“Have you no shame, sir?” — Joseph Nye Welch

September 11, 2009



We all know — Don’t we? — what the Democrats in Congress would be saying if it were Republicans who were trying to change a term-limit law to assure passage of legislation. And they’d be right. The campaign in Massachusetts to legislate a Democrat into the Senate by giving the governor the power to appoint a replacement for Edward M. Kennedy is unseemly, a terrible example of governance.

I am in the camp that believes that health-care reform is long overdue and that it should be passed while the Obama administration and the Democratic majorities in Congress — such as they are — are in place. But I can’t stomach the desperate measure now in the works in Boston, an act of expediency that should embarrass everyone involved — including Sen. John Kerry, who is promoting it.



This measure is of the same stripe and odor as the action taken last year by the New York City Council to alter the law that would have prevented Mayor Michael Bloomberg from running for a third four-year term. Bloomberg, who asked for the change, signed the bill himself with nary a blush.

Although it’s none of my business, I don’t object to Bloomberg serving as mayor another four years or, for that matter, another eight years. But the law should be changed based on some intrinsic principle, not based on the near-term needs and desires of a politician or a political party.



As for Massachusetts, the hypocrisy of what is under way there is astounding. The executive power to make an appointment to a vacant Senate seat was rescinded five years ago by the Democratic majority in the legislature in order to prevent Republican Gov. Mitt Romney from filling the seat if John Kerry had been elected president.

It should go without saying that self-interest is the worst motive for changing the law. The grim implication of these shenanigans is that Congress is unable to function except as a partisan cock-pit and that there is not enough political leadership or political will in the legislature or the executive department to overcome the extremism and bullheadedness. A fine nation we have become if we can reform a broken health system only by sleight-of-hand.


2 Responses to ““Have you no shame, sir?” — Joseph Nye Welch”

  1. pw Says:

    You are right. And I’m torn.

    There is a “principle” that can be applied here. The people of Massachusetts will be voting early in 2010 for a new senator of party unknown. In the 4-5 months it takes to stage that election, I think it’s fair for an interim senator to be appointed from the same party as the deceased — a figurehead who can’t run in the election. In a nation where “the principle of the thing” has been written off as quaint, that would seem about as principled as anything we’ve seen in a couple of decades. But you’re welcome to counter this with “Nice try!”

    • charlespaolino Says:

      I agree that it would be fair to require that a replacement of the same party be appointed for the interim. What I object to is changing the law because it is expedient, not because it is fair or right.

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