NBC Frets Over Filling Kennedy's 'Void,' Skips How He and Democrats Created It

With “Filling the VOID” as the on-screen heading, Monday's NBC Nightly News, without any consideration for how Massachusetts Democrats blocked the Governor's interim appointment power, fretted over the loss to Democrats of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat as a health care vote approaches. “Less than 48 hours after Ted Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery, the political reality of his vacant Senate seat has set in,” Chuck Todd warned.

Though you could argue Kennedy's plight left the seat empty all year so far, Todd explained: “Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick set January 19th, 2010 for the special election, leaving the potential for the seat to be vacant for five months. To avoid a lengthy vacancy, next week the Massachusetts legislature begins debating a change in the law to give the Governor the power to appoint an interim Senator, a power most Governors in other states already have. It was a wish Senator Kennedy himself and his family made known directly to Massachusetts' lawmakers.” Todd, however, failed to point out that in a crass 2004 political maneuver urged by Kennedy, Bay State Democrats changed the law so then-Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, could not replace John Kerry if he had won the presidency.

Todd proceeded to chafe over how “this Senate vacancy comes at a time when President Obama and Democrats are pondering different strategies to get a health care bill passed, making every single Democratic Senate seat crucial, something Ted Kennedy himself recognized.”

Really? Kennedy knew of his prognosis in plenty of time to announce his plan to resign at the end of 2008 and thus allow an election for his seat to be part of the regular November election last year so Massachusetts would have a new Senator as of early January 2009.

NewsBusters item from last week: “NBC Exploits Kennedy to Push ObamaCare: 'National Sorrow Has Created Political Momentum Before'”

From the Monday, August 31 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: We head now to the east to Washington and elsewhere to the continuing debate over health care reform and questions about what happens now that one of its longtime supporters, Senator Ted Kennedy, is gone. Also, what to do about that vacancy in the U.S. Senate. Our chief White House correspondent and political director Chuck Todd is with us tonight with details on how all of this is playing out these days. Chuck, good evening.

CHUCK TODD: Good evening, Brian. Well, look, it's no ordinary Senate vacancy. It's involving the Kennedys, it's the 60th Democratic Senate vote in the U.S. Senate, and it comes at a time where President Obama is desperately trying to get his health care bill passed immediately. All of this is ingredients for a high-stakes political drama. Less than 48 hours after Ted Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery, the political reality of his vacant Senate seat has set in.

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK: In addition to losing a great political leader and friend, his passing leaves a big gap in our congressional delegation.

TODD: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick set January 19th, 2010 for the special election, leaving the potential for the seat to be vacant for five months.

PATRICK: The Congress is debating some of the most historic and significant legislation in decades, bound to affect all of us for decades.

TODD: To avoid a lengthy vacancy, next week the Massachusetts legislature begins debating a change in the law to give the Governor the power to appoint an interim Senator, a power most Governors in other states already have. It was a wish Senator Kennedy himself and his family made known directly to Massachusetts' lawmakers. The Governor refused to get into the name game today, but did eliminate one candidate, the Senator's widow.

PATRICK: Mrs. Kennedy is not interested in the position.

TODD: Sunday, Ted Kennedy's best friend in the Senate, Chris Dodd, was talking up the possibility of a Senator Vicki Kennedy, saying: “We can certainly use her in the Senate but leave it up to her. She has a lot on her mind right now.” This Senate vacancy comes at a time when President Obama and Democrats are pondering different strategies to get a health care bill passed, making every single Democratic Senate seat crucial, something Ted Kennedy himself recognized.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY ON MEET THE PRESS: He wanted the vote protected during this critical moment.

TODD: As for the health care debate, prominent members of both parties are calling on President Obama to get more engaged.

SENATOR CHRIS DODD: Well, I think the President's got to decide in a sense that he has and step up and really frame this again for us, the leadership can do it.

TODD: And an unlikely adviser, former Senate Republican Senator Bob Dole, was even more direct.

BOB DOLE: He just ought to pick up the mantel of leadership and go with it. He is the President.

TODD: Brian, the President now has a stay-cation part of his vacation. He's back here at the White House, but he spent half a day working, half a day on the golf course. Brian?

WILLIAMS: Chuck Todd at the White House for us tonight. Chuck, thanks.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center