Fresh names have been popping up in the news at a head-spinning pace of late. For example:Caroline Kennedy - Daughter of John and Jackie, sister of John-John, niece of Teddy and Bobby, cousin of Robert Jr. and Maria S., etc., etc. - has announced her willingness to be appointed senator from New York.
Some have criticized this as presumptuous. They say that one should not expect to be a New York senator without previous immersion in the hurly-burly of New York politics, serving in menial positions like congressperson or governor or mayor of New York City. They question her qualifications for the office.
To which I say: Qualifications? For the U.S. Senate? Whatever are you talking about?
There are no qualifications for the Senate. We have senators with the mental acuity of cabbages, senators who are senile, who are crooks, lazy or crazy, we have senators who are sexist, homophobic or racist. We have senators whom you would not trust to hold your watch while you dived into a pool to save a drowning child.
Carolyn Kennedy is none of these things. She is smart, hard-working and, from the look of her, a genuinely nice person. These qualities alone would put her, if appointed, in the upper half of the Senate. If she figures out where Utica is and what it's doing there, she could quickly move into the top 20 percent of the class.
I say appoint her.
Rod Blagojevich - The governor of Illinois is the anti-Caroline, her absolute, polar opposite. Far from being appointed to office, he overcame a severe hair disability to win election - twice. He was not a neophyte; he was a battle-hardened veteran of the political wars, having served in the Illinois Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Yet, when last seen he was selling U.S. Senate seats from the back of a truck.
Which proves that in politics, as in most things, experience can be a good thing but it doesn't have to be. It depends on the experiencer.
Bernard Madoff - They say he bilked investors of $50 billion by running a Ponzi scheme. Ha! Don't make me laugh.
A Ponzi scheme takes money from investors on the promise of high returns but relies on new investors for the money to pay those returns. It works so long as you have more investors giving you new money than old investors demanding returns. They're generally short-lived.
Charles Ponzi, for whom the scam is named, made his money by offering a 50 percent return on investment to a clientele made up largely of unlettered immigrants in New England during the early 1920s. He was a two-bit hustler whose hustle lasted about six months and cost investors a few million.
Madoff stole his money over decades and took it from friends, the cream of society - Stephen Spielberg, Fred Wilpon (owner of the New York Mets), Mort Zuckerman (owner of U.S. News). Fifty billion dollars! He pauperized billionaires and brought whole charities to their knees, closing them down. In the field of swindling, he is a giantI think TIME magazine should have made him Man of the Year. At the very least they should start calling it a Madoff scheme.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi - This is the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes, one at a time, at George Bush's head during a press conference in Baghdad. It was an outrageous act, of course, and journalists everywhere should condemn it. I certainly do.
One of the first things we learned in journalism school - I remember the professor writing it on the blackboard - was "Do not throw your shoes at the interviewee during a press conference. It calls into question your objectivity."
(And I'm proud to say I've never done it, although I did get thrown out of a Richard Nixon event once for making a rude noise.)As soon as word of his feat got out, al-Zeidi became a national hero.
Call me a defeatist, but I think the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraq is lost.
Don Kaul recently retired as Washington columnist for the Des Moines Register after covering the nation's capital for 29 years.
Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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