Kirk is a 71 year old white man with plenty of $$$$$. This surely qualifies him into the good old boys group as a Massachusett's Senator. Perhaps, he is holding the seat warm for one of the so called Kennedy clan. Remember that is what Teddie's father arranged for him. . .

Posted by: Cantabrigian | September 25, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

"Kirk’s choice was obvious as soon as the Kennedy family endorsed him."

Or was it a done deal BECAUSE the Kennedy family endorsed him?

Will all future Senators from MA need to be endorsed by the Kennedy Family?

Posted by: MDLaxer | September 25, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

In the name of accuracy it should be noted that the Legislature did not change the law back to what it was. Nor did they replace elections with appointments.

What they did was to keep the change passed in 2004 which called for election of a replacement and added an appointed candidate in the interim period until that election.

So what they replaced was a lack of representation with a temporary appointed Senator. On the merit that seems to be an improvement.

I liked Dukakis when he was governor,and expect he would have made a good pick. But the voters will get to decide if they like Patrick's pick in January when the new Senator is chosen and again when Patrick is up for reelection.

It is unlikely there will be negative reprecussions.

Posted by: beckerl | September 25, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"So, in order for him to be appointed, the Democrats had to change laws they put in place to keep a Republican from being appointed Senator back when Kerry was running for president. This is hypocrisy without limit and is why the mainstrean of America is growing more and more angry with our self serving politicians."

says DL13.


Nope, it is definitely not worse than the rank self righteous hypocrisy of the repubs. I have seen enough of it in the past 4 decades. I will take the sleaze of the dems any day over the bible thumping, flag waving, "family values", venal, craven thuggery from repubs.

One has to use every means available to keep these scumbags out of power. If it is unfair, tough luck. Figuratively speaking, when one is exterminating a vermin infestation, one does not apply the fairness principle.

And no, I am not a democrat.

Posted by: sandharm | September 25, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

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