Senate Shenanigans

My old supervisor and friend, Dan Howe, was made American Historian Laureate this year, by the New York Historical Society. I am grateful to have been associated with him and his excellent book, which is as much a guide to the present as a brilliant history of America. You should buy it, reader.

This history of New York took up a great deal of my life, and not in a burdensome way, when I was writing my doctorate. From the beginning, the Empire State has exceeded superlatives, and combined low methods with high hopes. The Empire city has in some ways insulated me to surprise. What has Al Franken, for instance, got on Senator 'Seven Mule' Barnum? Who would have won a bravura lying contest between Fernando Wood and Richard Nixon?

So the present controversy over Caroline Kennedy's attempt to take Hillary Clinton's vacant Senate seat is catnip to me. It really ought to chill the lovers of the Western world to know that an institution that makes the British House of Lords look even more sensible, meritocratic and representative than the Lords already are is about to provide the American President, Vice President, and Secretary of State. But I'm being warmed by the Louis-Napoleon carnival of silliness surrounding their replacements, and those of colleagues in the Senate.

The Constitution, as ever, is somewhat contradictory. Since 1913, Governors have been able to make 'recess appointments' should their states allow them to do so to fill out the remainder of a six-year term if a Senator moves on to better things or dies (and I mean the implied contradiction). New York, therefore, allows Governor Paterson to appoint a replacement to Hillary Clinton. He ought to replace her with Carolyn Maloney, whose real campaigning for women, and her constituents in general, as a Representative puts the batty blogger to shame. Governor Paterson is under heavy pressure, however, to allow a diminished band of Borgias who have been winnowed by excessive courage and corrupted by great wealth to keep a Senate seat in the family.

In Delaware, where the Vice-President elect, (Mad Jose/Marcus Aurelius Biden, late of this blog), kept a seat, dirty work is also ongoing at the crossroads. Delaware is, I think, the only American state with a court of chancery or at least a tradition thereof, and is very small. This means that it is a vast corporate centre where company taxes go to die. It requires a pliable but steady--sort of thermoplastic--hand on the tiller to look out for its interests. Mad Jose has therefore got his valet appointed to keep the seat warm for his son.

Chicago--well, let's not intrude on private grief. I have one observation, which is that, as time goes on, special humiliation seems to be being inflicted on former black panthers, as if to show them the substance of a world they made their peace with.

In Minnesota, an election is being contested. A comedian who used to write sketches for a Saturday evening programme and who played a fool in another programme has probably been elected by half a vote against a man whose supporters once called me a moonbat and implied that George Galloway was a thief. The lawyers are in, memorably claiming that 'lizard people' is a real person worthy of a vote in one submission.

The Senate and House, under the Constitution of the United States, are masters of their own membership, but (probably) could not order a new election in January if they so wish. They did so in 1974, in New Hampshire, because votes were disputed.

However, at the minute, the Senate are falling over themselves to embrace Joe Lieberman, delay a stimulus bill for the economy, argue about committee chairmanships, and serve out tenures which have seen arrests in toilets and the deaths of interns. Meanwhile, the budget deficit is climbing to a projected twelve trillion and the New Depression is approaching just as arcs of war catch flame across the world.

Who would want to be Barack Obama now?


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