Caroline Kennedy attempts to enter the family business

JFK's daughter is getting a bad rap from the media for her bid to be appointed N.Y. senator

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by L. IAN MacDONALD
The Gazette, Saturday, January 3, 2008

There isn't anything in the Kennedy family tragedies that entitles Caroline Kennedy to automatically enter the family business at the exalted rank of United States senator from New York.

On the other hand, if she is now offering herself for a period of public service, it's not as if she doesn't have a unique understanding of the price of public service, having lost her both her father, John F. Kennedy, and her uncle, Bobby Kennedy, to assassins.

In those circumstances, it's remarkable that her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy, raised Caroline and her brother John in America, and taught them a love of country. In any circumstances, it's remarkable that she's lived a normal life. For her personal narrative is not that of a spoiled child of Camelot making tabloid headlines, but as a career woman and mother avoiding them.

Is she seeking special treatment from New York Governor David Paterson, who will fill the vacancy created this month when Hillary Clinton resigns her Senate seat to become secretary of state in the Obama administration? Well, she's asking to be considered, and why wouldn't he consider her? Paterson is himself the scion of a New York political family. Nor was he elected governor - he filled a vacancy last year when his predecessor, the crime-busting Eliot Spitzer, resigned in disgrace after consorting with a call girl. Paterson will be facing election in his own right in 2010, it would do him and the Democrats no harm to have a Kennedy - particularly this Kennedy - on the ticket in the special Senate election. As Jack Kennedy's only surviving child, she has unique name recognition, and can raise a lot of money, beginning with her own.

Meanwhile, she's not seeking an appointment instead of an election, she's seeking an appointment in the run-up to an election, and somebody must be named to the job. Democracy isn't being denied in New York, only deferred, and by a process that is perfectly constitutional. In Canada, they've been doing it since Confederation. When a dead man was elected to the Senate from Missouri in 2000, the governor appointed his widow to fill the seat. So far as that goes, Paterson could have named Bill Clinton to replace his wife. Clinton would then have become the first former president since John Quincy Adams to go on and serve in the Senate. This would really set tongues wagging about dynastic politics, but no one who knows the Clintons would have been surprised, either.

Is Caroline Kennedy experienced in politics, other than having been virtually born on the campaign trail? Not in the conventional sense. She is apparently guilty of having lived an exemplary and highly successful life outside politics, as a lawyer with a master's degree, an author and editor, community activist for public education in New York, director of her father's presidential library and foundation, and mother of three grounded kids.

So, when she briefs up with family retainers before the obligatory round of media interviews, she's accused of having an entourage. Is she supposed to go out there and look like some sort of clueless Sarah Palin? When she is staffed to handle the New York media, which needs handling, she is accused of having handlers. When she goes on a tour of upstate New York, she's accused of having roadies run her schedule. You can never make enough allowances for hypocrisy in politics.

As it develops, she supports same-sex marriage, bailouts for New York's financial services industry, and Israel's right to exist. She doesn't know whether her brother, if he hadn't been killed in a plane crash a decade ago, would have gone into the family business. Her husband and children are OK with the idea and her friend, Barack Obama, has been "encouraging" her candidacy, though not to the point of phoning the governor. There have already been enough issues around the succession for his own Senate seat in Illinois.

Her endorsement of Obama's candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, along with her uncle Ted's, came at a critical moment in the primaries, and was a huge blow to Clinton. Her oped piece in the New York Times suggested Obama inspired hope in the way her father had in another time. She campaigned for Obama across the U.S., and was co-chair of a leak-proof vice-presidential selection process resulting in Joe Biden.

It might be that she is to the manner, as well as the manor, born. Asked the other day whether she was a Kennedy Democrat, she said she was a Kennedy Democrat, an Obama Democrat and a Clinton Democrat.

The girl can play.

 
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