January
4th 2009
Senate appointments: Well now, isn’t that “spayshul?”

Posted under: American history, class, Gender, jobs, local news, nepotism, race

Well now, isn't that spayshul?

UPDATED BELOW

Now that the Democrats have proved to be infected with cronyism and cowed by celebrity, what do we need Republicans for?  How I long for those days of 2002-2006, when Dems could pretend that all of the problems in our political system were the fault of Republicans….good times, good times, indeed. 

Well, I hate to be the one to break it to those of you outside of Colorado, but our dear Governor Bill Ritter has decided to bestow his gift of a spayshul U.S. Senate appointment on Denver Public Schools chief Michael Bennet!

((crickets chirping))

What do you mean, you’ve never heard of him?  Well, he was briefly listed as a supposed finalist for Secretary of Education in the Obama administration, although he’s been head of DPS for only three years, and those three years constitute the sum total of his experience in education. 

He’s very well-connected, especially outside of Colorado.  He’s the son of Douglas Bennet, a former president of Wesleyan University and president of National Public Radio–funnily enough, Bennet is a graduate of Wesleyan University!  After graduating from Yale Law School in 1993, he found a job in the Bill Clinton administration–the same administration that appointed his father an assistant Secretary of State!  He worked for a just a few years in the Clinton Justice Department before moving to Colorado–where without any experience at all, and although “he couldn’t find his way through an income statement,” he was hired by Right-wing billionaire Phil Anschutz in 1997 to work for his “investment team,” which made Bennet a multi-millionaire himself.  That appears to be Bennet’s longest-held job, as he worked for Anschutz for six years before becoming (fellow Wesleyan-grad!) Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff in 2003.  He worked for Hick for 2 years, before talking the mayor into appointing him the head of Denver Public Schools in 2005–despite never having had a lick of experience in education!  But, Bennet has learned well that career educrats rarely stick around more than three or four years–sticking around means being accountable for your decisions and “reforms,” whereas there’s a lot more flash and a lot more cash in delivering the appearance of a reformer, making a big media splash, and moving on before the chips fall.  It goes without saying that Bennet’s actual political views and positions on the issues are a mystery to everyone but the Governor. 

The media coverage of Bennet has been flattering in the extreme.  Says the Denver Post:  “He has been a lawyer, businessman, city official and urban school superintendent. In every position, he has succeeded — even when it appeared as if he had no qualifications.”  (Maybe because he rarely sticks with a job for more than a few years?  How can one “excel” at anything beyond self-promotion and public relations with such a peripatetic professional track record?)  His one talent appears to be sniffing out and cultivating people who can help his career–in this, he rivals Condoleeza Rice as a master courtier.  (Thank goodness for Daddy’s connections and the Old School Ties, eh?  At least Rice is truly a self-made woman–she didn’t have an important Daddy to smooth the way for her.)  It must be really nice to be a rich, straight, white man–gosh darn it, we just don’t have enough of them in the U.S. Senate!

Bennet’s appointment is a big F.U. from the Governor to the Democratic Party and the people of Colorado.  (When the previous Republican Governor Bill Owens floated the notion of installing one of his similarly-connected and lightly-credentialed cronies as President of Baa Ram U. in 2003, Dems across the state rightfully went nuts.  How is the Bennet spayshul appointment different?)  If all the Governor was looking for was a gadfly with a tony liberal arts degree and an Ivy-League postgraduate degree, he could have appointed Historiann!  Your loss, Colorado!  (And now, the night of the long knives in the Colorado Democratic Party begins…)

One commenter at ColoradoPols.com got it exactly right:  Bennet is Colorado’s Caroline Kennedy, minus the super-stardom.  Speaking of Kennedy–more spayshul treatment for her at NYC’s Department of Education:  “Like it or not, roughly 7,000 employees of New York City file 32-page disclosure forms each year divulging personal information about their family finances in an effort to bolster confidence in open government.  But when Caroline Kennedy was employed by the city Department of Education from 2002 to 2004, as the chief executive of the Office of Strategic Partnerships, she was not required to file, even though two people who worked for her had to disclose information about their finances.” 

Let’s see–she’s shockingly inarticulate, she won’t promise to support the next Democratic candidate for New York mayor, and hasn’t even bothered to vote regularly.  Tell me again why she’s being considered seriously for a spayshul U.S. Senate appointment?  And, sorry Lisa Belkin–Kennedy is not like every other middle-aged mommy trying to opt-in again.  She never worked as an attorney–or as anything except as a volunteer fundraiser.  Unlike other women who have taken time out in their careers, she’s never paid her dues, professionally or politically.  Most women who have worked and taken time out to raise children are just looking to find a job and try work their way up again–they don’t expect to be appointed to the U.S. Senate.

UPDATE, 1/5/09:  David Sirota wrote on this yesterday too in “The Unknown Aristocrat,” and also had a discussion of the Bennet appointment last Friday before it was official in “Colorado & the Golden Age of Political Aristocracy.”  My bad for missing the earlier post.  Sirota is entirely right in these posts, although he claims to be shocked, shocked to see that aristocracy has survived and even thrived in the dawning of the new Obama era:  “What’s confusing, of course, is that we just experienced a presidential election that saw the first African American elected to the White House – an election that seemed to reaffirm the meritocratic myth that ‘anyone can be president’ as long as they are qualified. Somehow, we are being simultaneously taught that lesson while also being taught the opposite about U.S. Senate seats.” 

Um, it’s not confusing to anyone who actually paid attention to what Obama said and did in the past eighteen months, but I grant you that it must be terribly, terribly disorienting for those who turned Obama into a Hologram of their progressive fantasies.  Remember the big (partial) Kennedy-family endorsement of Obama before Super Tuesday?  Did the family renounce their inherited privilege and ask people not to listen to them any more just because they were born connected?  I think not.  Click here my darlings, if you want to be reminded of my astute prescience!

9 Comments »

9 Responses to “Senate appointments: Well now, isn’t that “spayshul?””

  1. Mikail on 05 Jan 2009 at 3:00 am #

    Thank you for the work on this. I have forwarded your take on Bennett to a few of my politico friends.

    Can’t say I’m surprised on the Bennett decision, but I do think the democrats are going to be facing the consequences of their hubris soon. They are practically writing the Republican comeback story.

  2. Historiann on 05 Jan 2009 at 6:55 am #

    Thanks, Mikail–I can’t believe that I and the people at ColoradoPols.com the only people disappointed by this strange pick. You’ve got it exactly right: they are writing the Republican comeback. The R bench is a little thin and shopworn now after Shaffer’s shellacking this fall, but for cripessakes–they’ve got some men who could run a convincing populist campaign in 2010 against the lightweight carpetbagger Ivy-Leaguer.

    Bennet’s big “achievement” is that he shut down a school that served poor black and brown kids. What a big man!

  3. Kennedy and aristocracy, Palin and motherhood, and the “trashing” of Hillary Clinton : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 05 Jan 2009 at 10:16 am #

    [...] Speaking of American aristocracy and connections, go read Tina Brown on Caroline Kennedy.  “Why now?” seems to be the question everyone is asking, and Kennedy has been utterly ineffectual in answering that question with her Upper East Side-inflected, dispassionate Locust Valley Lockjaw.  It’s all about class, baby: I  have my own theory of why Caroline wants it—or, at least, why she suddenly emerged from her Upper East Side walk-in closet after 51 years. [...]

  4. cgeye on 14 Jan 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    God. Damn.

    http://tinyurl.com/9yjy9y

    “Colorado’s governor asked the public to suggest candidates to fill a U.S. Senate seat, and thousands replied by e-mail.

    However, it’s unclear whether Gov. Bill Ritter seriously considered many of them.

    In hundreds of e-mails released by Ritter’s office, Coloradans proposed dozens of people to fill the job of Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar, who has been tapped to become U.S. interior secretary.

    Suggestions included state lawmakers, sitting and former U.S. House members, favorite relatives and a football star.

    Not one of the e-mails made public through an open records request suggested the man chosen by Ritter: Denver Public Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet.

    Ritter, a Democrat, announced Jan. 3 he would appoint Bennet, a millionaire lawyer-turned-educator who advised President-elect Barack Obama on education policy. Bennet and Ritter then took a seven-city tour of Colorado to introduce Bennet to voters.

    Some Democratic party insiders are scratching their heads over Ritter’s pick to serve the remaining two years of Salazar’s term.

    “We’ve been just totally caught off guard,” said Tonia Gurnea, chairwoman of the Montezuma County Democratic Party. In an e-mail to an address Ritter set up to field suggestions, Gurnea picked former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

    “It was kind of discombobulating” when Ritter chose Bennet, who has not held elective office, Gurnea said. “We thought we had this line of people and we took the time to look at them and think about it, and then out of the blue came this guy.”

    Ritter’s suggest-a-senator address received some 3,300 e-mails.

    Only about 10 percent of them were made public because of a state legal conclusion that the e-mails were job recommendations and therefore not subject to public review. Those made public came from folks who agreed to have them released.

    Of that group, the largest number of people wanted Romanoff, followed by Colorado Springs Schools Superintendent Mike Miles, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Senate nomination in 2004″

    If Mike Miles can put up with the bullshit of another campaign, I’ll vote for him, just like I did last time.

  5. Historiann on 14 Jan 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    I’m with you, cgeye–I’ll support Anyone But Bennet just out of principle. (Go over to ColoradoPols.com–some people there are threatening to primary RITTER over this!)

    You’d think that Ritter would have learned from George W. Bush: don’t ask for people’s suggestions unless you’re going to take them. It would have been better had he just manned up and admitted that Bennet was an idea he had all by his lonesome, instead of asking for people’s advice and then apparently ignoring it.

  6. New York is saved, but is Colorado ready for a Senator with Locust Valley Lockjaw? : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 23 Jan 2009 at 7:03 am #

    [...] such a free pass?  Not really, I don’t–because of course, there are no Latin@s with his background–not until Latin@s are presidents of most prestigious colleges and universities, dominate [...]

  7. Romanoff to challenge Bennet for CO Senate : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 11 Sep 2009 at 9:50 am #

    [...] it looks like I won’t have to be the one to spark a Colorado Democratic primary fight after all:  Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff has filed papers to challenge our appointed U.S. [...]

  8. Tuesday Round-up: Fallen American Idols edition : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 09 Feb 2010 at 10:01 am #

    [...] only Rasmussen and DailyKos polls, but wev–that’s all we’ve got.)  Gee–who ever would have predicted that it might be a craptastic idea to crown this guy Senator?  Meanwhile, a guy who actually ran a [...]

  9. Who ever would have predicted? : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 01 Aug 2010 at 10:45 am #

    [...] a little recap as to why I think Bennet is such a supreme tool:  his  first job in Colorado was downsizing and raiding companies on behalf of right-wing, union-busti….  Then with zero political experience, he was named Chief of Staff for then-new Denver Mayor [...]