Tom, Dick and Harriet

Judge Sutton Button

We know about the right to privacy. But where is Judge Alito on the right to rice pudding? hide caption

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Robert F. Kennedy Button

RFK is among those elected senators who failed to complete a full term. hide caption

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Mike Bloomberg Button

If Bloomberg wins, it will be the fourth time in a row that the Republican candidate for mayor of NYC was elected -- which has never happened before in the city's history. hide caption

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Well, that was the header of what was supposed to have been the Oct. 26 column. It was a column filled with questions about what was going to happen to Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Supreme Court hopeful Harriet Miers and, for good measure, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX). The headline wrote itself. And the questions were great. Trust me, it was an incredibly brilliant and insightful column. But because things were moving so fast — and I had to keep my day job as NPR's political editor — there was just no time to finish it. It's like Brian Wilson and his unfinished epic album, Smile; the only difference being that the Beach Boys never sang about Valerie Plame (or even Valerie Flame). And then, as the week drew to a close, all hell broke loose.

One of my favorite questions in the abortive column was a challenge: "Several months ago," a reader wrote, "you predicted that John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for the U.N., was 'toast.' If I'm not mistaken, John Bolton is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. So I hesitate in asking whether you think Harriet Miers is 'toast.'" Boy oh boy, was I prepared for that one. Then Miers withdraws. And the next day, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, is indicted and resigns. Neither action was a surprise, but the news hit like a bombshell. And all I kept thinking was, how am I going to save my column? All the questions became obsolete. So I decided it was time to look forward. Still, there was one question on the judiciary that threw me. And so I'm leading the revamped column with it.

Q: Given the fact that you have been discussing the Supreme Court and individual judges in the past few columns, do you have any idea what this button is about (see button at upper left): "I Like Judge Sutton and Rice Pudding Too!" — Jeff Roberts, Ankeny, Iowa

A: A question that no doubt is on the minds of those who study the judiciary, but I don't have a clue. To the best of my understanding, Harriet Miers left no paper trail about her views on rice pudding. Maybe that's why conservatives "deserted" her.

Q: In the race for governor of Virginia, the GOP nominee, Jerry Kilgore, resigned as state attorney general midway through the campaign. The same thing happened in 2001, 1997 and (on the Democratic side) 1993 as well. Is this just tradition, or is there a legal reason for them to leave the attorney general post? — Harvey Hudson, Eden Prairie, Minn.

A: There is no legal reason for Virginia attorneys general to resign in their pursuit of the governorship, though as you point out that has been the recent custom. I surmise that the real reason the AGs resign is to make sure there is no blurring of actions as an officeholder and as a candidate (though I'm not sure why lieutenant governors don't make the same move; it probably has something to do with the job description). In 2001, the state attorney general, Mark Earley (R), resigned his post to seek the governorship, as did Jim Gilmore (R) in 1997, Mary Sue Terry (D) in 1993, and Gerald Baliles (D) in 1985. Marshall Coleman (R), the AG in 1981, did not resign his post to run for governor that year and was criticized by the Dems for not doing so.

Virginia is the only state in the nation where the governor may not seek a second consecutive term, and so from the moment they are elected, the governor is a lame duck, while more often than not the lieutenant governor and attorney general are immediately looking at the governorship four years hence. That's the case this year, with Kilgore running against Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D). The LG vs. AG pairing for governor of Virginia occurred twice before:

— 1997: AG Jim Gilmore (R) defeated LG Don Beyer (D)

— 1981: LG Charles Robb (D) defeated AG Marshall Coleman (R)

Q: If Sen. Jon Corzine (D) wins the New Jersey governorship next week, he will resign from the Senate after having served about five years. How many other elected senators have served less than a complete, six-year term? I can think of a couple, such as Jean Carnahan (D-MO), who served from 2001-03, and J. Melville Broughton (D-NC), who served in 1949. Are there others? — David Mark, Editor-in-Chief, 'Campaigns & Elections' magazine, Washington, D.C.

A: There are quite a few senators who were elected for a full term but for various reasons failed to complete it. You are right about Broughton, who was elected in 1948 and died in March of 1949. But the list should not include Jean Carnahan. It was her deceased husband, Mel (killed in a plane crash prior to the election), who won the 2000 Senate race, not her. After he won, the acting governor named Jean, his widow, to the seat. Others who died in their first term include Democrats Clair Engle of California, Richard Neuberger of Oregon, and Virgil Chapman of Kentucky. Robert Kennedy (D-NY), of course, was assassinated during his first term while campaigning for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination. And there are others on the list, such as Richard Nixon (R-CA), who was elected in 1950 but resigned two years later after he was elected vice president, and William Saxbe (R-OH), elected in 1968, but who then quit in January of '74 when President Nixon named him attorney general.

The issue of Jon Corzine seeking New Jersey's governorship after spending $60-some-odd million to win the Senate seat in 2000 is an issue of sorts in his race against Republican Doug Forrester, who is also a millionaire. My expectation is that Corzine will win the governorship on Nov. 7 and thus join this list. And for the record, I'm picking Tim Kaine (D) to win in Virginia.

Q: Even though New York City is a Democratic town, I think it's very interesting to see the potential for a fourth consecutive Republican (albeit in name only) victory. One has to think that the 2009 election will produce a Democratic winner, with that race decided in the Democratic primary. — Michael Healy, Wanaque, N.J.

A: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat who joined the GOP in 2001 for the express purpose of running for mayor, was an unlikely winner that year, and was deemed at the time as an all-but-certain one-termer. But by some accounts, he may have put together the most impressive first term in memory. You're right, Bloomberg wins again (over Dem Fernando Ferrer), and it won't be close, which is a pretty amazing story in itself. If I were a betting kind of guy, I would say yes, the Democrats take back City Hall in the 2009 elections. But we have four years to talk about that race. And as Mike Bloomberg showed us, a lot can happen in four years.

Q: I LOVE your column! It's just the thing for a fellow political junkie like me. One thought: In your most recent column, discussing Republicans who've voted against Republican presidents' nominees to the Supreme Court, you consistently gave the Senate vote tallies with the losing votes first (i.e., in 1987, the Bork nomination was defeated 42-58). I think it's easier to read, and more common, to list the prevailing vote first. What do you think? — William Vodrey, Cleveland, Ohio

A: You make a good point. I asked some of my colleagues at NPR what they thought, and they agreed with you, 3-17.

PASSED BALL: Well, the World Series is over and done with. And yes, the Yankees didn't win it — a losing streak that goes all the way back to 2001. While I know there are those who can't get enough of that longstanding White Sox-Astros rivalry, there are others who caught us in a Buckner-like error in the Oct. 12 column. Plain and simple, we blew it (notice the plural blame-taking) with the question from Dan Domike about the reference I made in an earlier missive about Mickey Owen and the famous passed ball in the 1941 World Series. "No one remembers that the pitcher at the time was Burleigh Grimes," wrote Mr. Domike, "who was reputed to load up the ball on occasion." How Political Junkie became a baseball column is probably worth investigating at some juncture, but that's for another time. What is the point is that Dan's seemingly innocent comment caused a firestorm. And I may be in big trouble as a result.

Bill Marimow, the acting Vice President of News at NPR, started it off with a pretty stern note. "What were you thinking, Mr. Rudin?" You know things can't be promising when you're addressed by your last name in a letter from the acting Vice President of News at NPR. "Burleigh Grimes was LONG retired in 1941. I'm shocked, shocked, SHOCKED!" It's also not good to get words capitalized from the acting Vice President of News at NPR. Marimow, of course, was right. Grimes, a Hall of Famer, finished his 19-year career in 1934. He was a four-time All Star and five times won more than 20 games in a season. And he pitched in several World Series, including the game winner for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1931. But he was indeed seven years removed from the game by 1941.

Others knew that the pitcher who threw the famous Mickey Owen passed ball was in fact Hugh Casey. Carl Leubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News certainly knew that. So did Republican strategist Frank Donatelli , who helpfully added, "Just thought I would take your mind off those choking Yankee dogs, who lost AGAIN despite a $200 million payroll." (Speaking of Yankee chokes, Burt Cobe of Scarsdale, N.Y., says that AROD — Alex Rodriguez — is now referred to in some New York tabloids as MAYROD and AWOL.)

Still, it wasn't lost on Ron Pimentel of Pepperell, Mass., that it is "rather uncanny how often those who have political interests have significantly more than a passing interest in baseball." But Christian Peck of Utica, N.Y., didn't think the politics/baseball comparison is the best one to make: "I think hockey — a game of hard hits and body checks and long periods where teams futilely try to score a goal, and power plays where the other team has a player sitting in a penalty box (minded, no doubt, by the likes of Ronnie Earle or Ken Starr) — THAT is the new political analogy."

This Day in Campaign History: Edward Koch, a Democratic district leader in Manhattan's Greenwich Village who had thrice defeated legendary Dem boss Carmine De Sapio, endorses the Republican and Liberal candidate for mayor of New York City, Congressman John Lindsay. The next day Lindsay will win the election, the first by a Republican in NYC since Fiorello La Guardia in 1941; Koch himself will win the first of three successive mayoral terms in 1977 (Nov. 1, 1965).

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: politicaljunkie@npr.org.

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