Could the Caroline Kennedy bubble and bust have really been all about Bill? CBS reports that Bill Clinton’s name has come up again as a “caretaker” appointment to fill out the rest of Hillary Clinton’s term in the Senate, more than a month after the former President publicly declared himself disinterested in the job:
The former president is among several boldface names being touted as possible “caretakers” for New York’s Senate seat — people who would serve until the 2010 elections but wouldn’t be interested in running to keep the job.
As the process of picking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s replacement gets messier, the option may become increasingly attractive to Gov. David Paterson, who has sole authority to name a successor.
A big name like Bill Clinton or Democratic former Gov. Mario Cuomo could have an immediate impact for New York in the Senate while letting the large field of hopefuls duke it out in 2010, according to three Democratic Party advisers in New York and Washington who are close to the discussion with Paterson’s inner circle on this issue.
Two others in the party confirmed that Paterson is still considering the caretaker option. The advisers spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment.
A month ago, this sounded ridiculous. Now, after a couple of weeks of the Sweet Caroline Gushing Chorus and the inevitable embarrassment of Kennedy’s incompetent public campaign for the appointment, Bill looks like a much better option, at least by comparison. Note too the change of strategy this speculation suggests. Kennedy was pushed as a person who could win two back-to-back elections on the basis of her money and her name, and now Bill and other “caretaker” options are being floated for their supposed lack of desire to run for the seat outright.
Jazz Shaw, a New Yorker himself, isn’t buying it:
This choice, should it be made, would have to go down in history as one of the greatest examples of leaping out of the frying pan and into the fire. It’s difficult to even begin listing the reasons why this would be a terrible choice, even if President Clinton were interested in doing it. At the top of such a list would surely be the fact that New York, like the rest of the states, deserves two serious, dedicated Senators doing the state’s work in the upper chamber without derailing the entire process. Clinton would be an immediate distraction and sideshow, sucking all of the air out of the room and turning efforts at serious work into a media sideshow.
Also, one of the chief objections to Caroline Kennedy (among many) is that we really don’t need dynasties running our Federal government. Picking Clinton yet again for such an influential position would send exactly the wrong message. There is also a question of appearances of propriety. Do we really want someone in an influential Legislative position who is married to the Secretary of State? (A position which is a key role in the Executive Branch.) There are already questions swirling about Bill’s library contributions and other financial activity as they relate to Hillary’s assumed upcoming role in the State Department. Shall we compound those conflict-of-interest questions by putting her husband in the Senate?
I outlined specific objections to appointing Bill Clinton to the Senate in November, and those arguments remain just as valid:
How can any analysis of a plan to send Bill Clinton to Congress fail to mention his impeachment and trial in 1998? Whether one believes the impeachment and trial to be appropriate — and the impeachment was an impressively bipartisan affair — the fact is that Congress heavily penalized this president for transgressions that cost him his bar membership. Should Paterson overlook relatively clean alternatives to give an impeached former President a seat in that same body? The deliberate oversight of this rather large defect renders this little more than mindless cheerleading for the Clinton brand.
Furthermore, do the Democrats have anyone worthwhile not named Clinton? And do actual New Yorkers exist, or will the Empire State continue to import its Senators from Arkansas?
Beyond this, though, New Yorkers should object to the notion of a “caretaker” appointment. Would it make sense for New Yorkers to send someone to Washington that will reject the entire idea of standing before the voters for judgment on his or her record? That leaves two years without accountability for the appointee, which gives them free reign for all sorts of mischief. Paterson should not require a commitment from his appointee to run for the office on his/her own power in 2010 in the special election, but he shouldn’t select someone who categorically refuses to answer to New York constituents before getting the appointment, either.
New York has thousands of people with experience from which to choose for this appointment not named Kennedy, Clinton, or Cuomo, people who will see this as an opportunity to serve their state rather than their ego. Paterson should find one of those candidates and leave the celebrities and caretakers alone.