Is Being a Kennedy Enough?

As I read about another Kennedy throwing a hat into the ring on another open senate seat, I recalled a column the late John Kennedy, Jr. wrote in the late 1990s for George Magazine about the next generation of Kennedys.  He didn’t have much to say about the transgressions of his cousins, but he implied it and he talked about a life of service.  

He seemed like the “good Kennedy,” “the hope of Camelot.” This was at a time when one Kennedy had just been acquitted in a rape trial in Florida and another had left his wife for the babysitter and then was killed in a skiing accident. Less than a year afterward, John Jr. would too be dead.

If you are of a certain age, you can remember the young boy saluting his father’s casket on a late November day. You know what the “Kennedy mystique” is. As the Republican Party has been looking for the next Ronald Reagan, the Democrats cherish Camelot and the Kennedys.  The cheesy “Clinton Dynasty” will never eclipse it.

At the end of the Clinton presidency, John Kennedy, Jr. was considering a run for the senate seat that his Uncle Bobby held briefly in the 1960s. He would ultimately yield to the power brokers of the Democrat Party. The then-First Lady, Hillary Clinton, ran and won her seat in the U. S. Senate.

Then John Kennedy died in a plane crash with his hand on the controls. At the funeral, there was Sen. Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy, the last remnants of Camelot, and all those Kennedy cousins.  Other than Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the activist, and Douglas Kennedy, the Fox News reporter, most people don’t know much about this generation of Kennedys.

Monday, the New York Times reported that Caroline Kennedy is seeking the favor of Gov. David Paterson to be appointed to the Senate seat that will be vacated by Hillary Clinton if she is confirmed as Secretary of State. Across the country in the Midwest, Chris Kennedy, another son of the late Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of Sen. Ted Kennedy, is being considered by the Lt. Governor of Illinois for the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.  Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn would be the guy to appoint the replacement for Obama if the embattled Gov. Blagojevich resigns. The Kennedys have been a constant fixture in Chicago politics and on the Chicago social and business scene with land holdings, non profits and other businesses run by the myriad next generation Kennedys.

Being a Kennedy is not always enough to be elected or appointed to elected office. In New York, many established Democrats were Hillary supporters in the primary, and there is still some bad blood between them and Sen. Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy for coming out so early and strongly for Sen. Barack Obama. Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) said last week he didn’t know what Caroline Kennedy’s qualifications were, “except that she has name recognition — but so does J. Lo.” I guess that’s how they go after people when you are from Queens…comparing Caroline Kennedy to “Jenny from the Block.” But since most people will say, “Who is Gary Ackerman?”, and every one knows who Caroline Kennedy is, it won’t make much difference.

There are at least 12 names being tossed around for Hillary’s seat.  From the flamboyant TV actress Fran Drescher to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to William Jefferson Clinton, Caroline Kennedy seems to have the top spot. She has written some great books and conducted herself with the kind of Jackie O class that would make her mother proud.  Hell, we just elected a community organizer President of the United States; maybe we should have another Kennedy in the Senate.

There is one point to consider, and that is the lack of vitriol towards Caroline Kennedy’s  credentials or lack thereof.  Caroline has the right name, went to the right schools and lives in the right neighborhoods. She is New York and American high society.  She was born into it and anything she has done in her life has been cast in that light.  She’s a wonderful writer, wife, and mother, but I’m not sure if she’s a politician or is very knowledgeable of law or policy.  But it’s clear from the last election that Americans don’t care about that right now.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of women who have raised their families getting into politics.  I think that women who have managed a family through all the ups and downs have qualifications can’t be measured in the traditional way. Sarah Palin is an example of that. She took her public school education and normal connections and became one of 50 governors in the United States of America.  That is an accomplishment.  But will Caroline, if she is appointed and then elected, get the kind of scrutiny of her hair, make up, clothes that Sarah Palin got? I think not.  

Being a U. S. senator is not the same as being vice president.  I asked Jed Babbin, editor of HUMAN EVENTS, “What makes a good vice president?”, to which he answered, “What makes someone qualified to be vice president is the knowledge of history and world affairs necessary for a president. Sarah Palin wasn’t entirely ready for prime time. That doesn’t mean she won’t be in ’12.  But the job of senator is profoundly different than the job of vice-president. Heck, if Chuckie Schumer or Babs Boxer is qualified to be a senator, why not Caroline Kennedy?”

Taking that into consideration, I’m betting on Caroline Kennedy in New York.  Not because she’s the most qualified, but I think the time with Sen. Ted Kennedy is limited, and there will be a desire to continue the legacy and in these uncertain times. New Yorkers will want to believe in a better time. The Illinois U. S. Senate is harder to pick.  Everything is up for grabs in Illinois right now. I’m still interested in watching the destruction of the current governor of Illinois. The only thing that’s sure is it will be a Democrat.