Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kennedy Is Not Senator: New York Magazine Suggests Because Mayor Misbehaved on Term Limits and Times City Staff Is “Emboldened”

So Caroline Kennedy is NOT the new senator from New York. We twice wrote about the prospect of Ms. Kennedy becoming senator. Although an enormous amount of press generated a high level of expectation that Governor Paterson would appoint her to the post, she suddenly withdrew. Both our Noticing New York pieces mentioned concerns about Mayor Michael Bloomberg in connection with Ms. Kennedy’s appointment and brought up Mr. Bloomberg’s highly objectionable “billionaire maneuvering on term limits” as “antithetical to fair play and respect for the rules by which the elected officials are supposed to honor and be accountable to the public.” (See: Monday, January 12, 2009, The Prospect of Caroline Kennedy as a New York Senator and Wednesday, January 21, 2009, Caroline Kennedy, in Our Defense Against Eminent Domain?: The Way it Might be.)

We mentioned another very good piece being read at the time (Wayne Barrett’s Village Voice: Bloomberg Maneuvers to Crown a Kennedy: Who's Caroline's daddy? January 13th 2009). That piece similarly dealt with concerns about Mr. Bloomberg, doing so extensively, and brought up term limits as negatively emblematic of concern.

Post Mortems

We may never know why Ms. Kennedy withdrew her name from consideration right before the moment she might have been appointed. Two long articles this week, one in the New Yorker and the other in New York magazine, offer post mortems on Ms. Kennedy’s campaign for the senate seat each taking note of Ms. Kennedy’s predilection toward privacy (perhaps not so coincidentally she is the co-author of book on the legal aspects of privacy). Neither article offers clear insight or a convincing answer to the question of why Ms. Kennedy may have withdrawn at the last minute. (See: respectively, Ms. Kennedy Regrets, She’s unable to be in the Senate today, by Larissa MacFarquhar, February 2, 2009 and The Zany Adventures of (Senator) Caroline Kennedy, In which the most private of persons decides to go public, only to learn that mother always knows best, by Chris Smith, Jan 24, 2009.)

Term Limits & Emboldened New York Times City Staff

While neither article tells you why Ms. Kennedy withdrew, the New York Magazine article offers the fascinating supposition that Mr. Bloomberg’s maneuvering on term limits undermined success that Kennedy’s campaign might have had. Unlike our Noticing New York analysis that Bloombergian billionaire maneuvering on term limits was bad and that it was therefore bad for Ms. Kennedy to be associated with Mr. Bloomberg, the New York magazine inserts one extra link into the chain of connections: That Bloombergian maneuvering, including Bloomberg’s strategizing to procure editorial page support from the major dailies, particularly the Times (before a news analysis or reporting had occurred), resulted in blowback in the form of an “emboldened” new York Times city staff. (See page 4 of the New York Magazine article.)

Kennedy also smacked headlong into a newly emboldened Times city staff. “We’ve grown a pair of balls, and I’m amazingly proud of the paper,” says a Times reporter. “The turning point was the editorial page’s rolling over for Bloomberg on erasing term limits. The reaction from the reporters and editors is that we’re the last line of defense—we’ve got to hold the line.” Not for or against any particular politician, that is, but to stand up for small-d democracy. After inflating her candidacy by making her simple declaration of interest in the job the lead story of the day, they compensated by hitting her hard.
We have pointed out that the New York Times editorial page has its work cut out in terms of catching up with Mr. Bloomberg’s misconduct (Saturday, November 15, 2008, The Mayor, The Times’ Timing, and a Proper Ordering) and that the Times’ editorial page’s misstep in prematurely endorsing Mr. Bloomberg’s third term aspirations is a big part of the problem.

Time(s) to Catch Up?

We believe that New York magazine’s observation that the Times city staff is recently emboldened may be on the mark. We can only hope that this continues and that the Times and its city staff are around long enough to take on many of the other New York City (and particularly Bloomberg-related) development issues that need to be addressed and to correct the harm already done to the 2009 mayoral campaign by virtue of the term limits extension that was allowed to pass with the Times editorial page support. We observe that there is scary talk that the New York Times might stop publishing (perhaps as early as May). The Times poor, recently downgraded, credit rating and the $250 million loan at 14% interest from Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helu are certainly troublesome. (Links below.*)

* (Stop The Presses: The Atlantic Wonders If The New York Times Could Cease Printing in May, by Matt Haber, January 6, 2009 and Slim's Pickings: Will Carlos Slim use the New York Times to bolster his reputation? By Andres Martinez, Jan. 20, 2009 and Brian Lehrer, Times of Trouble, Tuesday, January 27, 2009 and Saturday, January 24, 2009, New York Times criticized for a deal with (Mexican) tycoon; could those criticisms apply to its deal with Ratner? )

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