Posted by Brad @ 5:00 pm on December 11th 2008

“This Senate seat does not belong to any politician to trade”

So says Barack Obama this morning.

“Finally, on this matter, let me say that this Senate seat does not belong to any politician to trade – it belongs to the people of Illinois, and they deserve the best possible representation. They also deserve to know that any vacancy will be filled in an appropriate way.”

Umm, a question from here in the cheap seats.

Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner said today she will appointed Ted Kaufman, a longtime, close adviser to Sen. Joe Biden to fill the senator’s seat until a 2010 special election, a move that some warned could leave Delaware’s Democratic party feelings bruised for years to come.

The selection of the former Biden chief of staff was widely seen as a move by Vice president-elect Biden to protect his seat for his oldest son, Attorney General Beau Biden, now deploying to Iraq with his Delaware National Guard unit.

Snubbed with the choice was Lt. Gov. John Carney, considered a party favorite for the appointment. Carney as recently as last week had said he would take the job under any terms offered, including as a “placeholder” who would serve only until the 2010 regular election.

Those assurances apparently fell short of Biden’s requirements.

There are two ways to view the appointment of a Senator to fill a vacated seat.

The first is that the seat belongs to the Senator, and thus it should be filled in accordance with his or her wishes. A commentator at my site expresses that perspective this way:

The people elected Sen Biden. Sen Biden is looking to have someone replace him that will faithfully reflect his views and style, after working with this guy for 22 years, he trusts that he will.

Fair enough. If that’s the view, then surely nobody would be more Biden-like than Biden’s senior adviser the bulk of whose adult career has been as a Biden staffer.

The second view is that the Senate seat belongs to the people, and thus it should be filled solely with an eye for public service and qualifications, and that political horsetrading or transparent attempts at sticking a thumb on the scale for the sake of personal or familial gain is crass and unacceptable. Barack Obama apparantly subscribes to the latter viewpoint. So do I.

If that’s the view, then where’s the outrage at the incoming Vice President appointing a man who has never received a single vote and has never held elected or even public office, over potential candidates like the sitting Lieutenant Governor, the sitting Secretary of State, a sitting state supreme court justice, and, presumably, every other previous or sitting elected official in the state of Delaware, with, I think nobody would deny, the express intent of putting his thumb on the political scale in favor of his son?

Don’t get me wrong, I think Beau Biden would make a fine Senator, and for all I know Ted Kaufman makes for an outstanding two-year Senator. But still.

Even if the Delaware seat wasn’t as flagrantly traded for gain (clearly) as the Illinois one…isn’t it at least in the same ballpark? Or do Joe Biden and Barack Obama believe so strongly that Beau Biden would be for the greater good of the people of Delaware that they can’t risk putting, you know, a public servant in there, lest they run the risk of the people of Delaware actually, you know, re-electing him?

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