Two news tidbits for an overcast Friday:
First, as everyone knows, my neighbors to the south in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are getting ready to vote on the Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy when he vacated the earth last August (they’ve been represented since by his temporary replacement Paul Kirk, whom state lawmakers appointed after hastily rewriting certain pesky laws prohibiting such an appointment; this is “democracy”). The big news of course is that Republican candidate Scott Brown sits dead even with, or perhaps even slightly ahead of, Democratic attorney general/Emily’s List darling Martha Coakley. Read about that everywhere but here.
I’m more intrigued by a New York Times piece from yesterday, speculating about the impact of Libertarian candidate Joe Kennedy. Is the Times sensing the possibility that small-government purists might cast a futile vote for Kennedy rather than settle for a viable half-a-loaf option in Brown, thus affecting the vote in a small but potentially pivotal way?
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Not so much. They’re more worried that a significant chunk of Democratic voters will pull the lever for Kennedy rather than Coakley, solely because of his last name.
This makes me think of a few things. First, it puts into perspective what has become a broken-record refrain on newscasts here in New England: an anchor or reporter mentions Kennedy in some capacity related to the race, then quickly follows with the cautionary note that he is “in no way related to the Kennedy family”; “no relation to the late senator Ted Kennedy,” and so on. Only in Massachusetts would broadcasters consider it their duty to give the Democratic candidate a free little boost like this.
And of course, only in Massachusetts would it even be thought necessary to distinguish some off-brand Kennedy from legitimate scions of that magical bloodline. It’s a common and grim complaint of New England conservatives that the Kennedy myth has kept a not-insignificant number of voters (Irish-Catholic ones, natch) in a secure lockbox for half a century now: good little soldiers who don’t even pick up their heads to see where they’re marching. Some deny it indignantly, but that the Times would be worried about Democratic voters breaking for “Kennedy” despite the “L” next to his name, despite clearly not knowing a thing about him (or the race at all), well, that kind of airs the dirty secret, don’t it?
Second thing. Last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged intensive U.S. support (including $63 billion over the next six years) for global efforts to promote “reproductive health” —read: abortion, contraception, and sterilization—in poor countries. This would include aid (through the United Nations Population Fund) to poor countries earmarked for such activities, and fresh attempts to achieve international agreements that (in contrast to the Cairo conference in 1994) codify such aspects of “reproductive health” as a global right. Clinton also hailed President Obama’s reversal of the Mexico City policy.
Go ahead. Tell me again that one about Obama the unconventional pro-lifer. Or the one about how, since Republicans never did manage to outlaw abortion, it doesn’t matter who we vote for.