Saturday, December 20, 2008

An Oregon Appointment???

Who would you pick?

Hendrik Hertzberg is an editor for The New Yorker who always has fresh information and insight on issues even though his columns come out days after the newspapers and blogs have had their say. In a piece on the hubris of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the looming U.S. Senate appointments in Illinois and New York, Hertzberg comes up with an unconventional and brilliant idea.

He suggests New York Gov. David Patterson think outside the political box when choosing the person to replace Hillary Clinton, who will give up her Senate seat when she takes over as Secretary of State:

What if Governor Paterson, prompted by the squalor of his Illinois colleague’s maneuverings, were to put aside mundane calculations and take full advantage of his theoretically unfettered freedom of choice? The Senate was originally conceived as a sort of chamber of notables, but most of its members, over the years, have been notable mainly for their mediocrity. New York is full of interesting people. Want some suggestions? Try these, collected from an informal canvass—a baker’s dozen, in alphabetical order:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, thoughtful and scholarly, would give the new President someone to shoot hoops with. Christiane Amanpour would be a slam dunk for the Foreign Relations Committee. The impossibly distinguished Vartan Gregorian is a one-man academy of arts, letters, and the humanities. Bill T. Jones, who doesn’t need words to make a speech, would make C-SPAN 2 worth watching. A non-dynastic Kennedy, the novelist William, would give upstate New York representation of the first order. Paul Krugman would provide ornery economic smarts. Arthur Laurents, conveniently, is already in Washington, directing the National Theatre revival of his “West Side Story.” If you doubt that Lou Reed knows politics, listen to his album “New York.” Felix Rohatyn is as senatorial as you can get without wearing a toga. Ed Sanders—poet, Pentagon levitator, classics scholar, founding member of the Fugs—is a political force in Woodstock, New York. Toni Morrison’s majestic voice would warm the Senate chamber. No one who ever spent the equivalent of two Senate terms in a complex, ceaselessly scrutinized job in New York has ever done it better than Joe Torre did as manager of the Yankees. Harold Varmus, the head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and, like Morrison, a Nobel laureate, got lots of money from Congress for the National Institutes of Health when he ran them, during the nineteen-nineties. Perhaps he could do the same for New York—not that such petty considerations are worthy of this exercise.

Read the entire column here.

That got me to thinking fanciful thoughts that can only be thought on an inclement day cloistered inside—with an hour’s break to slog a few miles in the snow just for some exercise. Okay, what if Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden somehow got appointed to a post in Obama’s cabinet? Not likely, since his big issue, health care, has been handed to former colleague Tom Daschle. But just suppose? And suppose that Gov. Ted Kulongoski departs from his pedestrian, professional politician’s posture and thinks creatively for once? Even less likely, for sure. But play along with me.

Who among our Oregon citizenry should the Guv select?

It’s not as if Oregon has always sent seasoned politicians to Washington. Wayne Morse, one the greatest, had never been elected to anything before becoming the “tiger of the Senate.” Maureen Neuberger served adequately in the Senate when her husband, Richard, died in the early sixties.

So how about William Kittredge, the foremost authority on the modern West (see Owning it All, among other writings)? Storm Large, who was in the middle of a lot of political events this year, would certainly shake things up in Washington. For a tough, no-nonsense approach to the nation’s business, one could do no better than Gert Boyle, chair of Columbia Sportswear. On the other hand, to get Oregon’s fair share of federal pork, go with Oregon State University basketball coach Craig Robinson, who is Barack Obama’s brother-in-law. Trailblazer GM Kevin Pritchard has shown he is an organizational genius and a great judge of character and talent—and he’s assembled a near-perfect team now; making more trades would only mess up the chemistry. Phil Stanford, who seemed to know a lot of inside stuff, is looking for a new job, I hear. And Simpson’s creator Matt Groening could form the first Senate comedy caucus with Al Franken (if Franken squeaks in).

Who else? What are your suggestions?

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