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!
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!