Kirk or Dukakis?

by Jason Zengerle | September 23, 2009

The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi frames the choice of Ted Kennedy's interim replacement as "a test of Camelot's clout and Governor Deval Patrick's loyalties." The Kennedys, as has now been widely reported, want Patrick to pick Paul Kirk; Patrick reportedly favors Mike Dukakis. Although it's starting to sound like Kirk's a done deal, Vennochi tries to stoke an anti-Kennedy backlash:

Kennedy's wish for an interim replacement is being framed as a noble desire to retain two votes for Massachusetts, and especially to deliver a critical vote on health care legislation, in the US Senate.

It's also about keeping Kennedy's office staff in Washington as long as possible. Given the Kennedy staff reputation for excellence, there's nothing wrong with that goal and there's nothing terrible about choosing Kirk to carry it out. He's a good man for the interim job. But let's not overwrap it in Camelot's gauze. Pushing Kirk as the temporary bearer of the Kennedy torch is typical backroom politics. And, it's being done with typically sharp Kennedy elbows.

My guess is that anti-Kennedy sentiment, never that widespread in Massachusetts to begin with, is at an all-time low at the moment, so soon after Teddy's death. Which means that Patrick will ultimately bow to the Kennedy family's wishes and pick Kirk; after all, it is only a temporary appointment. But Vennocchi makes a compelling brief for a Senator Dukakis:

It's pathetic to read the whispers of unnamed party officials who suggest that "an independent streak" makes Dukakis unsuitable for Washington. It's sad to hear the 20-year-old jokes about a politician who left office to teach college students, not make millions in lobbyist fees; who walked away from elective office but stayed in the fight for public policy; who knows what he believes in and isn't afraid to state it; and who has a humble side, at odds with the over-inflated political ego that is a Washington staple.

And let's not forget that Dukakis, a renowned train enthusiast, would surely make great use of the Capitol Subway system. Give the Duke a chance!

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/kirk-or-dukakis