Why a Paul Kirk appointment to the Senate would not be such a great idea

Joan Vennochi says exactly what I was just thinking:

If it’s Kirk, Patrick is picking a Kennedy foot soldier and political insider who is well-known inside Washington’s power circles — but is virtually unknown to Massachusetts voters. If it’s Kirk, Patrick is rejecting Michael S. Dukakis, who served three terms as governor of Massachusetts and won his party’s presidential nomination, fighting all the while for core Democratic values. The Dukakis loss to George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential race is an unpleasant reminder of Democratic failure. But it is also an example of Dukakis’s unwavering commitment to key Democratic principles, including health care reform. Dukakis’s wife, Kitty, was also an early and avid Patrick supporter, who stood behind his bid for governor when other Democrats wrote it off.

Either Dukakis or Kirk would no doubt vote the way the DC Dems want on most important issues.  Either of them would no doubt keep Senator Kennedy’s constituent services operation running to the best of their ability.  And I’m sure Paul Kirk (about whom, as I’ve already mentioned, I know very little) is a fine fellow and a good Democrat.  But Mike Dukakis has been elected by the people of Massachusetts to serve as their Governor three times.  They also voted for him to be their President.  Whereas Paul Kirk is pretty much a black hole to most MA residents.  If Kirk is appointed, most people in MA will say, “who?”  And then shrug their shoulders, secure in the knowledge that, once again, a backroom deal has been cut that makes a DC power broker even more powerful and that makes some other well-connected folks happy, but that doesn’t seem to have much to do with the people.

With the greatest respect to the Kennedy family, it is not up to them who gets the interim appointment.  It is up to the Governor to decide who would best serve the interests of the people of Massachusetts for the next few months.  That, after all, is what Senator Kennedy wanted.

I don’t even know if Mike Dukakis wants to be an interim Senator.  But if he does (and the fact that he’s filling out financial disclosure forms suggests that he’s interested), I’m hard pressed to see why Paul Kirk is a better choice.

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59 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I can't think of a more fitting tribute

    to Governor Dukakis than his appointment to this interim seat on the Senate. Dukakis served the citizens of Massachusetts well and, if the political chips fell differently, would have served the country well as president.

    Reward him for a long and distinguished career and a job well done.

  2. Anecdote tickler

    Just a few hours ago, one of my best friends told me that he had received approval for time off under the Family Medical Leave Act. I literally said, "Thank you Teddy Kennedy."

    Having said that, I am glad to have the Kennedy's suggestion on who they feel would best serve as the interim Senator. However, imho, it should have little bearing in the selection process. The choice belongs to the Governor.

    Too much of this dog and pony show has been about the NOW, Kennedy's legacy, health care reform and MA politics. This process would ideally be rendered with an eye on history. Will the process withstand the scrutiny of our progeny?

    As much as I care about ALL the isssues at hand, issues and causes that I have dedicated chunks of my life towards, the single most important principle that I hold dear is based on our Constitution and the rule of law.

    I hope the law that just passed can withstand the glaring vision of history. Please, lets remove the politics of the heart and let the Governor make an appointment, free and clear of undue influence.

  3. For what it's worth...

    ...Mr. Kirk is also a former DNC chairman, et alia.

  4. An wonderful analysis

    Leave it to you David to put this selection process in the perfect light.

    If it's not Dukakis, I'll be incredibly dissapointed.  I also have a bit of selfiness involved as well because I feel as though I missed out on seeing him as governor!  I was only 5 when he left office!

  5. Question to Everyone

    Why is Gov. Dukakis a painful reminder of past Democratic failures but Walter Mondale was an elder statesman when he was tapped to be Paul Wellstone's replacement after his untimely death?

    • i'm guessing here but I think

      because the campaign charges stuck (without merit) but they stuck; the tank helmet, Boston harbor waste, Willie Horton. They defined him as a bureaucratic loser and it stuck.  

      They've done worse to Carter.  

      GOP is great in opposition. Can't rule worth a shit but great in opposition.

      • Respectfully disagree

        The Boston Harbor issue certainly had merit.

        And put aside the Lee Atwater scaremongering, the Willie Horton furlough certainly wasn't a paradigm of great decision making.  

  6. Rather awkward isn't it?

    The media announced that the Kennedy family has asked the Governor to appoint Paul Kirk and Bd Chair of the Kennedy Library, a friend of the family and former DNC Chair.

    There has been a lot of discussion on the interim appointment legislation. Would it have made a difference to anyone in the discussion if we knew that Kennedy family had a friend of the family in mind?

    Many have expressed their opinion on an interim Senator, but isn't this different? Most of us understand that if we want anyone at all to listen to us we need, a compelling arguement, not just our name.

    Who wants to guess how this turns out?

  7. you may know Kirk and Dukakis better than I do

    I'm hard pressed to see why Paul Kirk is a better choice.

    but if you do not, then shouldn't we be exploring the reason for the recommendation before deciding its not the best choice for interim Senator?

    I'm sure Mike would be good and a more popular choice than Kirk.  It's conceivable Kirk could be more effective given his proximity to Kennedy and the DNC.  

  8. I gotta tell ya

    I was a fan of Ted, but I have a hard time understanding why the Kennedy FAMILY's wishes (What? Did they have an election? A caucus?) deserve any more than a passing mention.

    And as far as the political fallout, I don't think picking Kirk will enhance Deval's image with the voting public. In fact, if the Kennedy FAMILY wanted Kirk to get it, it would have been wiser to keep quiet about it.

    If, in fact, that is what happened.

  9. Misread

    While we may care who gets the appointment (though it's been my observation that there is largely ambivalence between these two guys, both of whom are lifelong champions of liberal causes and are likely to do exactly what we would have them do in Congress), most people don't.

    Vennochi is quite far off the mark on this one. Few people will know who their 4-month interim senator is, let alone care about the process that led to his appointment.

    David, when you say "DC power broker," are you referring to Kirk? All due respect, no one will see him that way. The takeaways on Kirk will be that he was Kennedy's friend, emceed his funeral, and is chairman of the JFK Library. And his kind, grandfatherly demeanor frankly does not mesh with the "DC power broker" label (unfair though that may be).

    And the news cycle will immediately transition to the special election. Who gets appointed will have no real effect on policy or politics. Some people think it might be "nice" for Dukakis to get it (sure, count me among them), but it's just not a big deal.

    • completely disagree

      The vast majority of this state knows who Dukakis is. A majority of them voted for him on more than one occasion and the guy ran for President not too long ago.

      You're right about Kirk. Most people don't know who he is and if he's appointed, it will mostly go unnoticed and, a year from now, most people in this state still probably won't know who he is. If anything, that's more the reason to appoint Dukakis. He has credibility in this state and a lot of nolstalgia. He'd be fine in DC and earn Patrick a decent day's press, instead of what will likely be scorn if he picks Kirk.  

      • If patricks looking for good press

        He would be unwise to enter what would be at least a week's press of "Snubbing the Kennedys". Any good will he would earn from nostalgic Dukakis loyalists (myself among them) would be far outweighed by the outrage in response to ignoring the wishes of massachusetts' favorite family. See: Paterson.

        Not saying it's right. Just calling it like it is.

        • So I guess it's better to be a spineless tool of the Kennedy family

          I disagree.  Patrick would get a lot of credit for being his own guy and not letting the Kennedy family lead him around by the nose.  The frantic leaking by various Kennedy sources saying they want Kirk reeks of entitlement and Patrick would be smart to stand up to them.

          • Agree to disagree

            You have more faith in the Massachusetts electorate than I.

            • I'm not the best source

              I have a love/hate thing with the Kennedys.  I love the service they've given to the state and nation through the years and I'm very much in line with their politics.  But we are not a monarchy -- and I resent the idea that we somehow have a royal family who get to decide who the next Senator should be.  Patrick should have told them to go pound sand and at least walked away with his dignity on this.

        • again, disagree

          Paterson got himself into trouble because he dragged the process out and handled it incompetently. If anything, people wanted Cuomo. As an example of Paterson's complete ineptitude, he would have probably lost his biggest challenge to a second term had he appointed Cuomo... and now he's likely to be replaced by him.  

          • well

            I think you've chosen the strawman in my argument. Paterson's fall was the result of a complex interplay of factors indeed.

            But I still think, if we're discussing the pure politics of gubernatorial appointment, that Patrick faces net negative reaction if he sets himself up as anti-Kennedy (a characterization that would be advanced by both his supporters ("he fought the politics of dynasty!" and detractors "he betrayed our lion!")). I don't think Patrick will see any net negative by choosing Kirk.

            Incidentally, I was right about Kirk being seen as a Kennedy confidant rather than a DC power broker: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09... And I would argue that voters being reminded that Deval and Kennedy were on the same team will work to Deval's benefit.

            • NYC has the DC view down pat

              not so much the electoral politics view of this decision for Patrick...

            • Better to be the Kennedy poodle?

              Why can't Patrick just make an appointment without making it a pro- or anti-Kennedy decision?  Does it really advance Patrick's political career to set himself up as the Kennedy family poodle?

        • So snubbing a lot of people (voters) is better

          than snubbing a wealthy family?  A lot of Dukakis people or supporters are the same people who worked tirelessly to get Deval Patrick elected. Does he really want to snub all those people?  He told them during the campaign how much they mattered and now he may make a decision which basically says, "You do not matter."  Massachusetts, which claims to be the most progressive state in the union, is really just a serfdom if you are correct.  

  10. Kirk dwelling in MA?

    I know it's not terribly relevent, but does Kirk live in Massachusetts?  Does he vote here?  

    Count me as another who believes Gov. Dukakis deserves the nod.  Kind of like the Red Sox bringing back Bill Buckner to throw out the fist pitch on Opening Day.  I thought it was a tremendous gesture by the Red Sox brass.  I'm hoping Gov. Patrick can do the same for Gov. Dukakis...

    • Bad pick

      Makes it look like a choice of politics and hackery no matter how committed Paul Kirk is to the cause. The fact that the family approved the placeholder smacks of Ben Smith's appointment in 62'. This just seems completely devoid of considering the best interests of the state or the will of the voters and erodes most of the fundamental arguments in favor of the interim appointment. I see this hurting Deval even further politically, hurting the Dem nominee, and hurting the leg.

      • Deval is the big loser here

        Really, this whole situation is sad.  Kirk may do great, but between the reversal by the legislature and the disgustingly crass way the Kennedys (including Patrick, who in RI, after all) publicly pushed Patrick to pick Kirk, this is just an embarrassing time to be a MA Democrat.  Biggest loser is Deval Patrick, who ends up looking like a Kennedy family finger puppet.

        Can there please be an anti-casino progressive Democrat to run against Patrick in the primary?

  11. Apparently a done deal...

    ...Huff Post is reporting that Paul Kirk is the pick.

  12. I know this is going to come down like a ton of bricks

    but this sure looks like a "Weekend at Bernie's" pick to me.

  13. Duke not Kirk

    IMHO  - Michael Dukakis has been elected by voters in Massachusetts and is a senior statesman. While I respect Paul Kirk's service to the Kennedy Family and the Democratic Party, Governor Dukaksi is the right choice for the interim appointment.

    Senator Kennedy's wishes were respected by the change in the law. Appointing Governor Dukakis will respect the voters choices over the years.

    • Who is Paul Kirk?

      The public reaction to Kirk will be "Who is Paul Kirk?" and "Oh, I guess the Kennedys do get whatever they want."  The fact that the Kennedy family pushed so publicly for Kirk and the fact that Patrick appears to have chosen Kirk just makes Patrick a huge loser in all this.  This is really such a sad spectacle.

  14. Don't you feel foolish David?

    Apparently it is up to the Kennedy family to decide who gets the interim appointment.

  15. pharmaceutical lobbyist

    Wasn't Paul Kirk a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry? That sounds like a terrible to choice to help decide the fate of healthcare legislation.

  16. I don't think Kirk is a bad choice ...

    but yes, I will feel bad for Dukakis.  He will handle the situation with class.  It would have been nice for him to get the appointment.

  17. via State House News, announcement tommorrow at 11:00


    11:00.....To announce the interim appointment to the United States Senate.....Room 157

  18. I prefer Dukakis,

    but the appointment is only for 3 months, barring delays caused by Republican legal maneuverings. Kirk is fine as an alternative, plus he knows the staff and workings of the Senatorial legislative side of it better than Dukakis. In the end, both are passionate about the same issues as Kennedy, and a reliable vote.

    • With a good staff

      and good political sense as Dukakis has, one does not need to know the "workings of the Senatorial legislative side."  Besides is it that much different than the Massachusetts legislature in which Dukakis served?  This whole Kirk knows the Senate stuff is just an excuse.  

  19. Ther only problem with this thread...

       It assumes Dukakis wanted the appointment...I have seen nothing to indicate he was hungry for a seatwarmer appointment for three months .

      I like the Duke a lot myself ,but I would just as soon have someone who is less well known for that healthcare vote,(because this IS what its really about)while the candidates are having their debate until the primary...If Dukakis would have been the appointment(apparently Kirk is a done deal now)the GOPers would have exploited all the old stuff from 88 ,creating a distraction from the campaigns.

  20. Re: insurance company ties. He is a Director of The Hartford


    Kirk is a member of the Board of Directors of The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., Rayonier, Incorporated and Cedar Shopping Centers, Inc. He served on the Board of Directors of ITT Corporation from 1989 - 1997 and Bradley Real Estate, Inc. from 1991 - 2000.

    They do not appear to provide health insurance, but one would have to imagine they are sympathetic to the concerns of their insurance industry brethren.

  21. How about Evelyn Murphy?

    I know, she's got her own baggage, but I think it would be interesting to say the least.

  22. I'm starting to wonder how much Patrick really wants to be re-elected....

    Ted Kennedy was a great senator, and we all miss him terribly. But come on, meaningful Kennedy influence in Massachusetts Democratic politics died with him. Why do we owe his sons - who don't live here - and his wife -- lovely woman, I'm sure, but someone who hasn't been exactly active in Massachusetts politics herself -- bupkes?

    Paul Kirk? Paul Kirk who?

    I'm sure he's a great guy who has forgotten more things about Kennedy family history than some of the younger generation of the family will ever know. Running the DNC isn't the easiest gig. Maybe some of the state committee Old Guard think this is a good choice. But Vennochi has hit the nail on the head here -- choosing Kirk would be a slap in the face not just for Dukakis personally. By extension, it would also be a slap in the face to the entire progressive wing of activists in and out of the party.

    Given how things are shaping up, Patrick is going to need the support of a broad range of party activists for fundraising, GOTV, etc., etc. Dukakis has worked his rear off for the Mass Democratic party for years in ways large and small -- going to town committee fundraisers, lending his name wherever it might be helpful, etc., etc. He's never been afraid of the gruntwork. He and Kitty worked tremendously hard for Patrick from the beginning. He's been here.

    Choosing Kirk strikes me as one of those symbolic things that will serve to further harden the image which Patrick has developed as being both a weak leader and tone-deaf -- and certainly not the breath of fresh air he promised to be in the 2006 campaign. It's going to be very hard to muster any real enthusiasm to either work for him or contribute funds at the rate this is going -- except that the alternatives are worse.  

    • Where's the anti-casino progressive for the primary?

      You're absolutely right about Patrick's tone-deafness -- it's incredibly disappointing to see how weak he comes off here.  As it stands now, Tim Cahill is the only one who can save Patrick from being a one-termer.

      But where is the progressive challenger to take on Patrick in the primary?  How about someone who's willing to take on the "gaming industry" and actually oppose casinos?  Or is there a law saying all candidates for governor in 2010 have to be pro-casino?

      • Progressive Challenger to Patrick?

        But where is the progressive challenger to take on Patrick in the primary?  How about someone who's willing to take on the "gaming industry" and actually oppose casinos?  Or is there a law saying all candidates for governor in 2010 have to be pro-casino?

        Patrick is the progressive in the race and just happens to be pro-resort casino along with any number of other progressive policy positions.

        As for "is there a law"  - try common sense. The state needs revenue. The argument that CT casino revenue is down is a laugh. I'm guessing that many of the programs cut in this last budget would be willing to accept resort casino revenue - even reduced casino revenue. What? oh yeah you have to have the revenue source before it can go down (or up).

  23. four words

    I told you so

  24. Hilarious

    David, you were foursquare behind having an appointment.

    But now, you choose to quibble with one of the likely choices.

    You see no problem here?

    • PS

      Paul Kirk served honorably as national party chair and would be a fine choice, as would Michael Dukakis.

    • Nope.

      Perhaps you'd like to explain it to me.

      • and to the rest of us?

        I support the emergency-appointment process. So, suddenly I can't have an opinion about who is chosen?

        Okay, then I suppose:

        --If you ever vote for someone for anything, no criticizing anything they do!

        --If you are a Red Sox fan, you can't carp when they lose a game!

        --If you support allowing 18-year-olds to vote (they didn't always have the franchise), you have no basis to disagree with how any teenager votes!

        --If you support democracy, no complaints about our elected legislature!

        Got it, thanks!

        • None of those equate to this

          You (apparently) preferred executive fiat to the people's choice. So then, I say, your grounds for complaint are severely limited.

      • If you advocate an appointment, then

        You advocate giving the choice to one person.

        Ergo, you forfeit your right to complain.

        Scratch that, not your right, that is eternal. Your rationale, let's go with.

        • Well, obviously I don't see it that way.

          But it's kind of a moot point now, so it's not really worth discussing further.

  25. If you recall the memorial service for Kennedy...

    ... and the moving, and awesome, tribute that his staffers (past and present) paid together on the steps of the capital building...

    Why is this important: Kennedy built one of the best and most dedicated staffs in the history of the Senate.  Ted Kennedy owned one of the best networks in the one town where network is everything.  This is a resource not to be pissed away

    For that reason, and that reason alone, I'll go with Kirk, who knows the network already and can make the best use of it.

    Bonus points: the Herald already had front page mud for Kirk. Anything that gets the Heralds panties in a bunch is probably the right thing.

    Also, has anyone ASKED Dukakis?  What if he says no...?  

    • $quot;has anyone ASKED Dukakis?$quot;

      As I said in the post, I don't know that he's interested.  But there are many reports to the effect that he's filling out financial disclosure forms.  One doesn't do that just for fun.

  26. A different perspective

    I was also hoping that it would be Dukakis for many of the reasons stated above, but one of the key reasons for choosing Kirk may be for constituent services.

    Either Dukakis or Kirk is likely to vote the same way on the major issues, but if Kirk is as intimately familiar with the Kennedy staff as we have been led to believe, then maybe this is the best choice to ensure some continuity in the day-to-day responsibilities of the office.

    This was, after all, the primary argument behind the "We Need Two" campaign, wasn't it?  

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