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:
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 Interior. Merritt 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?