Sunday, November 30, 2008

Is Ted Kennedy "Bitter" Towards Hillary Clinton?

The New York Daily News dropped a doosey today, reporting that Clinton declined an offer to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee in order to pursue the position of Secretary of State (which she will reportedly receive tomorrow). The same article reports that Ted Kennedy declined a request by some Democrats that he create a Senate subcommittee to deal with health care legislation; under the "deal," Clinton could have chaired the subcommittee. The New York Daily News article says that Kennedy rejected this arrangement due to lingering anger over Clinton's presidential campaign.

When I first read the article, I viewed Kennedy's "behavior" as a throwback to the way he reacted after losing the Democratic primaries to Carter in 1980. After Carter won, instead of helping to unify the Democrats as Clinton did, Kennedy remained as bitter as a gun-toting, Bible-clinging, homo-/xenophobic disempowered American. But then sanity overtook me, and I conducted some research on the issue and discovered that the New York Daily News article likely presents a distorted view concerning an alleged Kennedy grudge. Well, the New York Daily News is a tabloid. Why let facts or nuance get in the way of reporting?

Apparently, even though Kennedy refused to create a subcommittee on health care for Clinton to lead, he offered her a position on his new Senate health care task force, which has three working groups. Clinton would have headed the section studying insurance coverage. The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, an official press release from Senator Tom Harkin (who also has an offer to sit on the task force), and many other sources (found with a simple Google News search) confirm that Kennedy picked Clinton.

Also, his refusal to form the subcommittee to deal with the health care legislation could result, as the Associated Press reports, from his own desire to monopolize the issue (at least in the Senate), rather than from a political grudge with Clinton. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Healthcare, Kennedy probably intends to conduct Senate hearings on health-care issues himself. Having Clinton leading a subcommittee on healthcare could diminish his own voice on the subject.

Furthermore, because Obama has appointed Daschle to head the Department of Health and Human Services and to serve as a Healthcare Czar, any role in Congress on this issue would probably have been too limiting for Clinton. Her expertise on healthcare dwarfs Daschle's, but Daschle and Kennedy endorsed Obama at critical moments during the primaries. As payment, they get to play leading roles on healthcare reform. Clinton did not land too lightly, however; as "compensation" for her general-election support of Obama, Clinton will become Secretary of State.

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