Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Next Senator Clinton?

In today’s Post, Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac argue why New York Governor David Paterson should appoint Bill Clinton to the Senate seat being vacated by his wife. I, for one, am not sold on this notion one bit. As is, Clinton will undoubtedly be a big enough distraction but this appointment could easily elevate him even more as the chief Democratic obstructionist/critic of the incoming Obama Administration. The former President is an amazing spokesman for the progressive cause in most instances, but he's recently shown extremely poor judgement and a lack of class in everything from his attacks on Barack Obama during the primaries to his shady business dealings overseas. Yes, he needs to move on. He may not be very comfortable standing outside of the spotlight but he needs to get used to it.

An excerpt of the Meyer-Brysac column:
Doing so would spare the governor the agonizing dilemma of choosing from the 20 or so Democrats already named as contenders for the junior senator's seat… In this no-win competition, Paterson has to balance claims of gender, race, ethnicity and geography. He could wind up gaining one grateful ally while alienating not only all the losers but also millions of members of the disparate constituencies that each represents.

Hence the appeal of Bill Clinton. Who in his party could question so historic and dazzling a choice? In a stroke, the appointment would provide Sen. Clinton's indefatigable husband with a fitting day job, serve the interests of a state beset by a meltdown in its most vital economic sector and offer a refreshing reverse twist on a tradition whereby deceased male senators, representatives or governors are succeeded by their widows. It wouldn't be the first time an emeritus U.S. president was sent to Congress. In 1828, John Quincy Adams, like his father a prickly but principled chief executive, lost his bid for a second term to Andrew Jackson, the first populist Democrat. Two years later, Massachusetts voters elected Adams to the House of Representatives, where he served until 1848. "Old Man Eloquent" was renowned for his impassioned opposition to slavery, leading an eight-year fight to reverse a "gag rule" promoted by Southerners that required the automatic tabling of any petitions opposing slaveholding.

…Who better than Bill Clinton to deepen and energize such a tradition? Why shouldn't former presidents continue their political lives in Congress? The British have long benefited from a tradition whereby former prime ministers acquire a seat and voice in the House of Lords. In today's unusual circumstances, surely beyond the imagination of any novelist, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would not have to fret about suitable protocol for dealing with her spouse on foreign trips were he occupied, full time, with senatorial duties.

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