That Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg hasn't done much to earn it doesn't seem to count in her eyes against the sense that a little work on Obama's campaign entitles her to have Hillary Clinton's Senate seat.
That's how many people may see it if New York Governor David Paterson chooses Ms. Kennedy as Sen. Clinton's replacement. Gov. Paterson reportedly questioned Ms. Kennedy's credentials, and he's not alone.
If Gov. Paterson picks Ms. Kennedy, people may also see it as proof that all it takes is a name and a few phone calls to snatch up one of the highest positions in our government -- even when our nation faces severe crises on multiple fronts.
According to the New York Times, Ms. Kennedy has not really been talking to the public about her desire to take Hillary's seat. Instead, she's been calling political power brokers to whom many ordinary candidates for public office do not have access.
Ms. Kennedy has access, largely because of her money (i.e., ability to raise campaign funds for politicians) and her political connections -- both of which she acquired basically through her birth.
Writing at Huffington Post yesterday, Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher commented:
"It appears Ms. Kennedy thinks that US Senate seats are something to lobbied for amongst political elites when one decides one wants them, and that the public should be happy to simply fall in line. The fact that one has a family political machine currently in the process of steamrolling David Paterson and a famous last name should be enough for the little people.
"I thought at least she'd get out before the cameras and start making her case to the public before she announced her intentions, because simply lobbying your well-connected buddies just oozes an outrageous sense of entitlement and insufferable pomposity."
It all seems rather ironic. Ms. Kennedy was a high-profile Obama supporter during the primaries, who talked about how Obama would inspire people and bring about change. Obama, himself, talked about changing how business is done in Washington -- which seemed an argument against allowing an elite list of wealthy or politically connected people to control our nation's destiny simply because of their wealth or elite status.
During the primaries, many Obama supporters firmly objected to political "dynasties": e.g., the Bush family and the Clintons -- though Hillary and Bill have been on the national scene for less than 20 years, and it's only Hillary and Bill (not multiple of relatives).
Ms. Kennedy's father was president 40+ years ago and a U.S. Senator before that. Her uncle (Bobby) was Attorney General -- appointed by his brother, Ms. Kennedy's father -- and a U.S. Senator after that.
Another uncle (Ted) has been in the U.S. Senate for 46 years (a few more years than I've been alive). Ted's Son Patrick (Caroline's cousin) is in the U.S. House. Another cousin was in the U.S. House for 12 years, starting in the late '80s, and yet another cousin was Lt. Governor of Maryland.
Now that's a so-called "political dynasty" -- far more so than Bill Clinton's two terms as president, followed by his wife's election to the Senate. At least the people of New York actually elected Hillary.
I have nothing against Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. What I know of her, I've found admirable: e.g., her defense of our right to privacy and her charitable works.
But does that qualify her for U.S. Senate -- especially at a time when our nation faces sever crises on so many fronts?
Jeralyn at TalkLeft likes the idea of Kennedy in the Senate:
"I think she's more than qualified to be a U.S. Senator and I hope she gets the position. We need more Senators who are cognizant and respectful of our constitutional rights. She'll be great for education and funding for the arts.
"She's outside the Washington power grid but knows how it works. Her celebrity will bring increased attention to the progressive bills she introduces, co-sponsors and supports. I think she's exactly the kind of change we need to bring to Washington."
Jane Hamsher disagrees, as evinced by her comments last week:
"Now that the Democrats are in power, she'd like to come in at the top. We have absolutely no idea if she's qualified, or whether she can take the heat of being a Kennedy in public life.
"She's certainly shown no appetite for it in the past. She'll have a target on her back and if she can't take it, if she crumbles, she will become a rallying point that the right will easily organize around.
"The woman has never run for office in her life. We have no idea how she'd fare on the campaign trail, or how well she could stand up to the electoral process.
"She simply picks up the phone and lets it be known that she just might be up for having one of the highest offices in the land handed to her because -- well, because why? Because her uncle once held the seat? Because she's a Kennedy? Because she took part as a child in the public's romantic dreams of Camelot? I'm not quite sure.
"There's an enormous problem in the Senate right now with entitlement, with the sense that its members owe their allegiance to each other and not to the public. Witness Joe Lieberman's recent confirmation of Homeland Security Chairman, when Democratic Senators circled the wagons and helped him hold on to power -- despite the fact that he refused to hold hearings into the government's response to Hurricane Katrina and protected billions of dollars in contractor graft from being investigated. Nobody, including Howard Dean, seemed to think that his performance record as head of the Committee was something that should even be taken into consideration.
"The new Senate is going to face incredible challenges in the upcoming session, and we're lucky this year that it will be infused with some much-needed new blood. It's not a place for anyone to be wearing political training wheels.
"If Caroline Kennedy aspires to that lofty perch, let her run for something first -- her name recognition, political connections and ability to fund raise should make it a cake walk. It could be a tough year for Democrats in 2010. It would be good to have her in the game.
"In the mean time, I'm glad she had fun being part of a winning campaign in a year that saw a rather rosy playing field for Democrats. But simply being well-known and a member of the 'American nobility' in a celebrity-driven society shouldn't be enough to axiomatically entitle her to be a member of the US Senate." (FDL)
To me, if nothing else, the timing seems terribly wrong (politically speaking).
Millions of Americans are downright fed up with America's political and financial elite. With good reason.
President Bush -- who became president largely due to his family's name, wealth and connections -- spent eight years wreaking havoc on our nation's domestic and foreign policy while funneling money and favors to sectors of America's political and industrial elite.
The wealthy (and politically connected) Wall Street elite spent years robbing shareholders and recklessly wreaking havoc on their companies and on our nation's economy. We're seeing fallout now, and people are frightened and outraged.
Our current political elite has not only given a free pass to the wreckers of our nation's economy, but has also given them hundreds of billions of tax dollars -- which sends the completely wrong message.
Incidentally, the economy wreckers have refused to use our tax dollars in a way that would actually help our nation's economy.
It is understandable that the mere idea of elitist entitlement is about as palatable to ordinary Americans as the thought of eating live cock roaches.
Catapulting a relative newcomer to a top position would only further reduce millions of Americans' faith in our government.
For that reason, I think Jane Hamsher's suggestion is a good one: Ms. Kennedy should run for a lower office, prove her merit, and earn a higher place on the ladder. I suspect that she'd be a stellar success.
Memeorandum has commentary.
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