We are being told, by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and others, that the best way we can honor Sen. Ted Kennedy’s legacy is by taking a purely partisan vote on the state level to grant Patrick appointment power, so that other purely partisan votes may be taken in Washington on health-care reform and other pressing issues.

In the days after the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, his former Republican colleague Bob Dole was quoted as saying, “Kennedy understood, just like Ronald Reagan used to tell me when I was the leader, ‘I want it all, but if I can get 70 percent, I’ll run with it.’ That was sort of Kennedy’s attitude — he knew in the legislative process you’ve got to allow some give and take.”


President Barack Obama eulogized Kennedy, saying, “He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect — a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots.”


And now we are told, by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and others, that the best way we can honor Kennedy’s legacy is by taking a purely partisan vote on the state level to grant Patrick appointment power, so that other purely partisan votes may be taken in Washington on health-care reform and other pressing issues.


Interesting.


In a vacuum, what Patrick and some Democrats are now demanding — a temporary appointment of someone who, either by solemn pledge or by date of appointment (we prefer the latter), will not seek the seat permanently — is perfectly reasonable. After all, it’s a system that was heartily endorsed by Republicans as recently as 2006.


But politics do not happen in a vacuum, of course. Republicans’ previous support had everything to do with who then held the keys to the governor’s mansion, Mitt Romney.


This really isn’t that hard.


What you should be trying to do is “ensure that Massachusetts does not go for too long without full representation in the Senate, and that Massachusetts voters will be the ultimate and only decision makers when it comes to the question of who should succeed Senator Kennedy in the Senate.”


Who said that? None other than state Rep. Karyn Polito, R-Shrewsbury. Polito is proposing that the special election to fill Kennedy’s seat be held sooner to coincide with Nov. 3 municipal elections. In addition to being good government, Polito’s plan would have the side benefit of saving cities and towns money.


Now, there may well be practical problems with Polito’s proposal. For one, having such a small window to gather 10,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot would be a daunting task for special-election candidates.


But absent a proposal like Politio’s, it says here that, regrettably, Democrats should have to lie in the bed they made in 2004, rather than be hell bent on what could be a pyrrhic victory on health-care reform. (And, who knows? Delay until January may even result in a better bill that gains wider acceptance, perhaps even some measure of bipartisan support. Dare to dream.)


Obama told Kennedy’s mourners that Kennedy “became the greatest legislator of our time… by hewing to principle, but also by seeking compromise and common cause — not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor.”


Massachusetts legislators may never be Kennedy’s equal in that regard. But they should at least give it a shot.


Marblehead Reporter