Monday, December 15, 2008

Another Senator Kennedy?

Image credit: Martyna Borkowski/Wikipedia. Converted to JPEG by Cujo359.

Looks like there may be another Senator Kennedy soon, according to the New York Times:

“[Caroline Kennedy] told me she was interested in the position,” [New York Governor David] Paterson said at a news conference outside Albany on Monday. He added, “She’d like at some point to sit down and tell me what she thinks her qualifications are.”

The governor, who has sole authority to fill the Senate vacancy, insisted that he had not yet chosen a successor to Mrs. Clinton and said that Monday’s conversation with Ms. Kennedy was the first he had had with her since an initial discussion almost two weeks ago.

But several people who have counseled the governor on the pending vacancy said that Ms. Kennedy has emerged as a clear front-runner, if she proves able to withstand the intense scrutiny and criticism that her decision to seek the seat is likely to provoke.

Caroline Kennedy Is Seeking Seat Held by Clinton

So, who is this woman, besides being the daughter of President John F. Kennedy? For the answer to that question, I started by checking in with my goto gal on the Kennedys, Taylor Marsh:

Again, I don't care one way or the other about this one, though I do have an interest in the story as a life long studied expert of J.F. K. There are obviously good arguments to be made for other candidates besides CKS. The ones against Caroline Kennedy (Schlossberg) begin because she's a Kennedy, which is part of the "aristocracy" nonsense. Remember, our Founders were rich land owners. The other is that she's not experienced enough. Again, when our Founders created the country they hadn't a clue what they were doing.

Also let me say that I learned through my older big brother what politics is all about, which isn't a bad way to go. On a differently level entirely, to say that Caroline Kennedy (Schlossberg) has learned quite a bit from her family isn't exactly a bad way to get to know about politics either.

Senator Caroline Kennedy (Schlossberg)

She raises a good point. Another good point is that the Senate is composed of mostly rich and very rich people already. What's one more? I don't find that argument all that compelling. If there are going to be rich people in the Senate anyway, I'd rather that they were rich people who actually think they owe something to the country, and the citizens, that helped make them rich. The Kennedys are certainly that. As Taylor observes:

We don't penalize people in this country for coming from a famous family, especially one whose members have given their lives in public service, which certainly applies to the Kennedys. It's not like a black sheep Bush snuck in and dismantled the Constitution, you know. Something for which Jeb Bush should not be punished either, by the way, if he decides to run for the Senate in Florida.

Caroline Kennedy for Senate

What has Mrs. Schlossberg been doing in all her spare time? A commenter to the Wall Street Journal's blog sums it up:

Caroline has an undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College/Harvard University and a law degree from Columbia Univeristy. She passed the NY bar exam on the first try. She has written books on constitutional law. She has led an exemplary and inspiring life of community service. She has reared three children, who are now in college or prep school. How could anyone compare her edu[c]ation and life experiences to Sarah Palin? Caroline is as qualified as most Senate first-termers. Run, Caroline, run.

WSJ Blog: Comment by Mary - December 5, 2008 at 6:26 pm

A quick check of her Wiki bio shows that she's co-written two books on civil rights, and four others. She earned a law degree, and interned with her uncle Ted Kennedy. The bio mentions at least a half-dozen charities or foundations she works with. She's been busy. She's been doing things for the benefit of the country, and carrying on her family's traditions. In fact, she's been what I'd term a typical Kennedy.

There is something to be said for the idea that what we need less dynastic politics rather than more. Jane Hamsher's said that pretty well:

Her leadership could have been really helpful when we were trying to keep the progressive lights on and getting the stuffing beaten out of us by a very well-financed right wing for the past eight years. But when things were tough, she was nowhere to be found.
The woman has never run for office in her life. We have no idea how she'd fare on the campaign trail, or how well she could stand up to the electoral process. She simply picks up the phone and lets it be known that she just might be up for having one of the highest offices in the land handed to her because -- well, because why? Because her uncle once held the seat? Because she's a Kennedy? Because she took part as a child in the public's romantic dreams of Camelot? I'm not quite sure.

Caroline Kennedy? Thanks But No Thanks

Today, she wrote:

It appears Ms. Kennedy thinks that US Senate seats are something to lobbied for amongst political elites when one decides one wants them, and that the public should be happy to simply fall in line. The fact that one has a family political machine currently in the process of steamrolling David Paterson and a famous last name should be enough for the little people.

Caroline Kennedy Lets Political Elites Know She Expects a US Senate Seat

In this case, unfortunately, the seat is something to be lobbied for. As the New York Times article mentions, Gov. Paterson has the right to appoint a successor. There apparently are no alternative means for filling the vacancy at this point, which expires in 2010 anyway. There may be other deserving candidates out there, but they'll all go in through that same door.

Call it an early test of political skill.

For my part, I find it hard to agree with Jane and others who have expressed such sentiments. Caroline Kennedy has been around. She's raised children, who are now grown. She wants to do something with the rest of your life. Most of us would do something like join a charity or start a blog. When you're a Kennedy, though, you can do more.

I'd like to see what she does with the opportunity, should she get it.

UPDATE: (Dec. 16): Added what now appears as the first Jane Hamsher quote. It was the one I had in mind before, but hadn't remembered to do a search for it.


Mick Feeble said...

Nice post. When I started reading it, I was expecting that you were going to be speaking from an opposing viewpoint. I have been thinking about the Kennedy family a bit lately. It's interesting to me that she may become a senator. But what is more interesting to me is that "name" matters so much in terms of hype and success. It would be nice to live in a country where it does not matter what your heritage is. The election of Barack Obama certainly indicates that name is not an insurmountable obstacle. But it seems that name is often a overvalued attribute.

Cujo359 said...

Make no mistake, when you're a Kennedy, it matters. Caroline Kennedy has done a lot of good. I have little doubt she could be a good Senator. Still, it's unlikely in the extreme that she'd be a candidate for this particular office if she wasn't a Kennedy.

Even so, I don't see a reason to hold it against her. If she's a good enough citizen and she has the mental and psychological equipment to be a good U.S. Senator, I see no reason she shouldn't have the chance. It looks to me like she does.

Oddly enough, I started out not sure what I felt about her. I looked into what she's been doing, and made up my mind about midway. The only real preconception I went into this with was that it didn't matter if she was part of a political dynasty or not.

Thanks for commenting.

One Fly said...

I do not have an issue with this. One thing is that when she votes she will vote for what's good for our country and us. Most of the rest don't do that.

Rest assured the media will attempt endlessly to villify her because she is a Kennedy. I hope it's her and she can follow in the tradition of the Kennedy's and in this day and age that would be pretty damn good.

Cujo359 said...

I agree this would be a good result, One Fly. I'm not against someone else being appointed, as long as he or she is a progressive and capable of making a difference. Mostly, I object to the attitude that she has nothing to offer, and that she's just a spoiled little rich girl who's joining up now that the fighting is all over with. She's led a worthy life, and now she wants to do more in politics. That's fine by me.