Barney Frank for Senate

This is disappointing:

Ted Kennedy has made clear to confidants that when his time is up, he wants his Senate seat to stay in the family – with his wife, Vicki.
Multiple sources in Massachusetts with close ties to the liberal lion say his wife of 16 years has long been his choice to continue carrying the family flame in the Senate. Kennedy won the seat in 1962; his brother John held it from 1953 to 1960.
“There’s no question that he’d like Vicki to continue in his seat,” said one Massachusetts Democrat with ties to the Camelot clan who spoke to Kennedy recently, before his health crisis.
“She’s smart, and smart politically.”
The 54-year-old Victoria Reggie Kennedy, a former hotshot Washington lawyer, is a Louisiana native and the daughter of a politically active judge.

Look, I understand Ted’s instinct on this one. He wants someone he can trust to carry on his legacy in the seat, and so Vicki’s the natural choice. Still, it’s a poor choice, not just because it recalls the history of Kennedy nepotism, but because, as Eve Fairbanks notes, it denies Barney Frank probably his last chance at a Senate seat. And Barney Frank needs a Senate seat. He’s unimpeachably liberal but internationalist, smart and funny as hell, and he still manages to work well with Republicans. Mostly though, I think it’d be immensely valuable, on a symbolic and practical level, for a gay man to be elected to the Senate. The symbolic resonance is obvious, but the fact of the matter is that the Senate caucus, even the Democrats, is disturbingly apathetic bordering on hostile to gay equality. Only five senators support marriage equality, we still haven’t gotten a vote in the 110th Congress on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or on the ENDA, and, of course, Democratic senators from Paul Wellstone to Pat Leahy sold gays out on the DOMA. What we need is a strong, influential gay senator to hold President Obama and the Congressional leadership’s feet to the fire on this, and make sure 2013 doesn’t pass by with DADT and DOMA intact and the ENDA not passed. Frank deserves to be that senator.

The Byrd Endorsement

Last week, when I was wondering about the implications of Hillary’s West Virginia blowout, I found myself asking what the state’s superdelegates would do. Nick Rahall and Jay Rockefeller had already endorsed Obama, so that left Joe Manchin and Robert Byrd. Well, Manchin will have to endorse Clinton now, I figured, and that’s too bad, but there was never a shot Byrd wouldn’t, anyway. Robert Byrd endorsing Obama? A former KKK kleagle endorsing a black man? The man who filibustered the Civil Rights Act and tried to block Thurgood Marshall’s court appointments, endorsing the son of a Kenyan immigrant? There wasn’t a chance in hell. It’d be like George Gilder endorsing Hillary. It wasn’t going to happen.
And then it did:

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., endorsed Barack Obama for president shortly after noon today, focusing on his hope to end the Iraq War.
“As people all across this great nation know, I have been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Bush administration’s misguided war in Iraq and its saber rattling around the globe,” Byrd said.
He said he had “no intention of involving myself in the Democratic campaign for President in the midst of West Virginia’s primary election. But the stakes this November could not be higher.”
Byrd praised both Obama and Hillary Clinton, saying their “integrity, honor, love for this country and strong belief in our Constitution I deeply respect…
“Barack Obama is a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian, and he has my full faith and support,” Byrd concluded.

Now, Byrd has changed a lot since the ’60s, no doubt. He has said he regrets his filibuster of the Civil Rights Act, and that the greatest mistake of his life was joining the Klan. But he still has deeply disturbed racial views, including his continued casual usage of the word “nigger”. For him to put those aside, when he had the totally reasonable out of saying he was respecting the wishes of the voters of West Virginia, when Clinton has made it clear that she’s less than fully tolerant of blacks, in order to endorse the better candidate, well, that’s kind of beautiful. We are far from a post-racial society, and if the Clinton campaign’s conduct has made one thing clear it’s that racism is still very much a part of Democratic and national politics, but the Byrd endorsement is a signal of how far we’ve come all the still.

Lazy Sunday VP Speculation

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Veepstakes recently. Obviously, I’m none too happy with the notion that Clinton has somehow “earned” or “deserves” the slot; I think Neil Sinhababu does an excellent job enumerating the many reasons why an Obama/Clinton ticket would be a lousy, lousy arrangement. His reason #4, “I don’t trust the consultants in Hillaryland to play well with an Obama campaign,” is perhaps the biggest one for me. I don’t like the idea of Clinton setting up a parallel, further right policy shop in the Naval Observatory one bit, and I think anyone who cares about having a unified Democratic executive and Congress in 2009 should hate it too.
So, who would I like? Having thought about it, here are my top seven (yes, seven) choices, in descending order, with pros and cons listed. If I haven’t included somebody here, it is meant as a negative comment on their suitability for the post. It means that whatever reason (too conservative, not adding to the ticket, too old, not “vetting”, I like them where they are), I don’t think they’re an appropriate choice. This includes, off the top of my head, Jim Webb (see here), Sam Nunn (hates gays), Ted Strickland and Bob Casey (antiabortion), Janet Napolitano and Bill Richardson (don’t “vet” and, in the latter case, too gaffe-prone), and Sherrod Brown (über-protectionist).
7. Jack Reed:
Pros: West Point grad and former 82nd Airborne captain, big on the Armed Services Committee, against the war from the start, very liberal voting record.
Cons: May be seen as compensating, from a blue state, no major legislative accomplishments.
6. Kathleen Sebelius:
Pros: Reinforces Obama’s unity message (convinced the state GOP chair to be her running mate), has been an excellent governor by all indications, brings executive experience, and satisfies some Hillary supporters who want a woman on the ticket.
Cons: No foreign policy background or federal experience, lackluster SOTU response, and having both a black man and a woman on the ticket may be too much for some bigoted voters to handle.
5. Vic Snyder:
Pros: Clinton supporter to shore up that base, Arkansan to help in Appalachia, doctor to bring credibility on health care, against the war from the start, served on the Armed Services committee and a killer voting record.
Cons: Exactly no national profile, no office other than the House, no major legislative accomplishments.
4. William Cohen:
Pros: Huge foreign affairs experience as Defense Secretary and in the Senate, bipartisan cred as a liberal Republican who worked in a Democratic administration.
Cons: Blue state background, ties to McCain that would make being an attack-dog difficult, interracial marriage that would enrage the crazies.
3. Bill Bradley:
Pros: Huge domestic policy wonk, big name recognition, liberal record both in Senate and during ’00 campaign, great campaigner, loyal Obama-ite.
Cons: Blue state background, not big on foreign affairs, might alienate Gore loyalists.
2. John Kitzhaber:
Pros: Executive experience as governor of Oregon, incredible record on health care reform both as governor and with the Archimedes movement, very charismatic, and may just be made of concentrated awesome.
Cons: Blue state background, no foreign affairs or federal experience.
1. Wes Clark:
Pros: Clinton supporter to shore up that base, Arkansan to help in Appalachia, to the left of Obama on foreign affairs and Iran in particular, against the war from the start, charismatic, lots of foreign affairs experience as NATO commander, and has outsider appeal as non-politician.
Cons: Poor campaigner. For a flag burning amendment. Anything else? Really, I can’t think of anything.
So there you have it. If there’s a takeaway point here, it’s that I really, really want an Obama/Clark ticket, and that Kitzhaber isn’t talked about nearly enough as an option. If he isn’t on the ticket, he needs to be HHS secretary.

Hillary Non-Sexism Watch

Most of the time, Melissa McEwan’s “Hillary Sexism Watch” is on the ball. There have been some real instances of sexism against Hillary, and it’s good to see the perpetrators called on it. But sometimes, like in the latest installment of the series, McEwan reads in sexism where it just isn’t there. This sentence, from Scot Lehigh, draws her ire:

Even allowing for all that [sexism], the notion that sexism is primarily to blame for Clinton’s woes doesn’t pass logical muster.

To which McEwan responds:

Ooh, see what he did there? Doesn’t pass logical muster. So anyone who suggests that sexism might be primarily responsible for “Clinton’s woes” is illogical. Well, isn’t that just like a girl? Someone tell Mr. Lehigh we can’t help it—it’s all the estrogen clogging our brains.

Um, wow, that’s not what Lehigh said at all. Now, certainly, accusations of being governed by emotions and unable to reason logically are common tools of sexists. But that doesn’t make every man who accuses women of illogic sexist. Lehigh, in particular, made no reference to hormones, or emotions, or any of the things McEwan brings up. She’s just putting words in his mouth. Her straw-man version of Lehigh’s argument is sexist, yes, but nothing he actually said is, in and of itself, sexist. This seems like one of those instances, like when the words “periodically” and “perceive” were deemed sexist, where far more is read into comments than is reasonable or fair.

That’s Not Right. That’s Not Even Wrong.

Sometimes when I want to preserve my will to live I forget that George W. Bush is still the POTUS. And then he goes and does something awful to remind me, the bastard:

Bush, in his speech to Israel’s Knesset, sought to push in the wedge on Israel, and security, against Obama, casting the Illinois Senator as Neville Chamberlain to his Churchill:
“Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” he said, with aides telling reporters he meant Obama. “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American Senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.'”

There’s no substance here, obviously. It’s an egregious Godwin’s law violation in service of a political point. But this seems as good a time as any to repeat my firm conviction that Munich analogies are never appropriate. I cannot think of a single occasion since 1945 where pre-emptive action prevented something on par with the Nazi invasion of Poland. I can think of plenty occasions where it ended up blowing back badly (like, er, Iraq), but none where it actually helped upon being heeded, or would have helped if heeded. What’s more, are we really sure that a pre-emptive Anglo-French invasion of Germany in 1938 would have been remembered well? It seems to me that it would have been perceived as unjustified aggression on the part of Daladier and Chamberlain, a continuation of the harsh measures of Versailles, and only repressed the underlying dynamics that lead to the rise of Hitler for a little while longer. Pre-emption only looks good with the benefit of hindsight; at the time, there’s no reason to think it would have earned a positive legacy.
Anyway, have some Editors. This song’s about the Black September massacre, but it does fit into the overall legacy of Munich as an awful, awful city for Jews.

Marriage in California

This makes me so absurdly happy:

Same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The court’s 4-to-3 decision, striking down two state laws that had limited marriages to unions between a man and a woman, will make California only the second state, after Massachusetts, to allow same-sex marriages. The decision, which becomes effective in 30 days, is certain to be an issue in the presidential campaign.
“In view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship,” Chief Justice Ronald M. George wrote of marriage for the majority, “the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”

The decision is based on the California Constitution, as George writes, so there’s no option of appeal for the state. However, as Kevin Drum notes, a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is already on the ballot this November, so there’ll be one last opportunity to reverse the ruling. Schwarzenegger is saying he’ll uphold the decision and opposes the amendment, which, as Matt Zeitlin says, is consistent with his past comments. Maybe now he’ll sign the legislation legalizing marriage he’s twice vetoed; it won’t be enough to counteract an amendment, but it’d enshrine the decision in democratically-enacted law, which adds some legitimacy to it.
I find the Court’s decision to apply strict scrutiny to be particularly praiseworthy, particularly this point of their logic (helpfully summarized by Eugene Volokh):

1. The California Constitution’s Due Process Clause and Privacy Clause (there’s an explicit one in California) secure a right to marry, which extends to same-sex marriages as well as opposite-sex marriages. The limit of marriage to opposite-sex couples thus must be reviewed under strict scrutiny (i.e., must be narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest).

There isn’t an explicit federal privacy clause, of course, but there is a 30-year precedent (Zablocki v. Redhail) saying that marriage is a fundamental right. Marshall only applied intermediate scrutiny there, but all the still, this makes me hopeful that some post-Obama Supreme Court will eventually use the Equal Protection Clause and the precedents of Zablocki and the California case to strike down every law and state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Contra Yglesias, I think the American tradition of strong judicial review is an unquestionable good. It provides a compelling counterweight to popular ignorance and bigotry, and in all but the rarest cases (I’m looking at you, Lockner) serves justice. And this ruling, and a prospective national one, sure as hell serves justice.
Mostly, I’m just happy that the biggest state in the union, the sixth largest economy on the planet, will in 30 days have damned near full legal equality for gays and lesbians, not even 40 years after Stonewall, not even 30 years after Harvey Milk was martyred. That’s remarkable progress, and the justices of the California Supreme Court, and the people of California, should be proud.