Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Heir to the Throne

Caroline Kennedy has risen to the top of the list of candidates for the New York Senate seat that will be vacated by Hillary Clinton when she is approved for Secretary of State. Caroline Kennedy has never served in public office or run a campaign or frankly taken a public position on any controversial issues. In fact, her sole foray into politics was campaigning for Barack Obama's election. It is crystal clear that this ascendancy is based solely on her last name.

Caroline Kennedy has degrees from Harvard and Columbia, so her intelligence is not in question. What is in question is how someone who has no political history can rise to the top of the list of candidates for appointment to a Senate seat. If Mrs. Schlossberg's last name happened to be Johnson, do you think that she would even be in the conversation? I have railed against the Bush administrations policy of appointing unqualified people to important positions (Alberto Gonzalez anyone?), but I also feel the need to point this out when the Democrats engage in the same underhanded activity. New York City has had to put up with a Mayor who refuses to leave office regardless of the law and now we are being asked to swallow an appointment based some sort of "Kennedy privilege doctrine". What about what's best for New York? Is Caroline Kennedy the most qualified person to advocate for this state during these difficult economic times? Will she be able to effectively lobby her fellow Senators for help on legislation that will benefit our citizens? Is having a "celebrity" with no legislative experience the best that we as New Yorkers can hope for?

There are direct parallels between Caroline Kennedy and Sarah Palin. Palin was chosen for a variety of reason, but none of them were about her qualifications for the position. Caroline Kennedy is undoubtedly more intelligent than the Governor of Alaska, but her qualifications for the position are as dubious as Palin's were. In fact they may actually be worse. While Governor Palin was in over her head as a Vice Presidential candidate, she had at least been elected to multiple positions and had to take a public stance on a multitude of issues. Caroline Kennedy has never had to face the public and answer for anything. She has never given a press conference on her political positions, she has never faced the voters in an election, she has never faced an opponent in an election, and yet she would like to be anointed (oh, sorry), appointed as our next Senator.

Some will point to other "celebrity" politicians who didn't have any experience when they entered politics. They will point to Hillary Clinton or Arnold or Jesse Ventura or Al Franken, but the difference with all of those individuals is that they had to face the voters and opponents in elections. In fact, I question whether Caroline Kennedy would even have gotten involved in this at all if this seat were up for a vote instead of an appointment. Caroline Kennedy has never shown any interest in running for public office and has fiercely protected her privacy. She has never really been a "public figure". She has always been in the public eye because of her name, but she has never sought the limelight. She is not like Hillary Clinton, who was willing to state her positions and face the public in order to get into office. Kennedy is basically using her name to try and avoid this step.

The Kennedy's are political royalty in this country, but none of them have ever been given their positions in Congress. Robert Kennedy was appointed as Attorney General by his brother, but even he had to face approval from the Congress. And when the Senate seat from New York opened up, he ran for and won that seat. Clearly a lot of his support came from the fact that his name was Kennedy and that his brother had been killed in office, but he had to run on his own. He had to face an opponent. He had to face the voters of New York and tell them what he was going to do for them.

I have to assume that Caroline Kennedy's views are basically in line with my own on most important topics, but that has nothing to do with whether she is qualified or whether she deserves this position. If Caroline Kennedy really wants to be the Senator from New York, then let her run for it in two years when the seat will come up for election. She can certainly spend the next two years explaining her positions to New Yorkers and building up her qualifications for the job. I have no doubt that she will be able to easily raise tens of millions of dollars for her Senate campaign. I have no doubt that if her name (or her last name to be exact) were to appear on a ballot that New Yorkers would be falling over themselves to vote for her. I have no problem with a candidate who faces the voters and is then approved by them. That's our process. That's the way things work.

The thing is that we have a person here in New York who I do think would make a perfect choice. I'm sure he was never considered because he isn't a Democrat, but the person who could make the best case for New York during these trying economic times is none other than our Mayor (or Emperor as he likes to be called) Mike Bloomberg. He understands the legislative process, his economic experience is unquestioned and he would be a great advocate for the people of this City and this state. Of course that would never happen because Mike Bloomberg initially ran for Mayor as a Republican, even though he is now listed as an Independent. His actual party affiliation is Pragmatist. He ran as a Republican because he saw that as his best opportunity to win in the primaries. He's now an independent because he doesn't need the party affiliation to win. Everything comes down to politics though, even at the expense of the well being of the people of this state. But as I've stated before, the welfare of the people is always the last factor in the equation. Clearly our job is to stand silently by as the aristocracy divvy up the spoils.


SJ said...

Caroline Kennedy... I guess she can see Russia from her house too... or she'll just offer up some other dodgy variants that pass for relevant political experience/qualifications.
With all of the cuts coming to the city and the state budgets, it's gonna be like 1974 all over again. Abandoned buildings and bell bottom pants... I hope she's ready for hell on earth.

Jack Jodell said...

SJ, you raise some very valid concerns here. The Kennedy spirit of public service is admirable and seems to be one of the genes on their DNA, but in this case it seems like Caroline is indeed trying to slide in o so easy. Bloomberg would indeed be a good choice, and I believe he would caucus with the Dems more than even Joe Lieberman does. Andrew Cuomo seems to have the right stuff for the job too. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.
Jack Jodell

Michael Hew said...

Thanks for the comment. Actually I wrote this piece (an easy mistake to make considering the considerable and consistently excellent output of my partner in crime here). Today she said that she would definitely run for the seat in 2010. I say I'll believe it when I see it and if she really means that then she should drop this pressure campaign on the Governor and start raising money for own campagin.

SJ said...

Yeah Jack, I'm constantly taking credit for Michael's work and I almost got away with it again...
I agree on all points. We really need someone with important relationships in place (i.e. someone with a powerful and packed rolodex of Senators they can call and pressure for cooperation). I think CK will have to spend a lot of valuable time just getting her bearings. Time we don't have to spare.