During the four months in 1787 when the architects of the United States Constitution convened in Philadelphia to do their work, many ideas were tossed out for thought and discussion.  Some of them, even when rejected by the Convention, remain strangely contemporary in their appeal.

Consider a proposal by Gouverneur Morris, right, a delegate from Pennsylvania. In private, he was a profane and irreligious man, who was known to be sexually promiscuous.  He had inherited a sizeable fortune, was an adroit businessman, and was generally regarded by his colleagues as an individual  of intellectual brilliance.  He did not take great pains to conceal his foibles or peccant ways.  He was too much the aristocrat to be cowering to popular opinion, and no sense of embarrassment caused him to hold back at the Convention.  He spoke frequently and forcibly there.

On July 2, he stood up and delivered a long oration concerning the nature of the legislative body that would come to be known as the Senate.  He proposed that senators serve for life, be persons of immense personal property, and radiate an essentially aristocratic spirit.  He attempted to justify the proposal by explaining that, if the rich are confined to a single house of Congress, their influence will be limited and the interest of commoners protected in the lower house. If merely a sprinkling of the rich are allowed to mix with the poor in both legislative houses, then in no time flat, he insisted, Congress will be under the control of the wealthy and America subject to oligarchic rule.

I immediately thought of Mr. Morris's proposal, when I heard that Caroline Kennedy, pictured on the left, is seeking appointment by New York's governor, David A. Paterson, to the United States Senate. She wants to occupy the seat that Hillary Clinton is vacating in order to become Secretary of State.

The Kennedy family are portrayed as high-minded aristocrats.  Together they comprise little more than a composite testimonial to the power of ill-gotten gain in America. Nigel Hamilton, one of John F. Kennedy's biographers, described Joseph P. Kennedy, the patriarch of the clan, as "the foremost criminal of the twentieth century."  Old Joe is certainly a serious contender for this dubious distinction.  He was virtually everything rotten rolled up into a single human being.  He was a liar and crook of promethean proportion.  He was also a craven coward, who refused to reside in the heart of London while he was Ambassador to Great Britain.  The city was being shelled at the time by Hitler's Luftwaffe.  The best that Jumpy Joe could do was to advocate a policy of appeasement toward Germany.  What more might we expect from a man of such sordid character?  It is well to remember that the Kennedy family's "nobility" was predicated, first and foremost, upon his wealth.  Without his thievery, it is doubtful that Caroline's request for a Senate seat would be heard, much less honored.  This may be a politically incorrect observation, but it is incontestably true.

At one point in time (a golden moment for some), John Kennedy was President, Robert was Attorney General, and Edward a Massachusetts Senator.  Several of their children have since entered the world of politics, "to help make the world a better and safer place" I am sure.  But "Princess Caroline" has far more mystery and celebrity than the others.  She has finally expressed an interest in "the art of the possible" and is ready for her political coronation.  And why not?  She is a Kennedy, for pete's sake!  Forget the fact that the first time most people saw her active in the political arena is when she endorsed Barack Obama for President a few months ago.  I guess that such a coming out for a princess with her surname is political qualification enough.  Wouldn't you say?

The word is that Jeb Bush, pictured below, is also contemplating a seat in the Senate.  A third Bush on the national stage!  Surprise, surprise.  The name might not be be conducive to a breath of fresh air, although it is definitely about wealth, connections, and aristocracy.  Like his brother, he is a Republican, but it does not mean he will be hampered in the least by ideology.  Just wait until there is another vote on amnesty for illegals or he is faced with the choice of whether to jettison free markets by bailing out (pardon me, "rescuing") some nook or cranny of big business.  We will then behold his Republicanism at work.  Ideological ambiguities and anomalies aside, they simply do not matter.  The guy is a Bush!  He deserves to be a United States Senator!

But for the fact that Barack Obama awakened in the American people a "new kind of politics" (uhm), Hillary Clinton might now be a few weeks from taking the presidential oath of office.  The sequence would then be Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush, and Clinton. All I have got to say is thank goodness for new blood and fresh ideas, right?  By the way, what are she and husband Bill worth now, over a hundred million dollars?  

Perhaps Mr. Morris was correct.  Maybe the founders should have insisted that the Senate be the olympus of the rich and privileged.  Yet, I am wondering, what about the person who continues to be elected to the lowly House without so much as a high school education, but has become unbelievably wealthy during his tenure of  "service" there?  The thought of promoting such an opportunist to the Senate seems less than helpful.  Yet how do we rid ourselves of this parasite and his ilk?  Yearning for the  eventual retirement of such a member of Congress may be the fond hope of many constituents, although some relative, undoubtedly a namesake, will stand ready for his larcenous moment with the golden goose.  Maybe we should simply be thankful that in America a plebian, as well as his progeny, can in the lower house emulate exalted patricians by rising to wealth and prominence.  Never mind that the ascent may be in the absence of not only merit but also breeding. We are, after all, equal opportunity employers in this country.

So the question is whether, by ignoring the insightfulness of Mr. Morris's argument, we are not possibly hoodwinking ourselves into precisely the kind of government he feared, one constituted of and controlled by the rich and powerful.  It sure looks like it to me. 

Wake up, America!

December 17, 2008