Caroline's Friends

by | January 24, 2009

In next week's issue of The New Yorker, Larissa MacFarquhar has a Caroline Kennedy profile that was probably intended to give readers a glimpse at New York's newest senator. Things took a different turn, of course, but the result is a piece that is more entertaining than it otherwise would have been. Most astonishing, for example, is this quote from MSNBC political analyst and Caroline loyalist Lawrence O'Donnell:

“Paterson has no comprehension of upstate New York, absolutely none, and has chosen someone better at representing cows than people. What you have is the daughter of a lobbyist, instead of the daughter of a former President or the son of a former governor. This is the hack world producing the hack result that the hacks are happy with.”[Italics Mine]

Let that second sentence sink in for a moment. It also seems from MacFarquhar's reporting that Kennedy's other friends are just as charming as O'Donnell. They love to drone on and on about how normal Kennedy is, but Macfarquhar nevertheless sums up their attitidue as follows:

As the weeks went by, people who were not her friends questioned whether she had the fluency or the toughness to fight for the Senate seat, as she’d have to in 2010. Could she handle the hot dogs and the fried dough? Was she ready for Utica? This sort of questioning drove the friends insane. It was so irrelevant. After all, she didn’t have to campaign in the same way that an unknown person has to. People already knew who she was, she already had their attention. They even already knew more or less what she stood for: she was a Kennedy—she’d been born with a platform.

How dare people question her campaigning abilities: Caroline is a Kennedy. At this point I was eagerly awaiting a quote from another friend lauding Kennedy's courage. And I was not to be disappointed:

To Caroline Kennedy’s friends, her putting herself forward for the Senate, whatever the result, was a step of great courage and significance. “This is a person who has the blessing of using her remarkable position to advance larger issues,” Richard Plepler says, “and, because she has never taken advantage of that, that is something that speaks to the integrity and, not to be too corny, but, the nobility of what she’s doing now.” “To put yourself through that seems like a lot for her, but I take my hat off to her, because changing your life up and trying things at—you know, she’s not twenty-five—takes a certain amount of guts,” a friend says. “She’s not stupid, she knew that the life she knew would come to an end whether she got the appointment or not, and that’s a tough thing for anyone, giving away the life you’ve had.”

Yet she dropped out of the running! To paraphrase P.G. Wodehouse, this is no way for noblesse to oblige.

--Isaac Chotiner

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/carolines-friends