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The Rosett Report

The Banana Republic of New York

December 16th, 2008 - 12:05 am

When you’re done reading the Blagojevich complaint, with its attendant insights into Illinois politics, spare a thought for New York — where Caroline Kennedy wants a sit-down with Governor David Paterson, with the aim of claiming Hillary Clinton’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat.

Is there anything wrong with that picture?

Well, let’s imagine for a moment that it’s not New York State we’re talking about, but some province – call it the State of Banana — in some nameless republic rife with dynastic politics.

Here’s a sample of the politics:

Eight years ago, a Senate seat from the Banana State was won by the wife of a sitting president of the republic. That wife had never before resided in Banana State, but she bought a house there, campaigned with the aura and entourage accorded to a presidential spouse, and with one leap, winning her first elected office ever, she became a senator.

Riding a national political machine to re-election for a second term, that former first lady swiftly turned her Senate seat into a springboard for her own campaign for the presidency. She lost, but took a job in the new administration, leaving the governor of Banana State to appoint a replacement senator.

That governor was himself a replacement, due to the resignation of the elected governor, a crusading moralist caught in a prostitution scandal. As the replacement governor prepared to name a replacement senator, a former president’s daughter declared her interest in the Senate seat — which one of her uncles had won some 44 years earlier, and was using as a springboard for his own presidential run, after serving as attorney-general in his brother’s presidential administration. This former first daughter had recently worked on the campaign of the President-elect — an experience that awakened in her an appetite for politics –  but she had reached the age of 51 with no direct experience of her own in public office. Nonetheless, another of her uncles, also a senator, was ready to endorse her for this leap to the Senate. So was the mayor of Big Plum (the biggest city in Banana State), who on his own turf had just succeeded in scrapping a two-term limit so he could run for a third term — which he justified as a way of offering people a broader choice (namely, himself).

That’s how it works in Banana Republics. Whatever Caroline Kennedy’s native abilities, celebrity mantle and political connections, if she thinks this is a good way for things to work in New York State, that alone is reason to worry about her qualifications for the job.

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