Caroline and Kirsten.
The black and white cover of a recent issue of New York Magazine consists of a close-up of Caroline Kennedy’s face with a single teardrop hand-drawn under one eye which appears to have been applied by a red Sharpie. To the bottom left is the headline: “The brief, bizarre political career of Caroline Kennedy.”
Following the abrupt end of Kennedy’s campaign to convince New York Gov. David Paterson to select her as New York’s next junior senator, the question remains: Does this New York Magazine image represent a portrait of someone who’s been victimized by a screwed-up political appointment system, the incompetence of her campaign, or both?
From the moment Kennedy expressed her interest in being appointed to Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate seat, the daughter of the slain president became a lightning rod for criticism. She withstood the claims that she was acting as though she was entitled to the seat simply because she’s a member of a political dynasty, and that she was a spoiled, unqualified dilettante who’d never worked a “real job” in her life. She endured people dismissing her as a bored, fiftysomething housewife who was looking for something to do now that her youngest child, at 16, was getting ready to leave the nest.
Kennedy defenders – myself among them – countered the critics’ slings and arrows by pointing out that Kennedy is a Harvard grad, a lawyer, a best selling author who wrote scholarly books, a multi-million dollar fundraiser for one of the nation’s largest public school systems and a board member for several non-profit organizations including the Commission on Presidential Debates, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and was part of the three-member team which helped President Barack Obama select his running mate. No slouch is she. And besides -- I and others have suggested -- not every candidate for public office has to or should have the exact same career pattern that men have traditionally followed, as the male pols weren’t usually the ones on kid duty.
But alas, another Senator Kennedy – the female kind -- was apparently not in the cards and it’s still unclear why, and what killed her chances. Did she develop cold feet and withdraw after getting beaten up by the media? Did she have “personal issues,” like a sticky nanny or tax situation that would’ve derailed her and about which she didn’t want to discuss publicly? Did Gov. Paterson so dislike feeling as though he was being railroaded by the Kennedy political machine that he simply strung Kennedy along only to cut her legs out from under her and spread gossip about her?