Caroline Kennedy? Really?

Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft makes the case for Caroline Kennedy (whatever happened to “Schlossberg”?)  to be the next U.S. Senator from the state of New York:

Caroline Kennedy is a Columbia Law graduate and co-author of two books: In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action and The Right to Privacy . In addition,

Kennedy serves as a member of the national board of directors for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the vice-chair for the Fund for Public Schools in New York City, and chief executive for the New York City Department of Education Office of Strategic Partnerships.

She co-chaired Obama’s Veep Selection Committee, she’s a director of the Commission on Presidential Debates and an adviser to the Harvard Institute of Politics.

I think she’s more than qualified to be a U.S. Senator and I hope she gets the position. We need more Senators who are cognizant and respectful of our constitutional rights. She’ll be great for education and funding for the arts. 

I agree with Merritt that CKS is qualified to run for the senate, but I don’t think that she has earned a special appointment without a background in politics and a proven record as a campaigner and winner.  (This blog has a healthy suspicion of politicians who on a whim think it would be great fun to become the President of a major research university, for example.  Our inclination is to recognize and respect professional expertise.)  Elizabeth Wurtzel speaks for me on this one in her column published Sunday at The Daily Beast.  While I think that Wurtzel doesn’t give Kennedy enough credit for her education and her books on privacy rights (and pushes the “mommy” card a little too far for my taste), I think she is correct to note that she has never developed a professional identity, let alone a political one, outside of her worthy and dignified work on behalf of her family’s legacy:

Kennedy has mostly spent her life as a wife, a mother, and most ceremoniously, a daughter. Nothing wrong with that—who wouldn’t like to raise kids and go to parent-teacher meetings and occasionally pick a Profile in Courage award recipient? It’s not a bad life, and she’s not a bad person. Unlike a couple of her first cousins, she’s has never been accused of rape or caught driving while intoxicated—not that even these indiscretions are preclusions to public office. She has shown good judgment, and it’s no wonder you might want her to serve on your board of directors or help vet the vice president-to-be.

But being a senator—drafting bills, serving and servicing constituents, organizing an office—is the kind of job that involves more than soliciting donations from your wealthy friends and neighbors. It’s filthy and consuming work. If we really want a Kennedy to fill this empty seat, it would make far more sense to choose Robert Jr., who has accomplished a lot as an attorney and activist, though he has taken his name out of the running. Caroline Bouvier Kennedy is glamorous woman with a top-notch pedigree: Her place is not in the Senate.

I would add one caveat:  unless she actually runs for the office in 2010 or 2012.  This is the key difference between Caroline and her cousins Kathleen, Joe, and Patrick, who actually ran for the offices they won (and in Kathleen’s case, lost), and I think it’s critical.  (Even her uncle Ted had to run for his brother’s senate seat in 1962, although that may have been due more to the fact that he wasn’t yet thirty in January of 1961 when his brother was sworn in as President.)  If you want to get into politics, win an election.  She has a fine background for a Senate candidate, but as someone who has never won a single vote from a single New Yorker, she doesn’t deserve a special appointment to the office.

Oh, and by the way:  it would be unseemly for all of of those Sarah Palin haterz to morph into big Caroline Kennedy supporters.  Love her or hate her, Palin won a primary against a sitting governor of her own party, and then she won in the general election.  She put herself out there and gave the citizens of her state the opportunity to say yea or nay, and it seems to me that there are ample numbers of New York politicians–I’m thinking Nita Lowy or Kirsten Gillibrand myself–who have won thousands (and in Lowy’s case, millions) of votes from their fellow citizens.

This is going to be a big issue this year, with President-elect Barack Obama potentially raiding the Senate for many appointees.  For example, it looks like it’s an issue here in Colorado, with local news reporting that our Senator Ken Salazar has agreed to become Obama’s Secretary of the InteriorMerritt reports that “the speculation now turns to who Gov. [Bill] Ritter will name to replace him. Top names mentioned: Rep. Ed Perlmutter , Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and former (Colorado) House speaker Andrew Romanoff.”  What about Denver Congresswoman Diana DeGette?  She’s in a safe seat for Dems, although the concern about her might probably be that she’s too liberal to win a statewide election in 2010 (although the same could be said for the aforementioned three men.)  But, hey, we just elected “Boulder liberal Mark Udall” to the Senate–so anything could happen, right?

0 thoughts on “Caroline Kennedy? Really?

  1. I’ll confess I’ve always had a certain amount of reservation about the idea that New York (my native state) was a “national seat” for the purpose of situating prominent and ambitious novice office-seekers. This began with Robert Kennedy–though I was literally raised on Kennedy politics–and it frankly included Hillary Clinton several years back. To her credit, HRC took the whole state, including Upstate (the real upstate, not just above Yonkers) seriously, gained real support from Niskayuna to Skaneateles to Cheektowaga, and represented the whole state. In fairness, you have to be born somewhere, this is a mobile society, and Caroline has become as much or more of a New Yorker I guess than Michael Bloomberg. But I’d have to agree that RFK Jr. has more of a political and service claim to the appointment–though of course he’s declined to seek it. To Historiann’s short list of vote getters above might also be added Carolyn Maloney, out on the Island (or Queens, anyway, which is on the Island).


  2. I agree with you about Kennedy, though I’d be thrilled to vote for her in an open-seat election. (I don’t mind people like Obama and Kennedy running for positions for which they have little expertise, but I have a problem with them being appointed to such positions.)

    I’m not sure the problem is exactly that she hasn’t held elective office, however. An interesting comparison could be made with the appointment of Ted Kaufman to fill the next two years of Joe Biden’s Senate seat. Like, Kennedy, Kaufman hasn’t held elective office, and his chief qualification seems to be being Biden’s personal flunkie, which bothers me a bit. On the other hand, his appointment does seem to serve the purposes of democracy: his flunkieness ensures that he’ll vote exactly like Biden would, which seems to be what Delaware voters had in mind when they reelected Biden, and he’s promised to step down after the special election, giving voters a chance to pick the next occupant of the office without the factor of incumbency.


  3. My top picks for the New York Seat: Randi Weitgarten (head of the United Federations for Teachers) and Carloyn Maloney (Manhattan House Member).

    Links for each here (Weitgarten)

    and Maloney

    Who NOW recently endorses (as much as that is worth anymore).

    My top choice is Maloney who has spent a great deal of time as a committed feminist and family advocate (and not in that creepy Christianist way).

    Rumour has it that Paterson needs something to give the labour unions in the state so thats why Weitgarten is being bandied about. Interesting note: she’s an out lesbian, so how’s them apples? Of the two I’d still put my money on Maloney.

    And Kennedy? One can only hope that Patterson’s recent jokes about her desperately seeking the seat means she’s on the outs. She doesn’t have the presence or vitality that Hillary does or the other two contenders do that are running.

    I now Schumer wants Gillibrand, but she’s in an upstate swing district and frankly, for me, she’s milquetoast on the issues–a little blue doggish.


  4. Pingback: Caroline Kennedy, revisited (Update) « Blue Lyon

  5. Great post. In answer to the Schlossberg question: She never went by it, but the press kept calling her CKS. She has always gone by Kennedy.

    That being said, her full bore “campaign” to nab this seat and shove other more qualified women out of the way, is really sticking in my craw and changing my heretofore good opinion of her.


  6. I defer to the opinions of you New Yorkers (or once-upon-a-time New Yorkers) on better ideas for pols Gov. Patterson might appoint. I was just going from memory on some solid Dem pols I’ve heard of. Gillibrand would be an interesting pick too, as she’s just won her second election, has two young children (I think she must be 42), and is an up-stater and a non-millionaire. As a young mother (at least in the Senate she qualifies as a young mother) and a non-millionaire she’d really stand out.

    Mikhail’s suggestion of Weingarten is a good one–she’s someone who has received votes from New Yorkers in union elections, and union presidents are very political people, so I think she’d meet my test of having run for and won elective office.

    I just don’t get the optics of all of this: is the Kennedy rollout just a feint, or is she really lobbying Patterson for the job? It doesn’t seem like a very politic move, IMHO. Is Patterson confirming her interest in the job publicly as a way to sink her, or will he announce next week that she’s got the job? (Does that guy play hardball? He seems like a teddy bear, but maybe he’s got some chops!) It just doesn’t seem politic for her interest in the job to come out this way–she (or Patterson) are big-footing a lot of people who have actual experience and knowledge of the issues and who have done a lot more for the Dem party than inherit a surname.


  7. An anonymous insider in the Times today seems to suggest that Patterson is attracted to the heft of a ticket that would read Kennedy/Patterson when she would be required by NYS law to run to retain the seat, as would he as well, in nineteen ten [my laptops numeric keys are not functioning]


  8. As a historiann-proclaimed Sara Palin hater, I am amused that the issue is whether someone has run for office. Jesse Helms ran for office and won. I’d be curious to learn more about C. Kennedy’s position on issues. CNN tells me she is a good fund raiser. Wurtzel tells us she is a good person. What does CK think about immigration, health care, labor rights? Is she a feminist?


  9. Multi-generational (and even mono-generational?) political dynasties have always troubled me deeply as a feature of American politics. One wonders if the shenanigans in Chicago/Illinois over the last couple weeks are a lingering legacy of the Daley-era machines or the attitudes that derive from them? Historiann has heard (some of) my crazy nostalgia for early-Republic political ideas before, but didn’t we fight a Revolution to eliminate the suspicious power of hereditary political elites? Let Caroline Kennedy change her name and then run for senate.


  10. Indyanna–that’s interesting. They’d hardly be on the same “ticket,” but she could offer him some high-quality back-scratching and connections to major donors.

    Rad–one of the things the public learns when someone runs for office are their positions on the major issues–as you say, immigration, health care, labor rights, and feminism, etc. So it’s not the mere fact of having won the votes of actual voters in a state, it’s also the public vetting, testing, and having to have taken a stand on the issues other than “vote for Obama.”

    And, Tom–good point. Blagojevich is the son-in-law of a Chicago alderman, and once perhaps had dreams of being the patriarch of his own surnamed dynasty. Kennedy can keep the Kennedy as far as I’m concerned–just get out and say what you would do with the job and win a campaign in which the voters (and not just Gov. Patterson) make the final call.


  11. Rad Readr: What does CK think about immigration, health care, labor rights? Is she a feminist?

    Who knows?

    Tom: Let Caroline Kennedy change her name and then run for senate.

    Won’t change her genetic line, and that’s the troublesome part. We were told that a woman who was married to a former President had no right to run for the office because it would be a “dynasty” but Americans seem to have no problem with real blood-line ones. Isn’t this part of why we fought the Revolutionary War?


  12. Pingback: Historiann for the U.S. Senate! : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  13. So that I understand correctly, a sitting governor and former mayor, head of a state energy commission is unqualified but her highness Caroline is qualified? One blogger(jeremy) suggested its ok to vote for people with little expertise- I guess that’s true only if that person is a liberal?


  14. bruce–I’m with you. I don’t hold CK’s family background against her, nor do I think it’s a qualification in and of itself. She should make her case to the voters rather than win the do-not-pass-Go golden ticket to the U.S. Senate. (I think that was Jeremy’s point, too, although I can’t speak for him.)

    Clearly, the mockery of Palin by the left was mostly ideologically driven rather than inspired by an honest evaluation of her experience. No lefties ever made fun of Howard Dean in 2003-04 because he was a small state governor.


  15. I am from Illinois and I don’t see a lot of difference in appointing Carolyn Kennedy to the Senate and Rod Blagojevich selling the seat. She has a famous name, can raise money, can add something to Patterson’s re election. Who cares about what she can do to represent New Yorkers?

    Actually, in watching the various supporters trying to make a case for her in the media, I notice that many of them do so by saying that the role of a Senator is not critical and does not require demonstrated expertise, experience in elective office. Some acknowledge that it requires only money and/or name recognition and a clear party affilliation – Democrat or Republican.

    I’ve reflected on this because my own state is already short a Senator and determined that the American public doesn’t really benefit too much by the Senate.

    1. Caroline Kennedy is a serious candidate, and we don’t even know if she ever held a full time job.

    2. Al Franken looks like he may win a seat. Personally, I never thought he was a funny commedian, an insightful commentator. I don’t have high hopes for him as a leader.

    3. Our Senior Senator told the public that all Barack Obama could gain from spending more time in the Senate was a thicker neck. Barack Obama agreed and really started campaigning for President the day he won the seat. There are stories about how he distributed his left-over Senate campaign signs in Wisconsin before he showed up to claim his seat in WA. Barack Obama had high absenteeism in the Illinois State Senate and the US Senate long before he ever announced his intention to run for President.

    4. Current Senators are Larry Craig and Ted Stevens. Robert Bird, who should have left ages ago. Ted Kennedy of Chappaquidick and “au bar” fame. Are you satisfied with Chris Dodd’s performance in the Senate Banking committee? John Kerry is on vacation now. The auto bailout was not a priority. Joe Biden maneuvered to get a place holder in his seat so that his son could run when he comes back from Iraq.

    I read an article that said that the Senate is evolving into the House of Lords. Seems that way.

    I hope New Yorkers scream loudly that since Caroline Kennedy said she would run for the nomination in 2010, she should be given that opportunity. In the meantime, appoint someone who has actually held elected office and demonstrated their committment by showing up, voting, and developing expertise that might be useful in solving some problems for the American people. I think that our representatives fouled up the auto industry by requiring CAFE standards while at the same time giving tax breaks for those who drive Hummers. By requiring that autos be produced from non polluting factories while allowing imported vehicles produced from foreign factories with no environmental controls.

    If New Yorkers don’t need a Senator with more demonstrated committment than Caroline Kennedy, than you can make a case that the US doesn’t need the Senate.

    I generally support the democratic agenda, but I sure disrespect their leadership. We have never had a republican party in Chicago, Il and now that the whole state is democratic, well it has just gotton worse. Integrity, committment, work ethic, and the ability to see problems in non partisan ways and solve them is all I want in an elected official.


  16. Mary, thanks for stopping by to comment. Yes, a house of lords–it increasingly looks that way. And now Obama has taken one of the few Senate non-millionaires out of the Senate, my Senator Ken Salazar. (His wife owns and operates a Dairy Queen franchise!)

    One-party rule is bad pretty much everywhere–as you say, in Cook County, IL, and in the Federal Government from 2002-2006. I think the Dems are in a risky place taking all of the reigns at this point in American history. One party rule tends to be pretty short-lived, probably for the best. They’ll need to hit the ground running and show that they can clean up the mess before the mid-terms.


  17. Pingback: Queen Caroline Kennedy? « Parburypolitica

  18. I’d vote for her, or Hillary in a heart beat. We need people who care, not people whom are bible thumping, so politically connected, criminally savy, and willing to go to legnths to fool the American people, sling mudd (Samuel), to advance their political goals and the goals of big PHARMACUETICALS, and the banking industries. . . We don’t need any more back pocket politicians being backed by BIG MONIES! We want honest, caring, intellegent people to represent us, and we want the truth! This is something we don’t get from REPUBLICAN RUNNERS!!!

    But NO, the American people have a secret underwear wearing guy, that they are going to vote for. . . REALLY???

    PLEASE RUN FOR OFFICE Caroline, or Hillary, heck, I’d vote fpr Oprah over the MORONS that are running right now!!!

    Chef L


  19. Why should she be out in front, so you can sling MUDD. . . I’d be private too. . .It doesn’t mean that she is not capable to run for office. . . Start in the Senate Caroline, and then run in 2016, I’ll vote for you and i know a ton of women and men, that will vote for you. . .


  20. Women, men, LGBT, minorities of all persuasions, and all of my family. Except for one brother, who said he’d vote for the Alaskan idiot (honestly can’t remember moron’s name), because she has nice legs!?! You go BRO. . . that says it all. . . LOL He’ll also vote for the secret underwear guy. . .


  21. No more BIBLE thumping MORONS, in the Senate. . .What happened to the separation between Church, and State? Did Republicans blow that off, too. And, you go Joe. . . can’t wait for your son to be in the Senate! After the huge vote miscount (TWICE), republicans don’t have a leg to stand on, or rather vote on. Republicans have shown the American people what they are (LIARS). Republicans are willing to go to great lengths to further their agendas, at the expense of the American people.

    What ever happened to balance in the Senate? Do you really want a Mormon in office? They believe that they are Gods in the grooming and when they die they will become a God, and receive their own Planet. . . set up with multiple wives, really? Polygamy is illegal in the U.S., and has been banned by section 290, and was banned in Illinois since 1839! Yet, Utah wouldn’t follow suit until 1890, when they were forced to recognize the U.S. laws.

    I wonder, do all the wives wear the same secret underwear. . .? There are still polygamist in Utah! There are advantages to multiple wives I guess. . . it means you don’t have to sleep with him (I get that!).

    Okay, Any good answers here Mary?

    Our Mason worshipping forefathers put the “Separation of Church and State”, in writing, (Ben, John, etc. . )RIGHT. . . ? They did that for a reason, and republicans are willing to bend that to their own liking. . . embarrassing at best! What a joke. . .


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