Allegations of nepotism could haunt Clinton on the presidential campaign trail.
(The Root) -- By all accounts the 2016 presidential election is Hillary Clinton's to lose.
It should be. After all, it is arguable whether there has ever been a more qualified candidate in terms of experience, since she has served in the Senate, the Cabinet and the White House -- for two terms, no less -- albeit in a slightly different capacity than commander in chief. (Disclosure: I once interned for Secretary Clinton's Senate campaign.) While conservatives try desperately to stop Clinton's seemingly unstoppable momentum by making Benghazi, Libya, a permanent, tragic albatross around her neck, there is one more obstacle to her White House hopes emerging: her daughter.
Chelsea Clinton appears to have inherited the brains of both of her parents, earning impressive degrees from institutions like Stanford and Oxford. But she inherited from them something even more valuable: her last name. Increasingly, she appears to be using it to open lucrative doors that would be unlikely to open were she not the daughter of a past president and possible future one.
As reported by various outlets, the younger Clinton recently became co-chair of an institute at New York University, where she has already been serving as a vice provost. In addition to her role there, she has a lucrative role on the board of directors for IAC/InterActiveCorp, along with being a "special correspondent" for NBC News -- all of this by the ripe young age of 33. There has been extensive media coverage of Chelsea Clinton's high-profile gigs, including tough criticism of her debut as a journalist, as well as her reported multimillion-dollar real estate purchases.
So why does Chelsea Clinton's increasingly heightened public profile matter to her mother's rumored campaign? More specifically, why could it prove damaging? Well, it's hard to make a campaign issue out of class inequality or America being rigged to benefit the wealthy when your family is now benefiting so audaciously from said rigging and, worse, seems oblivious to how crass it looks.
While Democrats have spent much of the last three presidential election cycles ridiculing the Republican nominees as poster children for nepotism, it's looking likely that the next Democratic nominee's family will officially be able to give the Romneys and Bushes a run for their money. Despite Secretary Clinton's qualifications, the image that she and her family present is increasingly a troubling one for anyone who believes that America truly is about equal opportunity for all. Though no one would question that Hillary Clinton's and her husband's early successes are the product of hard work, today it is impossible to look at their family and not see first and foremost a former president opening White House doors for his wife, and both of them opening up as many doors to power for their daughter.
Listening to Secretary Clinton discuss the class divide, the struggles of millennials saddled by student-loan debt or the unemployment rates of young black Americans will barely pass the laugh test on a campaign trail when it is clear that she and the former president are operating from the George H.W. Bush school of parenting. The Clintons may not have helped their daughter buy a baseball team, but someone bought her a $10 million apartment, and someone's connections have gotten her jobs that don't seem to fall within the purview of her expertise or qualifications.
Does all of this make Hillary Clinton unfit for the presidency? No. But it may make it tough for her to pass herself off as a relatable progressive candidate if she runs, or for her to paint her Republican opponent as out of touch, as the Obama campaign did so effectively against Gov. Romney.
Furthermore, it is arguable that the issue of nepotism has already cost Clinton one presidential election. Then-candidate Obama was seen by many as what Hillary Clinton's husband once was: a self-made man born without any perks who made it in politics on his own. This stood in contrast with someone who seemed to be campaigning on the strength of her spouse's record and connections. Now, with Chelsea Clinton already hinting at a possible political career, the Clintons appear to be officially taking a page from the Romney-Bush playbook. That's hard to package as progressive values.
To be clear, there are certainly well-known wealthy families who have succeeded as progressives despite their bank accounts. The Kennedys come to mind. But despite the Kennedys' youthful foibles and missteps, one constant that has defined the family throughout generations -- from Robert Kennedy to Caroline Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Joseph Kennedy III and many others -- is a rigorous, lifetime commitment to progressive causes focused on lifting others not born into families like theirs, who don't have a famous last name and all of the perks and privileges to go with it.
Perhaps Chelsea Clinton could take note. It might help her mother's campaign.
Political dynasties are not necessarily good for America.
(The Root) -- Largely overlooked amid the wall-to-wall coverage of the Boston terror attacks was some intriguing and potentially important political news. Former President George W. Bush weighed in on speculation regarding his brother former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's presidential prospects, saying that he hopes his sibling runs for the nation's highest office in 2016.
If Bush runs, it is unlikely that he will be the only familiar name on the ballot. It is widely believed that former first lady-turned-Senator-turned-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also run. This means that regardless of political party, the White House could soon be occupied by a familiar name and family. 2016 might just end up feeling a bit like a flashback from A Christmas Carol -- except, instead of all of us taking a stroll down memory lane to revisit Christmases past, we'll be visiting elections past.
Here's a question for American voters: Are political dynasties actually good for America?
One of the core principles that are supposed to distinguish America from monarchy-ruled countries in Europe is that in America, political power is supposed to be earned, not inherited. Yet from the earliest days of our country's existence, political power has been concentrated among already powerful families. The earliest example is the Adams family. John Adams served as the country's first vice president and second president, while his son John Quincy Adams served as the country's sixth president.
It would be more than a century before this feat would be repeated, with George H.W. Bush serving as the nation's 41st president and his son George H.W. Bush becoming the nation's 43rd president. But throughout history, there have been countless sons, daughters and spouses succeeding their mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts into state legislatures and Congress.
Within the Bush family, Prescott Bush, the first President Bush's father, served in the U.S. Senate. Barbara Bush, the former first lady and mother of the second President Bush, is descended from Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States. In addition to Jeb Bush's possible presidential run, his son George Pierce Bush is running for office in Texas.
The most comparable Democratic counterpart to the Bushes is the Kennedy family. The Kennedys count one president (John F. Kennedy), one attorney general (Robert F. Kennedy), three senators (John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy) and three congressmen (Patrick Kennedy, Joseph Kennedy II and his son Joseph Kennedy III), one lieutenant governor (Kathleen Kennedy Townsend) and two ambassadors (family patriarch Joseph Kennedy, who served as ambassador to England in Franklin Roosevelt's administration, and his daughter Jean, who was an ambassador to Ireland during the Clinton administration).
According to reports, the family could soon count another. It is rumored that the Obama administration is considering nominating John F. Kennedy's daughter, Caroline Kennedy, ambassador to Japan. The family also includes one mayor: John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, President Kennedy's maternal grandfather, who served as mayor of Boston and is the earliest prominent political figure in the family's history.
A few of America's other notable political dynasties include the Landrieus of Louisiana (who include two New Orleans mayors and one senator), the Hutchinsons of Arkansas (one congressman and one senator), the Pryors of Arkansas (two senators), the Meeks of Florida (two members of Congress), the Kilpatricks of Michigan (one congresswoman and one mayor), the Carnahans of Missouri (two congressmen, a governor and a senator), the Gores (two senators, one who became vice president) and the Udall family, which includes multiple members of the Senate, the House, city councils and various other offices spanning both major political parties over more than a century.
And let's not forget the Romneys. 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is the son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney and Senate candidate Lenore Romney.
In addition, at least 18 American women have been elected to the House or the Senate to fill seats left vacant by the deaths of their husbands. This is such a common political practice worldwide that such elections and appointments have a term: widow's succession.
Although children of privilege cannot help the circumstances into which they are born -- any more than those of us who are not born into privilege can -- and therefore deserve to be considered on their merits just like the rest of us, the fact that they are so overrepresented in government means that they probably aren't being judged on their merits like the rest of us. But that's not the greatest travesty.
The fact that our political system is dominated by so many people of privilege is cause for concern because it means that even if our elected officials represent racial and gender diversity, they still aren't really that diverse. Ultimately, people of privilege and power have plenty in common -- certainly more in common with one another than with those of us who don't enjoy much privilege or power.
I've often wondered what would have happened in a presidential debate between John Kerry and George W. Bush or George W. Bush and Al Gore if the moderator had presented a FAFSA form (the form families fill out to obtain college financial aid) and asked any of the men to identify it. Considering that all three men were from families who didn't require financial aid to subsidize their educations -- and hadn't for a generation or two -- I doubt that any of them would have been able to identify the form. And that's the problem.
Both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have the academic and political smarts to be effective candidates and competent presidents. (Whether you actually agree with them on the issues is another matter.) What is debatable is whether or not both of them possess something that Barack Obama did when he ran for office: the knowledge of what it's like to make career decisions based on whether or not you will be able to pay off your student-loan debt someday, or knowing what it's like to lose a parent because of substandard health care, and because your family couldn't afford anything better.
This kind of firsthand knowledge of what life is like for average Americans is something you can't pick up by reading a briefing book or just talking to voters on the campaign trail. So does this mean that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton shouldn't be allowed to run? No. They both have plenty of respectable experience that would legitimately qualify them for the presidency. But it might be nice if they publicly acknowledged that no one should consider voting for their children until those children demonstrated some actual experience and qualifications, too, experience that extends beyond simply having the right last name.
Otherwise, we might as well brace ourselves for "Bush vs. Clinton: the Rematch" in 2028. In addition to George Pierce Bush's foray into politics, in a recent interview, Chelsea Clinton hinted that she might run for office someday.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick picks William "Mo" Cowan to be interim U.S. senator, filling John Kerry's seat.
(The Root) -- William "Mo" Cowan has been appointed by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to replace newly confirmed Secretary of State Sen. John Kerry in the U.S. Senate. Cowan will fill the role in an interim capacity until his successor is chosen in a special election in June.
The selection of Cowan, Patrick's former chief of staff, has surprised political observers. Many of them assumed that the governor would do as he did after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy and select an elder statesman of some sort -- perhaps former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis or retired Rep. Barney Frank. But according to Boston-based political consultant Michael Goldman, who has previously advised Patrick, Cowan makes sense.
"He was one of the governor's most respected advisers, and one thing this governor wants to do is make history and start to create the next generation of black leadership, and Mo Cowan is that," Goldman said during a brief phone interview with The Root. Calling Cowan a "terrific guy," Goldman added, "Gov. Patrick could have picked someone at the end of his career to fill this role, but instead he picked someone still near the beginning. Twenty-five years from now, Mo Cowan will still be making a difference in government and politics, and this governor will have played a role in that."
Cowan's appointment means that Massachusetts is now home to two of America's highest-profile African-American politicians. Thanks in part to his impressive speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Patrick, the state's first black governor, is widely touted by many as a possible successor to President Obama in the White House someday.
Here are some key facts about America's newest black senator:
* Cowan is 43 years old.
* Cowan was born and raised in North Carolina.
* He attended Duke University as an undergraduate.
* He graduated from Northeastern University Law School.
* He is married with two sons.
* He is a former general counsel and chief of staff -- and longtime friend -- to Gov. Deval Patrick.
* He is credited with helping Gov. Mitt Romney recruit diverse legal talent for government legal and judicial posts.
* He becomes the second black senator to serve in Massachusetts. The first was Ed Brooke back in 1963.
* He joins Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to become the second African American in the current Senate.
* He becomes the sixth elected or appointed black U.S. senator of the modern era.
Editor's note: This posting has been updated to reflect the fact that Cowan is the second black senator to serve in Massachusetts, not the second elected.
Michelle defends Ann? Eastwooding? Twitter was an integral part of the election.
(The Root) -- The 2012 election marked the first in which Twitter emerged as a media form just as relevant as any other, and sometimes more so, with campaigns, candidates and those covering them using it to break news, make news and respond to news. Below, take a look at the defining political tweets of 2012. Feel free to add yours in the comments section.
March 22, 2012: Geraldo weighs in on the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Most of us end up wishing he hadn't.
Though not technically a story about politics, the Trayvon Martin tragedy -- in which an unarmed black teen was killed by George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense -- became one of the most politically volatile stories of the year, even leading President Obama to weigh in. Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera weighed in, too, but given the angry reaction he evoked, he probably wishes he hadn't.
Referring to Trayvon's attire on the night he was killed, Rivera tweeted "His hoodie killed Trayvon Martin as surely as George Zimmerman." The backlash to Rivera's remarks not only resulted in an eventual apology from him but also spurred a movement nationwide in which celebrities and others sported hoodies as a tribute to Trayvon's memory. One good thing about Rivera's tweet is that it sparked a nationwide conversation about racial profiling that would not have happened without this tragedy and Rivera's response to it.
April 12, 2012: Michelle Obama defends moms, including Ann Romney.
When Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said that presidential candidate Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, had "never worked a day in her life," she sparked one of the biggest controversies of the 2012 presidential election. The incident restarted the so-called mommy wars that attempt to pit stay-at-home mothers like Ann Romney against moms who work (or worked) outside the home, like Michelle Obama.
But the first lady threw everyone a curveball by immediately leaping to the defense of all moms, including the woman who was seeking to replace her in the White house. Michelle Obama, who was relatively new to Twitter at the time, settled the matter in the eyes of many with this tweet: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected."
Aug. 31, 2012: A Hollywood legend talks to a chair -- setting Twitter on fire.
It was one of the most memorable moments of the 2012 presidential campaign and may end up becoming one of the most memorable moments in presidential-campaign history. Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood was a surprise special guest at the Republican National Convention in August, there to rev up the crowd before the official acceptance speech of party nominee Mitt Romney. Only, things did not go quite as planned.
In lieu of a more traditional speech, Eastwood spent most of his time onstage having an imaginary conversation with an an empty chair, which he claimed represented the commander in chief. The moment may not have been particularly helpful to Romney, but it was a gift to comedians, the traditional media and social media, where "Eastwooding," photos of empty chairs, quickly became a meme.
But one social media response bested them all: The Obama campaign tweeted a photo of the president's chair in the White House, complete with a nameplate reading, "This seat's taken." It soon became the most retweeted tweet of the GOP convention. How's that for irony?
Oct. 12, 2012: Sarah Palin tweets for relevancy. It doesn't work.
For those of us disappointed that we wouldn't be graced with Sarah Palin's intellectual heft and words of wisdom this election cycle, we needn't have feared, because she couldn't resist the limelight and made sure she weighed in on high-profile stories. As the conservative media attempted to convince voters of some sort of White House-orchestrated cover-up regarding the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, just before the election, Palin couldn't help adding her two cents with the following tweet: "Obama's Shuck and Jive Ends With Benghazi Lies."
Though some tried to give Palin the benefit of the doubt by presuming that she was unaware of the saying's racial connotations, she didn't help her case by doubling down with the following reply on Facebook to her critics: "For the record, there was nothing remotely racist in my use of the phrase 'shuck and jive.' " Apparently now we can add "racist" to the list of words, phrases, geographic locations and overall subjects that Palin knows next to nothing about.
From secessionists to Allen West, these people don't take defeat kindly.
(The Root) -- Despite all of the promises of "bipartisanship" that politicians love to throw around on the campaign trail, many act like small children if their chosen candidate loses and they face the prospect of working with someone from another party.
Not all political figures and voters react that way. For instance, former first lady Barbara Bush recently admonished fellow Republicans still stewing over President Obama's win: "People spoke. Move on, get on with it. I want to do other things and not to be ugly."
But there are plenty who are comfortable being "ugly" about the election results. From politicians to pizza chains, below is a list of the ugliest -- the sorest losers of the 2012 election cycle.
Rep. Allen West
This one isn't exactly a surprise. The representative from Florida spent his time in Congress solidifying his reputation as one of the most controversial members there, which is a pretty big accomplishment, considering that he served only one term. He's infamous for suggesting that the president and other Democratic leaders should take their policy ideas and "get the hell out of the United States of America" and for claiming that dozens of Democratic members of Congress are "members of the Communist Party." He may become even more infamous for being the least gracious candidate in defeat this year.
It took West weeks to concede defeat by his Democratic opponent, Patrick Murphy. This despite the fact that a Florida judge denied his request for a recount. Ironically, West may be one of the GOP legislators whom Democrats will miss. In terms of controversies and gaffes, he was the gift that kept on giving, with Murphy's Democratic supporters even creating a website devoted to his many foot-in-mouth moments, aptly titled, "That's What West Said."
Either Southern states really never got over losing the Civil War or perhaps some people there considered the Nov. 6 presidential election the equivalent of a rematch, because residents from those states led the charge in racist meltdowns on social media. The three states with the most racist tweets right after the presidential election: Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. It won't exactly come as a shock that President Obama didn't carry those states. Other Southern states coming in the top 15: Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas.
Sen. John McCain
Yes, you read that correctly. McCain (R-Ariz.), President Obama's opponent from 2008, is on a list of the sorest losers of the 2012 election. Apparently, while everyone else has moved on from 2008, he has not. To the surprise of many of his onetime admirers, McCain has spent the last four years seeming to do everything possible to eradicate any trace of his moderate, maverick, compromising conservative persona -- and all because he still seems to be nursing a grudge that the president beat him four years ago. According to news reports, McCain's dislike of Obama began long before they were presidential candidates.
This personal animosity has since morphed from petty to embarrassing in recent days, as news outlets have pointed out the blatant hypocrisy in McCain's statement that he would block the nomination of United Nations ambassador Susan Rice to be secretary of state because of her statements regarding Benghazi, Libya, and yet he fiercely defended another Rice -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the George W. Bush administration -- from criticism over her inaccurate comments about weapons of mass destruction that led our country into war. McCain's threat resulted in one of the sharpest rebukes the public has ever seen from President Obama. So it appears for now that the rivalry of the 2008 election shows no signs of winding down anytime soon.
The chairman of Murray Energy read a prayer, then laid off 200 employees from his various companies after President Obama's re-election. He blamed the Obama administration's energy policies for the move, despite the fact that his claims that the administration is having an adverse impact on his business have been debunked by industry analysts.
You know you've reached an embarrassing new low in conservative circles when Fox News feels the need to embarrass you while you are on the payroll. Rove got into a spat with his colleagues at Fox, where he is a paid contributor, because the network did its job by accurately calling the state of Ohio, and therefore the election, for President Obama. By doing so, he solidified his place as one of the 2012 election's sorest losers.