Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't do it, Caroline!

I used to like Caroline Kennedy. Now...not so much.

Sure, she was a curiously pallid figure, but she was classy. She had a low-key life writing books, serving on assorted foundation boards, raising money for the New York City schools, and carrying the Camelot torch. After watching her mother run the paparazzi gauntlet, you couldn't blame her for avoiding a life on the public stage.

There are only two things that could explain her current interest in La Hill's Senate seat:

a. Uncle Ted put her up to it, because there just has to be a Kennedy in the Senate.

b. She's going through a mid-life crisis.

I'm inclined to believe the former. Uncle Ted's not long for this world, so he's nudging his publicity-shy niece into the spotlight. Weirdly enough, she's playing along with it--and why? If anyone's gone out of her way to avoid controversy during her half-century on the planet, it's Caroline Kennedy.

This is not a bad thing, of course. Except when you're in politics, where controversy is unavoidable. It pains me to say this, she's basically a Caroline-come-lately. As Jane Hamsher notes:

Her leadership could have been really helpful when we were trying to keep the progressive lights on and getting the stuffing beaten out of us by a very well-financed right wing for the past eight years. But when things were tough, she was nowhere to be found.

Now that the Democrats are in power, she'd like to come in at the top.

Case in point: Kennedy's co-wrote two books about civil liberties. And, as Al Giordano notes, she and coauthor Ellen Alderman did their own exhaustive research; these books were not vanity projects.

I don't doubt Kennedy's commitment to the Bill of Rights and privacy. Given her expertise, she could've spoken out against warrantless wiretaps or the FISA bill. She and Alderman could've even updated their books with new chapters on, say, the Patriot Act or the rights of Gitmo detainees. She could have done consulting work for the ACLU (as Bob Barr and Dick Armey have done). Instead, she was editing A Patriot's Handbook and Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

I have nothing against political families; the new US Senate has two cousins from the legendary Udall clan, after all (and another Udall relative was just voted out). I just want them to prove themselves instead of coasting in based on star power.

Katha Pollitt, writing in the latest issue of the Nation, adds two possible candidates: Elizabeth Holtzman (a civil libertarian like Kennedy) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney as candidates. Maloney has served eight terms in the House of Representatives--in fact, she's Kennedy's congresswoman. "Moving her to the Senate would free up her Kennedy can run for her seat and get into office the old-fashioned way," Pollitt suggests.