Before America rose to the illusions of globalization and the cloud-cuckoo land of world domination via guns, butter and bailouts, New York was a visionary land of warrior poets and artists. People like Truman Capote and Jackson Pollock.

But globalization hates the tall and the beautiful. Caroline Kennedy, like Sarah Palin, didn’t have a chance. Increasingly, here in the Age of Penguins, we prefer the fire hydrant; the Mrs. Khrushchev in pants, short, round and blustery; unobtrusive in a crowd; corrupt — because that is something we in the middle can understand — thinking “outside the box” but confused by a compound sentence and with a club. It is a bad harbinger and a dangerous precedent because penguins — those little calendar darlings of PBS and the Starbucks set these past few years — are a prey species, a wintry treat for artic wolves and narwhals. In the age of just anybody, they are the totem animal of the horde.

Obama seems like a decent guy; as smart and able as any, more engaged in the world than Bush and less corrupt than the Clintons. And for the first time in 16 years we have a grown-up as president. But people see in him themselves; one sees Woodstock, another sees a Black Messiah, another the Anti-Christ, even as he calls for an age of responsibility and personal commitment. The least around him attempt to territorialize him; Dianne Feinstein (D), the senator from California, first, who complains that she was not consulted when Leon Panetta was sent to head the CIA. There was no reason she should have been. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate majority leader, is next, telling the president that he would not be pushed around as he was by Bush and Rove. And now David Paterson, governor of New York.

There was a distinctive moment when Ronald Reagan first went to Washington. When he addressed a joint session of Congress, the very popular and influential Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, representative from my old neighborhoods in Boston, said to him, “Welcome to the big leagues.”

It was a distinctive moment because it was patronizing and entirely out of place. O’Neill no longer owned the club. Reagan did. And Reagan took charge. Obama needs a moment like that and needs to take charge of it or he will be pecked to death by these ducks.

No one is talking about why Kennedy ditched her case for senator in the middle of the night. Most people thought that Paterson would approve Kennedy. They thought that because President Obama wanted him to and even George W. Bush and Karl Rove had the decency to grant the new president a moment of grace in his very first days. And although she had little political experience, Kennedy showed great political instincts and intuition. She single-handedly changed the direction of the Democratic primary when she trumped The New York Times’s endorsement of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) by writing an endorsement of Obama the next day in the same paper.

But reports are out by “a person close to the governor” that Paterson had no intention of picking Kennedy because he believed “she handled herself poorly in introducing herself as a candidate.”


Kennedy made the mistake of talking to reporters first time out as we all talk among friends and family and each other. She made the mistake of not understanding the enemy. It appears, or at least the impression is being suggested, that she withdrew her name to avoid embarrassment to herself, her distinguished family and to President Obama when she learned that she was about to be rejected by this calculated political move by the governor.

It would have been an extraordinary slap in the face to Obama if Paterson, a black governor and a Democrat, had rejected Obama’s will in his first days in office. It would indicate that as with Feinstein and Reid, Obama has not yet established himself psychologically as boss. He needs to do that or this will continue.

Caroline Kennedy, on the other hand, should take one of those very brief courses they give to business executives and commentators before they appear on “The News Hour” and learn the simple task of political phony talk. Then she should get together for a brief meeting with Mike Bloomberg, mayor of New York, and his very competent and intuitive Irish sidekick, Kevin Sheekey, and run for governor of New York as an Independent against the corrupt Democratic political machine of New York state.

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