Politics & Policy

Come, Join the Tammany Party

The door is open, Countrywide.

I know you’re as shocked as I am to discover that Sen. Chris Dodd (D., Countrywide) has been identified as a “Friend of Angelo,” amid charges that the Enron of subprime mortgages gave him a sweetheart deal. And Sen. Kent Conrad (D., Middle of Nowhere). And Donna Shalala (D., Clinton), Richard Holbrooke (D., Media), and somebody named James Johnson (D., Who?) who, I gather, was briefly affiliated with the campaign of B. Hussein Obama Soetelo Obama the Second in some minor capacity, to wit: the selection of the man or woman to run for the Pitcher of Warm Spit.

You’re probably also stunned that Dodd — the chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, and the alleged other half of the Edward Moore Kennedy Memorial Waitress Sandwich — had to admit the other day, “I don’t know what interest rates are today.”

I’m sure it positively puts you right on the floor that the senator from Nutmeg is one of the chief sponsors of a bill currently before the Senate that would help bail out Angelo Mozilo’s collapsing Countrywide Financial mortgage company and other meeskites to the tune of $2.5 billion in taxpayers’ funds — the same company that reportedly gave him, Conrad, and the others “VIP” discounts on their various dachas — excuse me, country houses.

And finally, it will no doubt astonish you to learn that Dodd, who some say ran for the Democrat nomination for president this year before his campaign collapsed from terminal anti-charisma, along the way shook down — excuse me again, “collected millions of dollars in campaign contributions from” — various subprime lenders and other real-estate types whose activities he oversaw.

Is this a great racket — excuse me one more time — country, or what?

The whole thing makes me proud to be a member of the Tammany party. Yes, the party of Slavery, Segregation, Secularism, and Sedition — that Tammany party. The Tammany Party whose motto is, “Stealing Elections Since Boss Tweed.” The Tammany party as in Tammany Hall, which was once led in its earliest days by none other than that great Democrat, Aaron Burr, who nobly served his country as Thomas Jefferson’s vice president, shot and killed Alexander Hamilton, and was later tried for treason.

Makes me warm and fuzzy all over just thinking about my party’s sterling history. And while the Tammany party ain’t what it used to be, it sure is great to see Chris Dodd emerging as a throwback to our glory days. With his shock of white hair, his vaguely New England-ish accent, his hazy demeanor and his utter lack of shame, Dodd is the second coming of the stage-Irishmen who once dominated the party of SSS&S, the living avatar of Honest John Kelly, Boss Croker, and the great Charlie Murphy, doing well for themselves while pretending to do good for the Little Guy. Runs in the family . . .

Of course in Chris Dodd’s case, it actually does. One of the great things about the Tammany party is its sheer unabashed celebration of nepotism and family dynasties. In Massachusetts, we have the Kennedy Reserved Senate Seat, which America’s Royal Family has already made clear must and will stay in its hands in perpetuity or forever, whichever comes last. Fortunately, there is no end in sight to the number of Kennedys on the horizon, although drugs and the occasional tree have taken their tragic toll.

Not to be outdone, William Jefferson Blythe III Clinton attempted to foist his blushing bride, Hillary, on the body politic as a plausible presidential candidate, perhaps mindful of the old adage that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. How was Bubba to know that George Soros and David Axelrod would see that maxim and raise it a Forrest Gump, beating the Beast with my guy, a first-term senator (D., Daley/Rezko) who thankfully skipped his current-events classes at Harvard while practicing his mantra of Hope and Change. At least the Clintons still have their Senate seat in New York, and there’s always Chelsea . . .

It was typical of the Rethuglicans that they’d try to emulate the Tammany party’s proven formula for electoral success — hey, it even worked for Lurleen Wallace! — when George Herbert Walker Bush (R., CIA) managed to get George Walker Bush (R., Alamo) ensconced in the White House thanks to an out-of-control Supreme Court (which fortunately has managed to come back to its senses lately in its sterling, makes-you-proud-to-be-an-American Boumediene decision). But the talk of Jeb for Prez has long since faded and nobody I know is on the Jenna ‘n’ Barb bandwagon yet. Give it up, guys — you’re no good at it.

So the senator from Countrywide sits squarely in our grand Democratic tradition. He got his high electoral office the old-fashioned way, by following in his daddy’s footsteps. You all remember Sen. Thomas Dodd (D., Gun Control Act of 1968), the grandson of poor Irish immigrants who distinguished himself as an FBI agent, busted up a WWII spy ring and prosecuted top Nazis at Nuremberg, even without habeas corpus. And what thanks did he get? He lost his first run for the Senate in 1956 to none other than Poppy’s pappy, Prescott S. Bush (R, S.P.Q.R.), but two years later won the other seat, which he happily kept until . . .

He was censured in 1967 by the Senate for behavior that was “contrary to good morals, derogates from the public trust expected of a senator, and tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” After suffering a heart attack in 1970, he at first chose not to run for reelection, then changed his mind and ran as an independent, lost, and thus thrust Lowell Weicker upon an unsuspecting Constitution State.

You ask: Hey — Holy cow! — just how bad do you have to be to get censured for bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute for crying out loud, huh? As Time reported at the time:

From the hailstorm of allegations that has clattered down on Dodd for nearly 16 months, the committee selected just four stones to hurl at him. It accused him of accepting $8,000 from the International Latex Corp.,* of taking Senate travel funds for 13 trips also paid for by private organizations and his own campaign kitty, of accepting free use of automobiles supplied by a constituent for 21 months, and of diverting campaign funds to his personal use. Between 1961 and 1965, the investigators calculated, Dodd grossed $450,273 from seven testimonial social functions and other political fund-raising efforts. Although the testimonial donors were never informed that they were making personal gifts as distinct from campaign contributions, the committee said Dodd appropriated “at least $116,083″ for himself.

That bad.

Or that good. Here at Tammany Hall Redivivus, the apple never falls very far from the tree. We’re pleased and proud that our past few presidential candidates have been scions of scions, unto the generations: James Earl Carter Jr., Billy Blythe the Third, Albert Arnold Gore Jr., and now Barack Hussein Obama II.

Call it coincidence. Call it a family thing. Just don’t call it la cosa nostra.

– David Kahane is the nom de cyber of a writer in Hollywood. A free-thinker, he votes the straight Democratic ticket every time. You may congratulate him at kahanenro@gmail.com.

Since February 2007, Michael Walsh has written for National Review both under his own name and the name of David Kahane, a fictional persona described as “a Hollywood liberal who ...


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