Commentary Magazine


Topic: Vicki Kennedy

Dukakis Won’t Be Senate Placeholder

Surprisingly enough, Michael Dukakis apparently doesn’t want to upend his schedule for the next few months to play placeholder for a bunch of Democratic Senate hopefuls. He waved off rumors that he’d accept a temporary appointment to the seat until a special election is convened, in an interview with WBZ-TV yesterday (h/t HotAir):

Former Gov. Michael Dukakis says he will not be a candidate for appointment as interim senator should Sen. John Kerry resign to accept appointment as Secretary of State.

In a brief State House interview Monday, Dukakis told WBZ-TV: “I’m headed for the West to teach,” alluding to his annual spring-semester teaching duties at UCLA.

“That’s a no,” said Dukakis in reference to a possible appointment by Gov. Deval Patrick to fill the seat until a special election can be held. Dukakis also said he had not been contacted by the governor’s office in regard to a possible appointment.

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Surprisingly enough, Michael Dukakis apparently doesn’t want to upend his schedule for the next few months to play placeholder for a bunch of Democratic Senate hopefuls. He waved off rumors that he’d accept a temporary appointment to the seat until a special election is convened, in an interview with WBZ-TV yesterday (h/t HotAir):

Former Gov. Michael Dukakis says he will not be a candidate for appointment as interim senator should Sen. John Kerry resign to accept appointment as Secretary of State.

In a brief State House interview Monday, Dukakis told WBZ-TV: “I’m headed for the West to teach,” alluding to his annual spring-semester teaching duties at UCLA.

“That’s a no,” said Dukakis in reference to a possible appointment by Gov. Deval Patrick to fill the seat until a special election can be held. Dukakis also said he had not been contacted by the governor’s office in regard to a possible appointment.

So who’s next on the list? Patrick said he won’t appoint anyone who wants to run in the special election, which limits the possibilities. Interestingly enough, Ted Kennedy’s widow Vicki Kennedy’s name is also being floated for a temporary role, despite speculation that she’d be a top potential candidate in the election. If that happens, we can either assume she won’t run or that that the Massachusetts Democratic Party is more nervous about competing with Scott Brown than it’s letting on and wants to give Kennedy an early boost.

Another interesting possibility is that Bay State Democrats could change the state law that prevents governors from appointing someone to finish out the departing senator’s term, though Dukakis rejected the idea:

Dukakis dismissed speculation that Beacon Hill Democrats might seek to once again change the succession law to allow the governor to appoint someone to fill out the remainder of Kerry’s term, which runs through 2014. The law was changed in 2004 as Kerry sought the presidency for fear that then-Gov. Mitt Romney would be able to make that coveted appointment.

Democrats could certainly do it, but that would create other problems for them. Senate seats rarely come up in Massachusetts, and if it looks like they aren’t giving candidates in their own party a fair chance then future recruitment could suffer.

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Dukakis May Be Tapped as Kerry Senate Replacement

The Hill reports that Governor Deval Patrick may appoint Michael Dukakis to Senator John Kerry’s seat if Kerry is nominated for secretary of state. Choosing Dukakis as a temporary placeholder until the special election isn’t a bad idea. He’s a trusted figure in state Democratic circles, and, even better, he doesn’t appear to have long-term ambitions for the seat. That’s a huge benefit since Patrick doesn’t want to appoint anyone who would run in the special election, according to The Hill

Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, may be headed back to the political spotlight as he’s considered a likely interim replacement for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

President Obama is set to tap Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of State, according to media reports.

This means Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) needs to find someone to fill Kerry’s seat until a special election can be held in the late spring or early summer. …

The Democratic primary for Kerry’s seat will be intense and Patrick is expected to tap someone as an interim replacement who would promise not to run in the special election.

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The Hill reports that Governor Deval Patrick may appoint Michael Dukakis to Senator John Kerry’s seat if Kerry is nominated for secretary of state. Choosing Dukakis as a temporary placeholder until the special election isn’t a bad idea. He’s a trusted figure in state Democratic circles, and, even better, he doesn’t appear to have long-term ambitions for the seat. That’s a huge benefit since Patrick doesn’t want to appoint anyone who would run in the special election, according to The Hill

Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, may be headed back to the political spotlight as he’s considered a likely interim replacement for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

President Obama is set to tap Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of State, according to media reports.

This means Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) needs to find someone to fill Kerry’s seat until a special election can be held in the late spring or early summer. …

The Democratic primary for Kerry’s seat will be intense and Patrick is expected to tap someone as an interim replacement who would promise not to run in the special election.

Should we read anything into the fact that Patrick isn’t appointing anyone who would run in the special election? He did the same thing after Ted Kennedy passed away and there was no heir apparent, but that was back when Scott Brown was just seen as a Republican state senator with no chance of competing seriously against the Massachusetts Democratic Party behemoth.

Things have obviously changed. Even after losing to Elizabeth Warren, Brown will still be a real contender in the special election if he decides to run. And there don’t appear to be any candidates on the Democratic short list that are as strong as Warren was. While Vicki Kennedy has the last name and marital history going for her, she’s never run for public office and it’s difficult to predict how she would fare in the spotlight. Appointing someone like Kennedy–or Rep. Ed Markey, another well-circulated name–before the special election would give these candidates a boost they could really use going into the race. Which is why it’s interesting that the governor is passing on the opportunity.

There is one intriguing possibility who isn’t included on many of the short lists, and that’s Deval Patrick. If he appointed himself, it could be seen as bad form. But if he appoints someone like Dukakis, who is not seen as a threat during the special election, then Patrick can still keep his options open for a possible bid.

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How Democrats Keep Their Bench Shallow

Though there has been no official announcement, it appears John Kerry will be nominated to serve as the next secretary of state. This isn’t surprising, and one of the reasons newspapers feel so confident reporting it is that there have been no other names mentioned seriously for the post since conventional wisdom solidified around Susan Rice and Kerry as the two main choices. (Earlier in the process there were indeed other names floated, but the same process that brought down Rice’s shot at the post elevated Kerry.)

The question, then, is not who will be nominated but why there isn’t any such question. One answer is that President Obama had a clear first choice–Rice–and never intended to use her understudy. Kerry’s name was bandied about as an easier way to flatter the longtime senator. Since Kerry was always the bridesmaid but never the bride, having been passed over for this position before, it would have seemed cruel to make him compete for second place. Like a football team that goes into a game with only two activated quarterbacks and then loses its starter, the second-string quarterback gets the ball without much fuss. But that raises another question, posed by Yochi Dreazen in the Washington Post: Why would the Democrats have so few options in the first place?

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Though there has been no official announcement, it appears John Kerry will be nominated to serve as the next secretary of state. This isn’t surprising, and one of the reasons newspapers feel so confident reporting it is that there have been no other names mentioned seriously for the post since conventional wisdom solidified around Susan Rice and Kerry as the two main choices. (Earlier in the process there were indeed other names floated, but the same process that brought down Rice’s shot at the post elevated Kerry.)

The question, then, is not who will be nominated but why there isn’t any such question. One answer is that President Obama had a clear first choice–Rice–and never intended to use her understudy. Kerry’s name was bandied about as an easier way to flatter the longtime senator. Since Kerry was always the bridesmaid but never the bride, having been passed over for this position before, it would have seemed cruel to make him compete for second place. Like a football team that goes into a game with only two activated quarterbacks and then loses its starter, the second-string quarterback gets the ball without much fuss. But that raises another question, posed by Yochi Dreazen in the Washington Post: Why would the Democrats have so few options in the first place?

It’s not terribly surprising that a political party that earns a reputation as disdainful of the military and its missions has trouble producing credible defense secretaries, as Dreazen notes when discussing the probable elevation of Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to run the Pentagon. But that does not answer the question about the weak bench at State. Indeed, you would think it would have the opposite effect: a generation of peacenik Democrats come of age would seem to be fertile ground for producing the kind of dealmaking bureaucrats who should be comfortable at Foggy Bottom, where vague terms like “engagement” and “smart power” represent a raison d’être.

This is a problem already in the process of working itself out, as Dreazen notes: the Democrats will (presumably) hold the White House for eight years now, training a new generation of diplomats and national security professionals. The party is also beginning to shake its aversion to the military, and so it has veterans in its civilian ranks as well.

Additionally, the Democrats seem to have realized that they have been hindering their party’s development for years now. Reports have centered on two possible interim replacements for Kerry should he be nominated: Michael Dukakis and Vicki Kennedy, Ted Kennedy’s widow. Either one would be expected to hold the seat until a special election can be held a few months later. This would enable Democrats to avoid what they have done in the past–actions that help explain how the Democratic Party could have such a shallow bench. In November, an election was held to replace the House seat long held by the ill-tempered and voluble Barney Frank. Now that a seat in Massachusetts had finally opened up, would the party use it to groom new talent? No, it would not. It would parachute in an inexperienced young Kennedy to close off the seat for what could be decades. (The state’s Democrats better hope Vicki Kennedy doesn’t get too comfortable in her interim seat, if she gets the nod, for that reason as well.)

Though it hasn’t been part of the discussion, Hillary Clinton’s nomination and service as secretary of state was evidence of the same problem. Having never served in elected office before Bill Clinton’s presidency, Hillary was handed a Senate seat upon moving out of the White House. Obama assumed Clinton would be less trouble to him abroad than in the Senate, where his initiatives would have to go through her. So rather than someone with foreign policy experience, Clinton was given the job. And now no one working for her at State will be elevated to take her place. Instead, it will be Kerry. And then Clinton will presumably run for president in 2016, when her party’s strategists are on record proposing that she run for the party’s nomination unopposed and simply be handed another title, at the expense of those with experience actually governing–in whose stead, should they win, would arise a new Democrat who would then get that same governing experience, and so on and so forth.

I don’t presume to speak for all the Democrats who keep being ignored by their party leadership in favor of generations of leadership by ruling family. They might not care, or they might enjoy serving a party run by an elite to which they will never belong. But they will probably also never be future secretaries of state or defense in Democratic presidential administrations.

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