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Caroline Kennedy: Talk to Us

Everything about Caroline Kennedy going for Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate seat – and then abruptly dropping out via a single sentence in a statement – bothers me.

How do you step into a race, demand all this attention by flying around New York State lobbying mayors you’ve never met before in cities you’ve never set foot in and then – in a single sentence in a statement – announce you’re out?

Don’t you owe the public — your public, whom you ostensibly wanted to serve — a bit more respect by spelling out the real reasons beyond it’s “deeply personal?” I think you do.

If you had a nanny, tax or marriage problem, which is what anonymous sources allege, why’d you get into this fray to begin with? Surely you’ve been around politics long enough to know it’d come out.

The truth is that I was bothered by her candidacy from the start when she announced her intention to lobby Gov. David Patterson for the seat — having never served in any elected office or, apparently, on any board or committee where she had to face rigorous questioning before being chosen.

Sure, she no-doubt solicited a ton of money from rich New Yorkers for the New York City public schools that my children attend (for which she accepted just $1 a year) but she hardly had to fight for the job: her neighbor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, tapped her for it.

And, it doesn’t take a ton of brains to know it was in Bloomberg’s self-interest to choose a rich woman, from a storied political family, to help with the schools. Brilliant for both of them, and of course for families like mine who’ve benefited.

But being a United States senator is a gigantic responsibility — one that should be earned through hard work and public trust, which culminates in a vote by the people.

I love the Kennedys — and Caroline’s cousin Maria Shriver was one of my favorite bosses many years ago — and I have no doubt she would have done a fine job representing New York because she has enough access to support to ensure her success, but doesn’t this whole thing smack of entitlement? Another well-to-do person with connections being tapped for a post that so many other more deserving people had probably earned.

Granted, Caroline Kennedy is an exceptionally smart woman (despite the excessive “you knows”): she went to Harvard, got a law degree from Columbia and has written a number of books. Americans rightly owe her father and two uncles gratitude for their enormous service to our country.

But I know women who have her education, who have accomplished as much or more than she has and whose families have also sacrificed for the country. Yet their names are unknown and their connections aren’t deep, so nobody is tapping them for the most prestigious posts in politics.

We didn’t ask her to throw her hat in the ring. And we didn’t ask her to take herself out. After stringing us along for weeks now, Caroline Kennedy owes us an explanation for what happened. I’m not asking her to open up a vein, just to give us a better sense of what went wrong, especially after asking for New Yorkers to side with her candidacy.


  1. Image Architect

    I’m not up to date about New York politics, but I have heard the rumor about tax problems. However, it is also possible she got such flack from the press about her “you knows” that she realized she lost all credibility. I assumed she was a highly intelligent woman, but when I hear her speak, I was aghast at how silly she sounded.

  2. B Higgins

    Her candidacy — even as a spectator in Michigan – – was so depressing to me. I’m educated, experienced, hard-working, but without connections. It’s impossible to find work. Then she glides into the spotlight and I realized the only way to get hired is through people in high places. If that’s how our society operates, many of us are doomed.

  3. wendy

    Thank you, Tory, for putting into words what a lot of us are thinking. I like Caroline Kennedy but it did smack of entitlement — ironic at a time when the man she supported for president early on, Barrack Obama, wants to harness the power of ordinary Americans, not the elite.

  4. gloria

    Please. It’s not as though Caroline Kennedy would have been the first U.S. senator without much of a resume. The lion of the U.S. Senate, her uncle, Ted, got the job thanks to his famous name and brother, with no real experience. And people on the left and right point to Teddy as an excellent lawmaker. She would have done fine and I don’t blame her for keeping mum on her reasons for dropping out. Whatever it is must be painful and God knows she has endured enough of it in her life.

  5. Comeback-mom

    Tory, in response to a section of your post, “But I know women who have her education, who have accomplished as much or more than she has and whose families have also sacrificed for the country. Yet their names are unknown and their connections aren’t deep, so nobody is tapping them for the most prestigious posts in politics.”
    I would say that if these women have a desire to serve it is time for them to let their light shine, build the connections they need and put their hat in the ring. Consider, President Obama, he at one time suffered the same fate and did something about it. I hope he is an example for anyone with hopes and dreams for achieving something.

  6. Aleeda Crawley

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I had long, drawn out discussions with my partner about Caroline Kennedy’s qualifications to be Senator. I never doubted her desire to serve the public, nor did I question the cachet she would bring to that office…it was why I voted for Hilary Clinton when she first ran. I still wanted to know who else was being considered, so I could make an informed decision. None of the explanations about her withdrawal hold water, AND they are not from her. The explanation about the personal sacrifice didn’t wash. The FIRST person I would talk to about taking a job would be my partner, as he is one of the most affected people. If her decisionmaking process is that flawed, then she should rethink seeking any office. Having seen many other unquestionably qualified people rejected for appointments I also cannot believe that she thought ANY negative information would not be brought to light. Having complicated the process by openly campaigning, I think the least she owes the public is an equally open statement, even if she chooses not to deliver it in person, as to why she withdrew. She may want to run again in the future, and at this point I do not believe she would be considered without an explanation; that could be an unfortunate loss for her and the public. No elected official, (or voter for that matter), would want to risk the embarassment.

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