DECEMBER 16, 2008
A couple of things that bug me about the Caroline Kennedy craze:
1.) Why is it that it's gauche for everyone else to campaign for the Senate appointment but we plead with Caroline to do it and, when she finally does, pat her on the head like she's just learned to potty in the grown-up bathroom. As today's Times reports:
Ms. Kennedy ended weeks of silence with a series of rapid-fire phone calls to the state’s leading political figures, including Gov. David A. Paterson, in which she emphatically and enthusiastically declared herself interested in the seat, according to several people who received the calls.
“She told me she was interested in the position,” Mr. Paterson said at a news conference outside Albany on Monday. He added, “She’d like at some point to sit down and tell me what she thinks her qualifications are.”
I see the makings of a master legislator here. This week: a conversation with David Paterson. Next week: health care reform. It's a fairly linear progression.
2.) The same story reports that:
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing the governor, said that Mr. Paterson also had come to see Ms. Kennedy as a strong potential candidate whose appointment would keep a woman in the seat and whose personal connections would allow her to raise the roughly $70 million required to hold on to the seat in the coming years.
Under state law, Ms. Kennedy would have to run and win in 2010, to finish out the last two years of Mrs. Clinton’s term, and again in 2012, to win a term of her own.
Is that really true? Sure, Caroline knows a low of rich people. And a lot of rich people she doesn't know may give her money. But, even with that kind of network and name recognition, it still takes a ton of work to raise $70 million. Hillary Clinton probably had an even larger personal network in 2006 and even greater name recognition, plus she'd been in the Senate for six years, and she only raised about $50 million for her re-election campaign--and only about $40 million of it in 2005-06.
I have a hard time believing Caroline would come close to that. Fundraising on that scale is absolutely grueling work (just ask Rod Blagojevich), and Hillary was both good at it and willing to throw herself into it. Other than a stint raising money for New York City public schools (in which she didn't have to deal with those niggling campaign-finance restrictions; it's a lot easier to raise money in $2 million--or $50 million--increments than $2,000 increments), what indication is there that Kennedy can match this output, much less exceed it by a huge amount?
3.) The Times companion piece on Kennedy's qualifications includes this curiously worded sentence: "But friends and associates say that Ms. Kennedy, 51, is no dilettante, and that her career is replete with examples of the kind of hands-on policy work and behind-the-scenes maneuvering that could serve her well." Question: If you really weren't a dilettante, would the paper of record have to rely on "friends and associates" to vouch for you? Wouldn't you have, you know, some kind of public record? Current and former employees? Colleagues?
Anyway, here are a few examples of what said friends and associates had to offer:
As one might expect, she is also the consummate insider: When Rupert Murdoch’s young daughter was applying to the Brearley School, Ms. Kennedy, a board member who had attended the school and sent her two daughters there, wrote a letter of recommendation, a News Corporation spokeswoman confirmed. ...
They and several others, described a woman who is surprisingly down to earth: who carried sensible shoes in her bag for the walk home from a dressy event at Tavern on the Green; who declined a lift downtown when caught without an umbrella in a rainstorm, instead heading for the subway in a baseball cap; who does not shirk her periodic safety patrol duty, with its reflective vests and walkie-talkies, as a Collegiate School mom; who is an assiduous e-mailer, if not so fast at returning voice mail; who has a personal assistant, but does not use her as a gatekeeper the way so many not-so-famous people do; and who loves to play Running Charades, a version of the popular parlor game.
As I say, phone calls this week. Next week, the world.
Update: Commenter butchie b makes a good point--it's a little difficult to take someone seriously if they complained about Sarah Palin's qualifications but are now embracing Kennedy. Now, obviously, Palin was running for vice president (and was therefore a possible future president) while Kennedy is up for a Senate seat. On the other hand--and I'd never thought I'd write this sentence--Palin is vastly more qualified than Kennedy. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Kennedy is less qualified for the Senate than Palin was for the presidency.