Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sweet Carolyin'

Wayne Barrett continues to expose Mike Bloomberg's elitist subornation of the US Senate replacement process for the departing Hillary Clinton. In this deconstruction, Barret reveals the extent to which Kennedy is, in reality, simply a cats paw for the mayor's ambition: "When I see Caroline Kennedy, I think Mike Bloomberg. In the contest for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat, Kennedy is to Bloomberg what the City Council was to the mayor in his term limits battle—a partner in the spoils, yes, but, ultimately, little more than a pawn in his power grab."

How so, you may ask? According to Barrett, the Kennedy ploy is designed to outflank his potential Democratic opponents in the fall: "A Kennedy selection, should it happen, would become the prelude to a more formal alliance, or at least a non-aggression pact, between Bloomberg and Paterson that will carry through the 2009 mayoral election and the 2010 gubernatorial and senatorial races. Since Paterson, like most governors, is the leader of his state party, such a coalition would undercut any serious challenge this year to Bloomberg, a registered Independent."

Let's not forget that Paterson stood by-no doubt greatly relieved-while Bloomberg hijacked the term limits restriction and obviated any potential gubernatorial challenge in 2010; and thereby probably also deprived Bill Thompson of a legitimate shot at the mayoralty: "No wonder Paterson told reporters that he would "love to have the mayor around" for four more years, though he was officially neutral on the Council bill."

What the Kennedy elevation does for Mike "I'm Above the Special Interests" Bloomberg, is to wash away the stank of his love affair with all things Republican: "Bloomberg's strategy: to box Paterson in again, just as he did on term limits, by offering up an irresistible choice. Kennedy's selection would subsequently link the mayor to the ultimate Democratic family just as Bloomberg was launching his own re-election effort...With a Democratic high tide, nationally and in New York, Bloomberg is suddenly doing all he can to cement his ties to the party. But if that awkward arrangement is going to work, the mayor has to hope that his new friends, like Paterson and Kennedy, don't look too carefully at the last eight years."

Barrett now evinces a different Bloomberg, a more cynical fellow than the one that, in his view, exhibited a refreshing candor in his first term: "As candid as Bloomberg was early in his public life, he is now just another player, moving from evasion to spin to falsehood." We're sure, however, that the original article was no different than the current self serving pol; it's just become more obvious to some of the previously gullible.

The Voice piece does a real service in the manner in which it exposes the blatant political uses of the city's Department of Education-an argument that Barrett advances to question the wisdom of perpetuating mayoral control of the city schools. Chancellor Klein is seen as the Muneco-in-Chief in all of this.

As he points out: "Klein made a national appearance on CBS for Kennedy and even penned an op-ed for that championed her candidacy, which was reprinted in a newsletter published by the Department of Education. Because Kennedy's 22-month stint between 2002 and 2004 as Klein's chief executive of the newly created Office of Strategic Partnerships is the only job she's ever held—a (very) part-time, $1-a-year position—the chancellor is literally the only employer she can turn to for a recommendation letter. His gushing has been so embarrassing that even Kennedy has tried to play it down. According to the Times, Klein "credited her with bringing in a $51 million gift from the Gates Foundation," the largest donation in school system history. But Tom Vander Ark, a nationally renowned educator who ran the Gates program and made the grant, told the Voice that "she didn't have anything to do with it." Asked what her role was in another $50 million in smaller grants that Gates gave the city between 2003 and 2005, Vander Ark, who is hardly a Klein enemy and praised him for his innovation, said: " 'None' would be an overstatement."

Only among the toffs could such an obvious disregard for qualifications be advanced with a straight face. When we examine the Kennedy resume we find...well, absolutely nothing. In contrast, Bloomberg should have been supporting Sarah Palin for a Nobel Prize: "When the Times subsequently got an extended interview with Kennedy, the reporters asked about Klein's original claim that "she brought the Gates grant in," wondering: "Do you feel like maybe the people who are fans of yours have been trying to bolster you perhaps a little too much, and maybe giving you too much credit for the fundraising?" Her answer, which the Times published in a transcript but did not cite in its story, was: "I think it was important to Bill Gates that I was there" at the announcement (Vander Ark says he believes it was the first time they ever met). Kennedy still claimed that she should get "some of the credit" for the grant, contending that she only participated "right at the end" because "it coincided with the time I came into the department." In fact, the grant was made in September 2003, a year after she started and more than halfway through her brief tenure."

So it appears that in the only "job" Kennedy has held in her adult life, she was basically a no-show: "One of Kennedy's principal assignments when she worked at DOE was to oversee the Fund, yet its 990 forms, which are filed by law with the IRS, indicate that she only worked an hour a week in 2003, and two hours since, a calculation that Holliday dismissed as merely "a reporting procedure." The same forms, however, require the Fund to estimate the worth of Kennedy's "donated service," and, though the Fund typically listed hundreds of thousands in that broad category of non-cash donations, Holliday concedes they never claimed a cent for Kennedy."

All of this apparently doesn't phase Al Sharpton-someone who's opinions are apparently for sale. On Inside City Hall last night the reverend claimed that Kennedy was only being opposed because she had had the audacity to support Barack Obama in the just past election cycle. Sharpton then went on the extol Caroline's "impressive" resume-"writing" seven books and, "working" in education. He also pointed out, ignoring the fact that this is an appointment process, that there were many sitting senators who lacked these stellar Kennedy credentials before entering the Senate; eliding the fact that the majority of those folks had placed their fate in the hands of the voters.

Barrett deserves the last word on this outrageous charade: "The campaign that she and Bloomberg have conducted for this appointment is a campaign of prevarication. Its assumption is that David Paterson, who was first installed in the Senate two decades ago by a Harlem-based Democratic county committee when the incumbent died, and who rose to governor when another incumbent quit in disgrace, is too weak and uneasy about the challenge that awaits him in 2010 to do anything but knuckle under to their cabal. They believe Paterson will see Bloomberg and Kennedy's political marriage as a lucrative source of potential contributions for his own campaign, though Kennedy has given almost as little to New York Democrats as she has to its public school children, and Bloomberg has only bankrolled Republicans."