Thursday, September 3, 2009

Actually, the Senate Is Far Less Nepotistic Today

by Tom Schaller

The hiring of Jenna Bush Hager by NBC's "Today" show to be an education correspondent smacks of non-meritocratic promotion, and has Salon's Glenn Greenwald suitably fired up. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Greenwald imagines this scenario:

They should convene a panel for the next Meet the Press with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it's really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment. They can interview Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Jeb Bush, Bob Casey, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Dan Lipinksi, and Harold Ford, Jr. about personal responsibility and the virtues of self-sufficiency. Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz can provide moving commentary on how America is so special because all that matters is merit, not who you know or where you come from. There's a virtually endless list of politically well-placed guests equally qualified to talk on such matters.

I can't speak to the state of nepotism in the media; so far as I know, beyond anecdotal evidence, no statistics have ever been compiled to track this phenomenon. But when Greenwald cites U.S. senators--and as he wrote in a related, earlier post that, "Family succession is hardly unheard of in U.S. political history, but what was once quite rare has now become pervasive"--he's simply not right, or at least as concerns the U.S. Senate. The fact is that nepotism in the Senate is today at historical lows in American history.

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