NYT's Goodnough Fails to See Cynical Motive in Kennedy Senate Request

<p>Five years after he successfully lobbied state legislators to change his state's law governing the filling of Senate vacancies, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy (D) now wants the law changed again.</p> <p>Kennedy successfully encouraged Democratic state legislators in 2004 to push through a change in the law in order to thwart the possibility of then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) appointing a Republican successor to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) should the latter win the presidential election. </p> <p>But rather than reporting Sen. Kennedy’s flip-flop as more partisan gamesmanship, the Times’s Abby Goodnough buried Kennedy’s role in the 2004 legislative drama in paragraph nine of her 17-paragraph <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/us/politics/21kennedy.html?hpw" target="_self">August 20 story</a>:</p><!--break--><blockquote dir="ltr" style="margin-right: 0px"> <p dir="ltr">Up until 2004, state law called for the governor to appoint a temporary replacement for a Senate seat that became vacant. But in that year, when Senator John Kerry, a Democrat, was running for president, the Democratic-controlled Legislature wanted to deny the governor at the time — Mitt Romney, a Republican — the power to name a replacement if Mr. Kerry won the presidency.</p> <p dir="ltr">In his letter, Mr. Kennedy, who has held his seat for 47 years, wrote that he supported the 2004 law, but he added, &quot;I also believe it is vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election.&quot;</p></blockquote> <p>As New York Times reporter <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/25/us/massachusetts-politicians-fight-ove... target="_self">Pam Belluck</a> noted in the June 25, 2004 edition:</p> <blockquote dir="ltr" style="margin-right: 0px"> <p dir="ltr">There is also the irony that Senator Kennedy, who urged state legislators to approve the special election bill, was himself once an indirect beneficiary of the state's appointment system. When John F. Kennedy left his Senate seat to become president in 1960, Gov. Foster Furcolo, a Democrat, appointed Benjamin Smith, a former college roommate of the president's, to fill the seat until Edward M. Kennedy could run in 1962. That prevented anyone else from making a name as a senator to compete with Mr. Kennedy.</p></blockquote> <p>In the same article, Belluck chronicled Bay State Democrats' principled-sounding arguments for a change in the Senate vacancy law, as well as a brass-knuckles political calculus that told a more complex story:</p> <blockquote dir="ltr" style="margin-right: 0px"> <p dir="ltr">Democrats say they are granting the citizens the right to vote, instead of having to accept a handpicked senator for any length of time.</p> <p dir="ltr">''This is an elected position, not an appointed position, and there's been a process that's evolved over a period of time where I believe the people should vote and voice their opinions in situations of significance,'' said the State Senate's president, Robert E. Travaglini.</p> <p dir="ltr">Massachusetts citizens might recognize that line of argument as the same reasoning used recently by Mr. Romney when he tried to get the courts to delay the start of same-sex marriage for two and a half years so the people could have a chance to vote on an amendment that would ban such marriages.</p> <p dir="ltr">But that is not the through-the-looking-glass aspect to the Senate seat debate. While the Democrats often portray themselves as the protectors of women and minorities, Mr. Romney and his aides have tried to seize that side of the argument. They have suggested that a ''shotgun election'' would hurt minorities and women because the governor would most likely appoint a member of a minority or a woman as an interim senator, but the Democrats likely to seek Mr. Kerry's seat are all white male Massachusetts congressmen.</p></blockquote> <p>By contrast, Goodnough merely took at face value Senator Kennedy's stated reason for his wish to reverse the 2004 law:</p> <blockquote dir="ltr" style="margin-right: 0px"> <p dir="ltr">In his letter, Mr. Kennedy, who has held his seat for 47 years, wrote that he supported the 2004 law, but he added, &quot;I also believe it is vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election.&quot;</p> <p dir="ltr">Mr. Kennedy also asked that Mr. Patrick &quot;obtain, as a condition of appointment of the interim Senator, an explicit personal commitment not to become a candidate in the special election.&quot;</p> <p dir="ltr">Although the letter was delivered to Mr. Patrick and legislative leaders on Tuesday, it was dated July 9. Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Senator Kennedy, said the senator had written it then, but did not send it until &quot;word began to leak out&quot; recently about &quot;quiet conversations that have been occurring about the law.&quot;</p> <p dir="ltr">&quot;He decided he needed to get the letter into the Governor’s and legislative leaders’ hands so that his position would be publicly known,&quot; Mr. Coley said in an e-mail.</p> <p dir="ltr">Asked why Senator Kennedy would not want a temporary appointee to run for his seat in the special election, Mr. Coley said he &quot;wanted to ensure that whomever received that appointment did not have any head start or advantage in the special election.&quot;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><i>Originally published at TimesWatch.org. </i></p> <!-- End Content -->

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters