Voters who repeatedly elected the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to represent his home state in the U.S. Senate should be pleased with the appointment of his close friend and adviser to take his place on an interim basis.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on Thursday appointed Paul G. Kirk Jr. to fill the seat that belonged to Sen. Kennedy for 47 years. The 71-year-old lawyer, who has pledged not to seek election to a full term, will serve until voters choose a permanent successor on Jan. 19. Until then, Mr. Kirk will attempt to achieve what Sen. Kennedy did not live to see -- passage of a bill overhauling the nation's health-care system.
The appointment comes as a relief to Democrats, who feared the loss of their 60th seat in the Senate would result in a filibuster by opponents of the health-care legislation. The Democratic-dominated Massachusetts Legislature had to change state law before Gov. Patrick could make the appointment. A Republican challenge to the appointment was batted away by a Massachusetts court on Friday, and Vice President Joe Biden swore in Sen. Kirk.
A Harvard-educated U.S. Army veteran and retired law partner, Mr. Kirk is chairman of a consulting firm and sits on three corporate boards -- an insurance and investment company, a real estate investment trust and a forest products firm. He says he will step down from the directorships, which in 2008 paid him more than $500,000 in compensation, but those past associations could be political liabilities.
Mr. Kirk's relationship with Sen. Kennedy was built in politics. He first signed on as a special assistant to Sen. Kennedy in 1969, becoming one of his closest confidants and, in 1980, leading the senator's unsuccessful attempt to win the Democratic presidential nomination over incumbent Jimmy Carter. It was on a personal level, though, where Sen. Kennedy most clearly revealed his faith in Mr. Kirk. He is the executor of Sen. Kennedy's will.
Massachusetts voters proved time and again that they believed in Sen. Kennedy, so it is fitting that his legacy will be in the hands of his friend until they make another choice for themselves.