The Senatorial follies continue. In Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich has confounded his foes by going ahead and naming a successor to former-Senator Obama. Senator-designate Burris is a former rival of the governor whom Blagojevich presents as an unimpeachable character untainted by his own scandal. The point both men stress is that the state needs full representation in the U.S. Senate. The President-elect and the present Democratic senators disagree. They perhaps fear that anyone out of Illinois during Blagojevich's watch will carry such a taint that the seat is sure to be lost in 2010. But the governor has actually done a clever thing, because the other Democrats' adamant resistance to Burris makes me, at least, wonder about their resistance. Unless you assume automatically that Burris has cut a corrupt bargain with Blagojevich, you have to question why Illinois can't have the senator to which it's entitled. Until he's proven guilty, it remains the governor's right to appoint a senator. As I've been saying, if you oppose his role in the process, the principled course is to call for a special election -- as the opportunistic Republicans are doing. To my knowledge, Obama has not made such a call. All we know about Obama is that he doesn't want Blagojevich to pick his successor. But if not him, who? Could the ultimate object be for Obama to dictate that choice? Time will tell.
In New York, the tide seems to be turning against Caroline Kennedy following an embarrassing interview in which she uttered the phrase "you know" an unseemly number of times. There have been conflicting reports of Mayor Bloomberg's people distancing themselves from her, or vice versa, and she threatens to become a laughing stock. I'm sure there are still people who are star-struck by the notion of JFK's daughter following in his footsteps, but it looks like more people are turning skeptical. Of course, there's no objective or democratic way to monitor her standing compared to other possibilities. It's not like people have shifted loyalties from her to anyone else in particular. The fact that Senator Clinton won't resign until confirmed probably weighs on people, and I often hear people gossiping that she's not a shoo-in for Secretary of State, more so since the list of foreign donors to her husband's foundation became public. The mere rise of doubt about Clinton's prospects may be blunting Kennedy's momentum, which is fine by me. If the people of New York can't choose who'll fill Clinton's place, Clinton herself should be compelled to keep it, for good or ill.
In Gaza, Israel continues to pound Hamas from the air in probable preparation for a land assault, amid protests from around the world. Here in Albany, about a dozen people stomped around the state capitol yesterday to protest Israel's actions. This is all in defiance of common sense. I can understand people complaining that Israel is the big bully beating up on the little bully, but you really get the sense that these protesters would like to see Israel do nothing about being hit by rockets. Even if the Israelis chose to practice Crhymethinc's policy and restricted itself to assassinating Hamas leaders, some people would still complain. What do they expect? "You fired a rocket and hit a house with people in it, young man. It's time we had a heart to heart talk." Not likely. Hamas has no special right to fire rockets at Israel. You can believe that the Palestinians generally have a right to fight Israel and liberate Palestine, but this crap with the rockets is a pretty pathetic way to go about it. If that's the best Hamas can do, they deserve what they get, on top of deserving it for being a bunch of fanatic theocrats.
The year departs under paradoxic circumstances. The election marked a real epoch in American history and by itself would make the year memorable, but the general mood this week suggests that Americans are glad to be rid of 2008. History is one thing, but the year hit us hard where we live, in our wallets -- though I can't say I've suffered except from growing uncertainty about my workplace. Whatever good feeling Obama's election created (and then only for some people) quickly wore off as the economy continued its decline and the Blagojevich and Madoff scandals broke out. But the election remains cause for guarded optimism. If the nation as a whole can throw off the Republican incubus, maybe we can begin to think more clearly about the conditions we face and figure out for ourselves what to do about them without any advice from the radio peanut gallery. Whether our problems are amenable to leadership or will prove more enduring, time alone can tell. So let's let history do its work, with our best wishes for the coming year.