Caroline Kennedy’s Senate Seat

As I prepared to attend a meeting this morning in frigid Chicago, I happened to tune into the “Today Show” and listen to an exchange between NBC anchors Tom Brokaw and Matt Lauer. Of note was the discussion as to who would succeed Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton as the next junior senator of New York state. All fine and good until the discussion turned to the "candidacy" of Caroline Kennedy.

By way of full disclosure, I'm generally a fan of the Kennedy family, and their commitment to public service over the decades is quite admirable. At the same time, I was struck that the two anchors gave the impression that Ms. Kennedy will become the next senator from New York if that's what she wants to do. As Brokaw noted, "It would be pretty hard for Gov. Paterson to say no" to Kennedy if she wants the seat. Really?

I know that many in the media have been cheering on the return of Camelot to the White House. If I hear one more comparison of Barack and Michelle Obama to Jack and Jackie Kennedy, I'm going to throw a shoe at the television set. Certainly, Obama's election to the presidency is historic to our country — but enough already with the return of American royalty to the White House.

Now back to Ms. Kennedy, for a moment. I find it hard to believe that the state of New York (in particular, Gov. Paterson, who must fill Clinton's vacancy) is willing to hand the U.S. Senate seat to Caroline Kennedy because she wants it. I personally think that Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) deserves the appointment; she was running for the seat when the Clinton bandwagon rolled into New York and derailed her path to the nomination. Lowey evinced a great deal of grace under pressure to yield to the Clintons, and her record in the U.S. House of Representatives over the decades has burnished her credentials as a strong legislator committed to serving her state and the nation.

While Ms. Kennedy has certainly dedicated her life to public service, as have many in her family, I take exception to the sense of entitlement that seems to revolve around the potential Kennedy bid. The governor of New York has an obligation to his constituents — constituents who did not elect him to his current office — to find the most qualified individual to represent the challenges of New York state while undertaking policies to strengthen the United States of America.

If Caroline Kennedy passes this test following a rigorous vetting process with several other candidates, great. If she inherits the seat due to her family name, fame and ambition by a governor unwilling to stand up for the best needs of his constituents, well, that would be a shame from a political party that professes to represent the everyday American while seeming obsessed with a family dubbed as America's royalty.