December 21, 2008

Quit Picking on Caroline Kennedy

I'm no fan of dynasty politics, but I am sick and tired of hearing people piling on Caroline Kennedy. Why exactly are people saying she's unfit for the US Senate? There are a lot of abysmally-unqualified senators who'd never be there if some of the hurdles others are imposing on Kennedy were imposed more broadly. It's hardly her fault that the law calls for a senator to be appointed, not elected. We've gone decades thinking it perfectly understandable to rally behind candidates from famous families (with well-known names that poll well) without this kind of hue and cry. And frankly I don't give a damn if she votes a straight ticket in New York. There have been numerous appalling candidates on that ballot, and holding open the possibility of voting for Mayor Bloomberg is hardly signing onto the Christmas card lists of Focus on the Family and the American Enterprise Institute.

She's a public-minded individual who has a history of philanthropic works. Politically, there's every reason in the world to appoint her. Her name and fundraising potential would make her a strong bet for reelection, so no wonder the Republicans are trying to block her appointment. Given her strong ties with the Obama campaign, she would offer New Yorkers a connection to the White House that no other appointee is like to have. And she's shown considerable political skill over the last 2 weeks, adept manuveuring to put herself forward in a way that blocks other potential candidates. She may not be the best possible nominee - but 1) no one has ever been held to that standard, and 2) there's hardly agreement on what qualifies one as the best possible nominee. I haven't heard any reason to believe she couldn't be an able US senator. And why the press is trumpeting Republican party press releases on this, or why we should feel sorry for the bruised feelings of another child privilege (Andrew Cuomo) is beyond me.

I didn't have particular strong feelings about her appointment one way or the other before all this began, but this backlash is pushing me into her camp.

Posted by armand at December 21, 2008 05:26 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Petty Rants


Dude, she's got less relevant experience than Sarah fucking Palin. It's ridiculous.

Posted by: jacflash at December 21, 2008 09:37 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, Sarah Palin was an old man's heartbeat away from "the button" and staffing the entire executive branch. Kennedy would have power over ... branch offices in Syracuse and Nassau County. What exactly is relevant experience for a US senator? I'm unaware of there being much of any, apart from maybe an established public service ethic. And Kennedy's got that. To say that someone can't be a senator b/c she hasn't run for a powerless job in Albany or dogcatcher is, to me, ridiculous.

Posted by: Armand at December 21, 2008 09:51 PM | PERMALINK

I think at bare minimum, a US senator should have a solid base of experience in retail politics; a JD or some other demonstrated, professional acquaintance with the law, the limits of law, and the process of lawmaking; and a demonstrated record of sensitivity to and success in dealing with the problems of constituents.

Now, she's got some of that, and she seems a good and decent person with non-stupid political views and all, but... what's even more important, if we're discussing how things should actually work vs how they do work, the candidate should have come to prominence on hir own merits and accomplishments, not via an accident of birth.

This is still America, damn it. We are not a monarchy and she is not royalty. If she wants the office, let her run for it and build support and raise money and whatnot the old fashioned way.

Posted by: jacflash at December 22, 2008 07:15 AM | PERMALINK

But the thing is NO ONE is going to run for it. Someone is going to get appointed. If she is appointed, she'll run for it - and then chances are excellent she'll win. In fact chances are she has a much better chance of winning than people who have all those years of retail politics experience and success dealing with constituents.

In a lot of ways we are a royalty system. I don't like it, but it's there. People run and win off family name all the time - and that's been the case for centuries. What bugs me is that for some reason people mind it in her case, but not in others. Until we have a campaign finance system that allows unknowns to compete with heirs on an even playing field, we'll continue to see this happen.

As to your criteria ... eh. Lots of senators don't have JDs. And some very successful senators haven't had lots of experience in retail politics (while some disasterous wastes of space have won election after election).

Posted by: Armand at December 22, 2008 09:09 AM | PERMALINK

So why is the right thing to do NOT to appoint a wiseman-type caretaker to serve out the term and let those who really want the job start campaigning?

Posted by: jacflash at December 22, 2008 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Well that wouldn't seem a winner for New York - an interim with no clout, who people can piss off or ignore for 2 years knowing s/he won't be around. Someone who can't build-up experience or seniority ... it'd be in the interest of a half dozen politicians who want to run for the seat, but I don't see it as doing New York any favors. And especially given the financial crisis does New York want a marginal figure with no political power there right now?

People can always run against an appointee. If they can't cut it, they'll have a short career and be replaced with someone with better electoral skills.

Posted by: Armand at December 22, 2008 02:35 PM | PERMALINK
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