Why not appoint Caroline?

Published 11:59 pm Friday, December 26, 2008

“Momma, would we still have inflation if President Kennedy hadn’t been killed?”

It was the early 1970s. Inflation and fuel problems were in the news. And for some reason, I had chosen a Kennedy text in a set of history books written for elementary students my parents had purchased. Immediately, I was intrigued by the story of the murdered young president who died before I was born.

It was years later that I understood that many Americans had been quite taken with JFK and were in awe of the Kennedy mystique. That’s why I’ve been surprised by the negative publicity surrounding Caroline Kennedy’s interest in becoming the junior senator from New York when Hillary Clinton is confirmed as secretary of state. It is the same seat held by her uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, from January 1965 until his assassination in June 1968.

Her critics say she “she cut in line ahead of politicians with more experience” and “has acted as if she were entitled to it because of her political lineage.”

My stars! If there were no “cutting in line” in politics, we wouldn’t be about to inaugurate Barack Obama our first African American president, and Sarah Palin would not have been the first woman on the Republican presidential ticket this year.

If political lineage disqualified one from politics, there wouldn’t be a President George W. Bush, a former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Sen. Edward Kennedy, a former Alabama Gov. John Patterson, or a current Lt. Gov. (and former Gov.) Jim Folsom Jr. And New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo probably wouldn’t have his job, nor be seeking the same senate seat as Kennedy.

Perhaps “Sweet Caroline” hasn’t held political office, but she’s no lightweight. She is a graduate of both Harvard University and Columbia Law School, co-author of two books and has edited five, four of which made the New York Times best-seller list. She co-chaired Obama’s vice presidential search committee and is known for her work as a fund raiser in New York City.

In an Associated Press interview on Friday, she said she realizes she will have to prove herself and “work twice as hard as anybody else.” She acknowledged, “I am an unconventional choice,” but added: “We’re starting to see there are many ways into public life and public service.”

Criticized for maintaining her privacy after telling New York Gov. David Paterson she was interested in the job, she said she tried not to appear to be campaigning for the job because she knew that the choice rested solely with the Democratic governor.

If she had used her famous name to apply political pressure to the governor, that action, too, would have drawn criticism.

If she’s appointed, she’ll have to stand for a special election in 2010, and the regular senate election in 2012. If New Yorkers don’t like her job performance, they can replace her in short order.

But they might find that having another Kennedy in the family business of public service serves them well. Think about it. Would you rather have Caroline or The Nanny?

Sen. Caroline Kennedy. Why not?