It’s All In The DNA

Apparently, not only are politicians born, not made, but it’s genetic. I find it ironic that the party that is supposedly the defender of the common man is so enamored of its own aristocracy. But I think that Democrats (and their enablers in the press) apparently lack a sense of irony.

[Update late evening]

Her Highness refuses to make a financial disclosure. Can you imagine that?

OK, her excuse is that she hasn’t actually been annointedselected by the governor to be the next Senator from New York, and she shouldn’t have to do so until she is. But doesn’t this just feed into the theory that she doesn’t have to actually “run” for the office, and that she should be “selected” just because of her DNA? I would think that the public would like to know this kind of 411 prior to their governor “selecting” her for the office. I mean, I’m all for being a Republic, where our elected officials make decisions, but this seems a little ridiculous.


[Update a few minutes later]

Victor Davis Hanson has further (relevant) thoughts.

40 thoughts on “It’s All In The DNA”

  1. Although this is tangential to your point, in trying to formulate a response to your post, I came across this:
    I was so surprised by the extent of the Bush family’s political success, I got sidetracked.

    Here’s a quote, but that’s just the start:
    “the family includes two U.S. Senators, one Supreme Court Justice, two Governors, one Vice President and two Presidents (three, should Barbara Bush’s relation, Franklin Pierce, be included).” There’s much more.

    Here’s a staggeringly long list of similar but usually not-quite-as-successful US political families:

    Also tangential to your point about the Democrats but: I do think that most or all of the people quoted in the National Review piece are not making a nature-vs-nurture distinction — talk of DNA in this case is just shorthand for “close family relationship regardless of actual genetic makeup”.

  2. I didn’t say that there were no Republican examples (though the Bush family is the only really notable one that I can think of). My point was about the attitude toward it. I can’t imagine all this swooning among Republicans, or in the press, over a Bush. Yes, there’s support for Jeb in a lot of Republican quarters, but it’s because of his record as governor, not his genetics. Caroline has no history in politics whatsoever, other than osmosis from her family.

  3. The buzz over George P. Bush is more similar to the silliness of Caroline, and I fully expect all out swooning in the future. Also, from my outside Florida position, I have to wonder how Jeb got to be Governor.

    But there really are a staggering number of successful political families, and they cross party lines, like the Udall family. Visit the link above and check out the size of the Taft family (mostly Republican but I wouldn’t be surprised to find many Democrats too). You and I don’t think of them as notable, but they sure win elections and get appointments.

  4. A freakin anonymous woman says, “He’s our John, John”, and Bob writes:
    The buzz over George P. Bush is more similar to the silliness of Caroline,

    I call BS. The anecdotal claim seems about as likely is someone shouting “kill him” at an Palin rally. It could be something truly overheard, and it could just as easily be something the journalist decided to put in the story to spice it up.

    Let us know when numerous Conservative pundits start using eugenic like terms such as “he has good genes”. At that point, then maybe your tangent would really be a relevant one.

  5. There has been buzz about George P Bush for a very long time – the article was a humerous example, not a proof. Google him, and you’ll see (although I was hearing it before google became a verb). I tend to believe his recent decision to serve our country in the military is based on heartfelt patriotism (no sarcasm here) but I think it will help him win Republican primaries should he decide to seek office, and I predict that he will eventually seek office.

    The pundits don’t matter, nor does George P Bush — my only real point is that American political families have prospered in both major political parties, and I think it is equally ironic on either side of the aisle. Although, speaking of conservative pundits, aren’t there quite a few father and son conservative pundit teams? (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)

  6. Unquestionably you can find a non-zero number of Republicans excited about George P. Bush. But I’m not aware of any swooning in the press about him that is in any way comparable to that about the Democrats’ princess.

    But, considering the definition of a republic, is it more, less, or equally ironic when the Republicans do it?

    No, it’s as ironic when Republicans do it. But Republicans don’t do it much. And Republicans don’t put on as much of a show about being for the common man (and even when they do, they’re chastised by Democrats and the press for it, which is not just ironic, but hypocritical).

  7. By the way, I don’t claim that there is anything wrong with children following in their parents footsteps, even in politics. I think, though, that it’s gotten out of hand when someone is being considered as a Senate appointment for no reason other than her DNA.

    As for pundits, the only examples that I’m aware of are the Kristols and the Podhoretzes.

  8. Ok, did google search on:

    “George P Bush” 31,300 hits
    “Caroline Kennedy” 3,650,000 hits

    Back to my point… So then, I added the word “genes” after each name. In the first 10 of 1,490 hits for GPB, 4 used genes in a genetic sense. 3 were negative comments about Bush that smack at eugenics. The other 1 was about a genetic researcher mentioned in the same article as Bush.

    For CK, the first 10 of 146,000 hits include a link to related news articles similar to Rands link which included 3,515 hits about Caroline’s good genes. Eight of the other hits also used genes in the genetic sense.

    After these searches, I find no reason to go on a tangent from Rand’s point: “I find it ironic that the party that is supposedly the defender of the common man is so enamored of its own aristocracy.”

  9. I don’t think it is so much a lack of appreciation for irony, as just dim-wittedness amongst the folks chanting about Caroline’s “DNA”.

  10. I don’t know if Christopher Buckley counts. I googled Neocon father and sons, and saw a long list, but I didn’t recognize the names. I was also misremembering who Jonah Goldberg’s mother was. Eh, never mind!

  11. I’ve never thought of Christopher Buckley as a pundit, so much as a satire novelist. And I don’t think that Lucianne Goldberg is a pundit, either, or if she is, she’s an accidental one, when she got sucked into the Lewinski imbroglio while helping Linda Tripp.

  12. I googled Neocon father and sons, and saw a long list

    That’s interesting. I googled “Neocon father and sons” and got this:

    No results found for “Neocon father and sons”. It’s the first time I got a zero hit.

    Even if I take off the quotes and the and, I still only get 61,900 hits. That is a long list compared to the 31,000 hits for George P Bush.

  13. Leland, you have the worst google-fu ever! But you make up for it by being so pleasant.

    Here’s the list I found (and you’ll just have to figure out how in the world I could have found it..):

    Kristols (and Himmelfarbs),
    Poddys (and Decters),

    Here’s a test of your google skills: Does “Rand Simberg” yield around 94,000 hits or a number closer to 482?

  14. For God’s sakes, the issue, Bob, isn’t whether people should go into the same profession that other members of their family are in, the issue is the ridiculous fawning over the Kennedys and the supposed “speshulness” of their genetic makeup as concerns politics. This is coming from the Democrats, who claim to be the friends of the common man. It’s the Republicans who are supposed to be the party of exclusionary rich fat cats who don’t want any riffraff getting into power. But NO Republican spokesperson of any importance (in which I am not including some fool saying some Bush offspring is “our John John”) has made any claim whatsoever that the Bush family or any other political family has special political superpowers running through its genetic makeup — in fact, Republicans are in general (at least those who are still conservative) quite wary about basing things on genetics.

    No, come on, think about it mentally. We have the “party of the Peepul” and its lackeys in the media licking the floor in delight at the idea of Yet Another Kennedy in a key political position, based solely on the fact that this person is a relative of St. JFK. Gee, you know, I’m sorry John F. and then Robert got shot and all, but that doesn’t invalidate the fact that over two hundred years ago we had a frikken’ war to get out from under the divine right of kings.

    And it has nothing to do with the Bushes, that’s just your obsession and your attempt to divert the comment thread here onto it. Most people I know who voted for Dubya did so despite his relationship to the first Bush, not because of it. There is nothing like the weird “Camelot” glamour myth about the Bushes. In fact, most people I know are uneasy that so many in the Bush family are in politics. We don’t automatically drop to our knees in star-struck admiration of celebrities and their families like too many liberals do. I’m sick of the Kennedys; the whole “American royalty” treatment they’ve gotten has always struck me as essentially un-American.

  15. Andrea, I’m not obsessed with Bush, and I basically agree with you. Two points of disagreement: I don’t think this about genetics. It helps her that Caroline is conventionally pretty, but if she was known to be adopted, but had had the same childhood White House experiences and the same appearance, I think the press and public would treat her exactly the same way – they just wouldn’t use the “DNA” and “bloodline” shorthand. In any case, I think this has nothing to do with genetics or eugenics, and everything to do with dynasty, and, as you say, celebrity. The other disagreement I have is that I don’t see a liberal or conservative bias toward the treatment of celebrities and their families by the public. Different celebrities might be preferred according to political preference, but the fawning is the same. I don’t know how to prove either of my assertions. To end on a positive note, all Americans can take satisfaction that our next president succeeded without any family connections at all.

  16. Bob, your protestations that you’re not fixated on the Bushes hold no water when you claim not to understand how Jeb got elected Governor. It’s called an election, and in Florida we manage to have them without the dead walking the earth. That’s more than I can say about the North, which is a small part of why I left. Neither of the replacement Senators (whomever they may be) can claim as much – they will be appointed by Governors and will owe more allegiance to them than to the Constitution they’ll swear to uphold and defend. Selecting someone to effectively become a Peer simply because of their last name (or in this case, maiden name) just adds insult to injury.

  17. Andrea, that was very funny! A comical example of the gene metaphor. But Leland was talking about eugenics, so at least some of us were literally discussing genes.


    R Anderson,

    Thank you for explaining that Jeb Bush was elected via, of all things, an election. Very enlightening. 🙂

    Appointments are a vestige of the old view of the Senate, in which the Senators were not even directly elected. The 17th amendment, ratified as late as 1913, said “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereoff…[…]. Interestingly, the 17th amendement had much heavier support in the North than in the South. As for your state, to this day Florida has not ratified the 17th amendment. The 17th amendment also calls for a State’s executive to fill Senate vacancies by appointment and I think this should be changed – elections would be a better and more democratic (albeit more expensive) way to handle a vacancy.

    Your claim that an appointed Senator will be more loyal to the governor than to the constitution seems unfair and silly to me. Silly, because you might as well say that pre-1913 senators were more loyal to the majority leader in their state’s legislature, or that today’s elected Senators are more loyal to the electorate than to the Constitution. And that seems unfair because you haven’t given any reason to think that a random Senator’s oath isn’t worth something.

    Jeb Bush is an impressive guy, but his first elected office was Governor. Why didn’t the voters of Florida demand that Jeb Bush have to work his way up to the top job like other similarly impressive politicians? Read the rest of his resume. Do you think his name and family weren’t major factors in his election, just as Hillary Clinton’s name was the major factor in her Senatorial election.

  18. Bob, while we appreciate your sudden devotion to Republicanism, it seems a little amusing coming from a supposedly devoted Democrat. Which was (not coincidentally) the point of my post…

  19. But doesn’t this just feed into the theory that she doesn’t have to actually “run” for the office

    Rand, everyone else in NY has been told that they should not run for the office — that the decision is the Governor’s, and that any pressure in the form of public campaigning will be frowned upon by Patterson. I think your compaints should be directed at the 17th amendment’s appointment provision rather than at Kennedy, unless you think Kennedy was wrong to even let the Governor know that she would be honored and willing if she were selected.

  20. I think your compaints should be directed at the 17th amendment’s appointment provision rather than at Kennedy, unless you think Kennedy was wrong to even let the Governor know that she would be honored and willing if she were selected.

    I have no end of arguments with the seventeenth amendment, and think it a disaster. But I don’t think that Ms. Kennedy (Princess Kennedy? What’s the correct prependage?) has done only that…

    Let’s get the record straight here. Are you, as a Democrat, perfectly comfortable with this woman, who has previously expressed zero public interest in politics, becoming the next New York senator?

  21. Rand, as a Democrat, I’d much rather that someone who has already demonstrated that he or she was qualified would get the job. I said as much to my wife, who promptly went to the bookshelf and pulled out a copy of Kennedy’s book about the Bill of Rights and its relevance to everyday concerns (co-authored but apparently not ghost written). where she discusses the bill of rights. My wife said that the book was great! I was happy to see that Kennedy was demonstrably interested in constitutional law and how it works on a practical level even if she hasn’t been interested in elected office. Also, if the alternative is Andrew Cuomo, I’d prefer Caroline Kennedy. I would want to review the laws on libel before I said more about him. I don’t know enough about NY politics to say who should get the position, but in general, I think it would be preferable to appoint someone who is already in Congress or somoene who has already been elected statewide.

  22. But I think that Democrats (and their enablers in the press) apparently lack a sense of irony.

    Sure, if the Democrats happen to be Fox News regulars, such as Mort Kondracke and Ed Koch, who don’t mind making themselves and their party look bad. Likewise the real enablers within the press are the conservative and Republican spin desks. They’re always happy to exaggerate or even manufacture irony.

    By contrast here is what New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said: “Caroline Kennedy strikes me as a very impressive woman with all the right priorities, such as education. But I also find it unseemly and undemocratic that she seems to have vaulted to the top of the Senate list by virtue of who her dad was.”

    And here is what the New York Times columnist Gail Collins said: “My biggest concern about the Kennedy-for-senate boom is that the whole idea sounds as if it had been inspired by telephone conversations between Caroline and her Uncle Ted, followed by encouraging calls from her cousin Robert.”

    That is what serious Democrats have to say about Caroline Kennedy. People like Mort Kondracke and Ed Koch are just humoring you folks.

  23. Yeah, the Serious Democrats have weighed in, so pipe down, plebes!

    No, Andrea, Fox News liberals and Fox News conservatives can tell each other whatever they want about Caroline Kennedy. The Fox News liberals can say that she has royal blood and the Fox News conservatives can call it elitist. Whatever. They just shouldn’t think that this “irony” matters.

  24. I don’t understand the “DNA” fixation present here, but picking a replacement senator is the perogative of the governor of Pennsylvania.

    I consider the Kennedy name to be more an example of effective branding in politics rather than some magic genetic trait. Interesting how the Kennedys turned a fortune made from criminal endeavors into a substantial political franchise spanning two generations.

  25. People like Mort Kondracke and Ed Koch are just humoring you folks.

    Yes, that’s right Jim. Mort and Ed are only saying these things to humor me.

    Did you really type that bit of stupidity with a straight face?

  26. Let’s see. Rand points out a fixation that Democrats have on “genes” as a method of determining leaders. Bob then decides to suggest that Republicans do to, but yet can only find an anonymous quote for an obscure local news article to support his “tangent” claim. I note that Rand’s point is the “party of the common man” seems to consider common a genetic trait.

    So Bob’s response is to list “Zionist” who he dislikes. That is just freakin creepy.

  27. Leland, I’m going to say this again: you are not very good at using google. I’m going to have to assume that’s what is going on here, because otherwise, as my bubby would say, you’re meshuganah!

    (Sadly, a translation is probably necessary, or you’ll try to use google to help you. I googled for neocon father and sons. I don’t recall what combination of plurals and singulars and quotes I used. I got a list. My whole line of inquiry was based on a misremembered New York Times book review titled “fathers and sons” and some such about the neoconservative movement. As a democrat who has a more right-wing foreign policy than many in my party, I do not dislike neocons or Republicans per se, and I find it deplorable that “neocon” and “Jew” and “Zionist” have become conflated by some, and purposely used interchangeable by anti-semites. As a Jew who is biased the other way, I think it says something nice about Jewish culture that it isn’t unusual for politics and philosophy to be the issues that either bring a family’s generations together or drive them apart — either way, at least thinking matters. But note that I didn’t google “Zionist”, you did. Acussing me of some sort of antisemitism based your incorrect and rather disturbing guess about what I googled is embarrassing, and, to translate, my grandmother would think you are crazy. )


    Back on track: I don’t think there is any difference between Democrats and Republicans on the following topics:
    — Fawning over celebrities
    — Putting family members of successful politicians in office
    — Sticking up for the common man (it is just done differently)
    — Propensity to believe in genetic destiny
    — Atavistic desire for royalty

  28. Bob,

    I don’t need Google. You told me to use it, and I found it proved you wrong. Your tangent was just BS (as I originally called it, no Google involved). You then persisted in making more claims that couldn’t be substantiated. Others joined into point out the flaws in your argument.

    You make a list of names that are obviously Jewish (except for the derogatory slur on Podhertz name, which yes, I did require Googling to figure out, because I grew out of my childhood and no longer notice adults doing something as stupid). I have no idea what possessed you to make such a list. As I said, it seems like a creepy thing to do. I thought I was seeing something out of the movie “Schindler’s list”, and again it doesn’t take Google to recognize such a list if you know history.

    Your latest rebuttal doesn’t hold water. Democrats coined the phrase “neocon”. Yes, Irving Kristol accepted the term, but I never accepted the term as anything but derogatory. Perhaps, instead of just listing their names, you might want to read Goldberg’s thesis on the confusion of the term “neoconservatism”, its origin, and you really need to read the last in the series. I think a good line is this:
    Bill Kristol is a brilliant man, but one could go crazy trying to extract a coherent ideology from his tactical movements within the Republican party.

    Here’s a link to the archive. Start in mid-May and educate yourself. And note, you introduced neocon into this discussion, and I assumed you meant in one of its many derogatory terms. Otherwise, you would have stuck with party names, like Rand did, and say Republicans. You didn’t, so I assume you meant to be derogatory, and I have no reason to change that opinion.

    Back on your track, other than sticking up for the common man (perhaps you read Kristoff’s article on charity and ideology), the rest of your statements are absurd. Was Joe the Plumber a celebrity before Obama stepped in front of his house? Those of us willing to vote for McCain because of Sarah Palin, perhaps you can explain to us her political family tree? I might believe in DNA, but I don’t think it is the qualifying factor for leadership. As for royalty, exactly who do you think we consider as royalty? If you are going to make these BS assertions, perhaps you can actually provide some evidence that supports them. Otherwise, you seem to be flinging poo like a monkey, and it is pathetic.

  29. Yes, that’s right Jim. Mort and Ed are only saying these things to humor me.

    Not just you personally, but rather you and a lot of other people who are similarly entertained. They know who watches Fox News.

  30. I’m completely boggled. I cut and pasted the list, complete with the non-derogatory nicknames. But lets get this straight: if a bunch of neoconservatives happen have recognizably Jewish names and I list them without any mention of their ethnicity, you think that I, a Jewish guy, am being creepy for merely listing them? Ha!

    Let me clear: I don’t care if they are Jewish or not. You are the only one who seems to care or even notice.

    I remain a fan of the neoconservatives, even when I think they are wrong. (For example, I still think Fukuyama’s “End of History” was a fun book). I see nothing wrong with calling advocates of Neoconservatism “Neocons”, but I will allow that since it grates on me when Rand says “Democrat Party”, the “Neocon” label might grate on someone else. As I’ve said repeatedly, I only brought them up because I (mis)remembered a bunch of father and son pairs.

    Finally, I made a heartfelt but rather bland assertion that Republicans and Democrats are pretty much alike, and your response is to say that I’m flinging poo like a monkey? I agree that my assertion can be challenged and explored, but that conversation will have to be with someone else – I’m done with you.

  31. I guess by your response, you couldn’t be bothered to read the link I provided. Perhaps if I give you the first paragraph:

    Conservatives are accustomed to liberals not understanding the zoology of our movement. But the use and abuse of the term “neoconservative” has exceeded even the high allowance for clichĂ© and ignorance generally afforded to those who write or talk about conservatism from outside the conservative ant farm. In fact, neoconservative has become a Trojan Horse for vast arsenal of ideological attacks and insinuations. For some it means Jewish conservative. For others it means hawk. A few still think it means squishy conservative or ex-liberal. And a few don’t even know what the word means, they just think it makes them sound knowledgeable when they use it.

    Your use seems to fit the last sentence, and I see nothing from you comments suggesting otherwise. I point to such statements like “the ‘Neocon’ label might grate on someone else.” Again, your goal was to fling a BS label rather than actually make a point. I just saw it for what you obviously meant it to be. So I called you on it. I guess you can’t handle the truth.

  32. Hmmm.

    Is it DNA? Or rather that there is an existing support and mentoring structure present that new candidates can take advantage of from within the family that a first-timer, without similar family connections, would find extremely difficult to succeed without?

    Also included are advisory, fundraising and organizational advantages.

  33. memomachine,

    I think you make good points. These are reasonable things to consider, but it’s the terminology that was used that’s interesting. However, your comments certainly allow for why Caroline Kennedy would be “more experienced” for the Senate than Sarah Palin for what is really a similar role. Palin didn’t have the potential mentoring.

    Still, the people mentioned used the term “good genes”, and the discussion is the rational of using that particular term.

  34. Hmmm.

    Whoops! Sorry my comment was oriented around why related candidates seem to be so successful. I’m not positing that Caroline Kennedy is actually more qualified for the job due to these influences or that Sarah Palin is less qualified because she doesn’t have them.

    I’m just positing that perhaps DNA has nothing to do with the issue at all and that what is perceived as DNA advantages actually accrue from other sources.

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