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Monday, August 02, 2004

Senate Appointments History Lesson

On Friday, the legislature overrode a Romney veto, stripping the governor of the power to make a US Senate appointment in the event that John Kerry is elected president. In this debate, some Romney supporters have backed the governor's position by citing the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy as the way the system should work, as if it had been some pristine example of pure democracy in action.

Not exactly, writes BC history prof James O'Toole on today's Globe op-ed page, citing how Governor Foster Furcolo ended up putting in a lightweight placeholder, Jack Smith, until Ted Kennedy was old enough to take over in 1962, when the next election occurred. Smith had been a roommate of John F. Kennedy at Harvard.

With Senate ambitions of his own, Furcolo certainly did not want to appoint the generally unknown Smith to the seat, but in the end his hand was forced. If John Kennedy delayed formally resigning from the Senate until after the first of the year, the new Republican governor, John Volpe, would have the power of appointment, and his choice would hardly have been Furcolo.

So Furcolo grudgingly appointed Smith. "If there is a historical lesson from this incident that bears on this year's maneuvering between Romney and the Legislature, it is that in politics, politics always wins." Let's not be shocked at this outcome, and let's not pretend that what goes on today is any different from what has happened in the past.