Monday, December 15, 2008

Senator Caroline Kennedy? Not My Choice

The media is reporting that Caroline Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, has expressed an interest in the U.S. Senate seat that Hillary Clinton will give up after her confirmation as Secretary of State. The New York Times reported on December 5, 2008 that her cousin, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. stated that he believed she was considering it, based upon conversations with her. And Governor David A. Paterson, who will have the authority to select Hillary’s replacement, reported that Caroline had called him on Wednesday, December 3, to discuss the matter. Today’s N.Y. Times (Dec 15) reports that she has decided to pursue the seat.

I do not believe Caroline Kennedy should be appointed to the U.S. Senate. I do not believe she has the life experiences or has shown the temperament to assume such a high office and position of responsibility. I admit that I have not followed Caroline’s life, partly because I have had no interest in doing so and partly because Caroline has sought to live a very private life for many years. Surely that was her choice and I do not begrudge here having made it but to now wish to become a United States Senator is a stretch. Her brother seemed to have a real interest in politics and involved himself in the public arena. Sadly, he died in a plane crash before he was able to pursue elected public office. But Caroline Kennedy? Exactly why is she qualified? She apparently has been active in fundraising for the public school system in New York City and has engaged in other charitable undertakings but until she emerged as a supporter of Barack Obama her political life has been abysmally lacking.

I was in my late teens in college in the Boston area when Ted Kennedy first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1962 at age 30. As I recall, Kennedy, lacking any meaningful political experience, campaigned on the slogan “I can do more for Massachusetts,” clearly pitched toward the fact that his brother had recently become President. The opposition contended that, had Edward Moore Kennedy’s name merely been Edward Moore, no one would have given him the time of day as far as seeking a Senate seat.

Unfortunately, I feel similarly in my opposition to Caroline Kennedy as a Senator. Were her name simply Caroline Schlossberg, her married name, who would think she was qualified to emerge into public life as a U.S. Senator? Yes, she has been involved in some activities of a public character and she did write an editorial in support of Barack Obama and played some role on his vice-presidential selection committee. But I’m not aware that she has been actively involved in the political process in the past.

There may be those who say that, using the above standards, Hillary Clinton lacked the experience to run for U.S. Senate. But, I disagree. First, she ran for the position; she did not seek an appointment. Even Ted Kennedy ran for office in 1962. Second, Hillary Clinton spent eight years in the White House as First Lady and was actively involved in various political struggles, most notably medical care reform. Whether one respected her for those efforts or not, she was not a private person who kept her distance from the hue and cry of American politics. In that same vein, were Maria Shriver to seek an appointment to the U.S. Senate or some other high political office, I might not support her but it wouldn’t be for the reasons I oppose Caroline Kennedy’s appointment. I acknowledge that others have sought high elective office without an obvious “political” background. But most, including Ronald Reagan when he sought the position of California Governor, have been far more involved in American politics and the political process, if even as commentators, than is the case with Caroline.