A Could-Be Candidate

As soon as her name was mentioned, much of the base immediately rallied — this, they hoped, was an inspired choice. Meanwhile, others, questioning whether her experience (or lack thereof) made her right for the job, scratched their heads.

It was decided that to build up credentials, visits, tours and interviews must be arranged in as disciplined manner as possible to maximize positive exposure. Under the bright lights and ill-prepared by a staff that was supposed to plan for every contingency, however, she faltered and was unable to answer seemingly simple questions.

The missteps caused the initial enthusiasm to wane. Many in her party — including prominent party officials from her home state — openly questioned her fitness for the office.

Gov. Sarah Palin? No, Caroline Kennedy.

There are differences, of course.

As a Kennedy, she is afforded rights and privileges few in public life ever see. For present purposes, this means cutting in line in front of those who have been waiting for the same spot. Doors are held open for her, literally and figuratively.

As a Democrat, favorable press coverage is more likely. As a Democrat and a Kennedy, favorable becomes fawning.

"My heart says yes! Yes!" wrote Washington Post editorial writer Ruth Marcus, channeling James Joyce, in a Dec. 9 column titled "A Vote for Sen. Caroline." Not syrupy enough for you? It gets worse. "What a fitting coda to this modern fairy tale to have the little princess grow up to be a senator," Marcus added.

Modern fairy tale? Is this the same fairy tale our secretary of State-designate's husband talked about during the South Carolina primary? But then again, this time the fairy tale has an actual princess! Forget that our republic was founded on rejecting royalty — we could have our own little princess. Yes! Yes!

A week later, the New York Post — whose editorial page is not exactly known for left-wing politics — endorsed her appointment, arguing that "while she hasn't been especially involved" in public policy, business or, well, anything, she's the kind of insider they like. Turning logic on its head, the Post argued that selecting Kennedy would "reject the politics of pander and special-interest."

Um, no. Choosing someone whose biggest qualification is heredity, while ignoring scores of potential candidates who have expertise in issues affecting the state (and, in this case, the world) — people who have been through the rigors of campaigning and elective office — is actually the ultimate in pandering.

As far as constitutional requirements go, Kennedy — being a citizen over 30 — meets that low bar.

Politically, the idea of family legacies can be appealing to party committees or governors faced with pending appointments. Much like the Hollywood tendency for sequels and remakes, the progeny, sibling or spouse of a prominent politician — or the scion of a prominent family — capitalizes on a known quantity with a demonstrated ability to bring in money. As we've learned, however, for every “Godfather, Part II,” there is a “Blues Brothers 2000.”

It remains to be seen which "sequel" a Sen. Caroline Kennedy would be, or if she will receive the appointment from Gov. David Paterson. But what seemed a sure thing when Marcus and the Post penned their respective love letters is now decidedly less so.

Much of this is due to Kennedy's unfortunate chasing of the Senate seat (if not the news story) and stumbling out of the gate in her lackluster visits in upstate New York. The visits to communities such as Syracuse were a double whammy against Kennedy; not only did they appear to be her first ever (not a good omen), but they unfortunately highlighted her ability to, um, you know, like, uh, speak with the eloquence of a Duke point guard in a Billy Packer post-game interview.

All of this may be moot. Kennedy's constituency in this case is not New York, it is New York's governor. Who, given the waltz that has been played these past weeks, clearly wants to make a decision that will please the incoming president. Which means all the huffing and puffing — something of an art for New York politicians — may be for naught.

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