Caroline Kennedy is someone many have rightfully admired. She is an accomplished attorney and author, has raised three children with an amazing discretion rare among public figures, and has always behaved in a way that brought honor and dignity to the historic name she carries.
Kennedy has also stayed far from the eye of most political storms, limiting her involvements-- until this presidential year-- to occasional public appearances to help candidates such as her cousin, RI Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
Then Barack Obama came on the scene with his alleged, “Change We Can Believe In.” In a flash, Caroline was on the stage, on the road and-- after the nomination had been secured-- on Obama’s Vice President Selection Committee.
Caroline, along with clan head Uncle Ted and lesser-known kin with varying degrees of political involvement, piled onto the Obama bandwagon and savored victory on election night as only Kennedy’s can—by figuring out what their candidate could now do for them.
Apparently one of the things the president-elect could do was to save Caroline from empty-nest boredom by freeing up the U.S. Senate seat that coincidentally represents her Park Avenue address. (Will she then go on to a challenge for the presidency down the road?)
Within days of Hillary Clinton’s nomination as Secretary of State, global media was reporting the former First Daughter’s interest in running for her senate seat. Shortly after that Caroline Kennedy was frantically lobbying political powers to convince NY governor David Paterson to appoint her to finish the Clinton term.
Like Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Kennedy has dodged the press, avoiding interviews and speaking only through spokespeople. Kennedy, however, does this with impunity while Palin was excoriated for her initial silence. Palin may have been aware of her limitations, thus avoiding the scrutiny that eventually came anyway. Kennedy may also fear being exposed for what many hesitate to say she is—less experienced, though more polished, than Palin.
Rhode Islanders more than most Americans are familiar with the syndrome of electing unqualified people named Kennedy: they keep re-electing Patrick Kennedy to represent them in Congress. They are also familiar with such people buying power and keeping it by outspending all challengers.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo tops a list of 12 more qualified aspirants to the vacated Clinton senate seat. Caroline’s dashing of Cuomo’s hopes must be especially satisfying. He is the ex-husband of her cousin and Kennedy’s always get mad, and always get even.
The Caroline senate seat hunt will tell if the Kennedy name alone is still enough. In a political world where “What can you do for me yesterday?” is all, patriarch Ted Kennedy’s terminal illness changes the chessboard significantly. His last remaining chits may either have been called in (for Obama), or their expiration dates are racing against his metastases.
The perpetuation of political legacies is something America thought it had left behind with the choosing of Obama and the farewell to Bush. If Caroline Kennedy ever was sincere about “Change We Can Believe In” she ought to let such change occur, and continue her apolitical career while she still has the nation’s undying respect and affection.
- ▼ 2008 (17)