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The Divine Right of Kennedys

Iphie's picture

And a heavily padded resume.

The more I learn about this, the more offended I become and the more opposed I am to the thought of handing Caroline Kennedy a senate seat as if it were her birthright.

We are told by those who know (and whose word should not be questioned) that she deserves this position because of critical and unique qualities that only she possesses -- prestige, name-recognition, respect, and fundraising prowess -- not to mention the beneficence of Teddy Kennedy. We are to believe that the patina of Camelot will somehow arrest the ambition and needs of ninety-nine other senators in deference to the interests of New York.

All of those qualities save one (fundraising prowess) are inextricably bound to her being a Kennedy, they are a product of what Warren Buffett calls the "ovarian lottery," they are not personal skills or accomplishments and they are not attributes that she would have had she been born Caroline Kowalski.

It just so happens that her fundraising prowess has been greatly exaggerated, both in terms of money raised and time and personal sacrifice devoted to the task.

"But while Ms. Kennedy generated excitement among donors and often met personally with them, several school officials and acquaintances said she was never entirely comfortable within the bureaucracy of the nation's largest school system. For months after she started, even some high-level education officials said they were not quite sure what she did. In an interview about eight months into her tenure, she would not say how often she worked at the department headquarters or how many hours she spent on the job, saying only, 'I put in as much time as I can.'"

In fact, one of Kennedy's main jobs as chief executive of the Office of Strategic Partnerships was to oversee the Fund for Public Schools, the public/private partnership that raised hundreds of millions under Bloomberg. The Fund's tax-exempt filings with the Internal Revenue Service listed her as working one hour a week for the Fund in 2003 and two hours in 2004, the years she was at DOE.

She is being given credit for raising money that was generated by the work of others.

Klein "credited her with bringing in a $51 million gift from Bill Gates's foundation," according to a Times piece yesterday, but a top former Klein aide told the Voice that the Gates grant "was totally put together" by Michele Cahill, senior counsel to Klein who came to DOE from the Carnegie Corporation and has returned there.


The frequently-cited $65 million for the Academy, which trains principals, is also hype. The Partnership for New York City raised $30 million of it from its own members, and hardly needed any heavy lifting from Kennedy to do so. When Caroline left, Kathy Wylde, the Partnership's president, tried to depict Kennedy's role delicately. "Her stature was absolutely critical," said Wylde, a prophetic anticipation of the argument that is now being used to pave her way to the Senate.

Also from the Barrett piece, Knickerbocker SKD, the people she's hired to help force convince Paterson to give her the power she so rightfully deserves are the same people who brought you Bloomberg, Lieberman, and Blagojovich -- they are also the same people who orchestrated the term limit extension that overturned a decision made twice by the voters of NYC. (But only after receiving the blessing of yet another billionaire who knows what's best for the untrustworthy simpletons who occasionally take to the ballot box. I guess I'm beginning to see how my fondness for democracy is blinding me to Big Daddy Billionaire's ability to take care of me.)

She told us today that

"I feel like I'm a Kennedy Democrat {really?}, a Clinton Democrat, [Sen. Charles] Schumer, Barack Obama -- these are all leaders whose values I share and I feel like those are the kinds of values that I would bring,"
Her convictions just aren't strong enough to actually propel her to the polls. She votes about as often as she doesn't.
A review by The News found that of the 38 contested elections since 1988, Kennedy skipped about half, almost all of them primaries.
The oligarchs have made it clear that democracy (or even meritocracy) doesn't work for them, so, which provides a better model to help sharpen their focus -- the example of the Russian or the French Revolution?
No votes yet


Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

I don't see what Sharpton gets out of this. He's usually very careful in who he endorses, and it's incredibly strange to see him so quickly give her his blessing. Is it known if he even bothered 'lunching' with the other candidates being considered? Really, this just stinks to high heaven.

Really, we've had enough disappointments this year. I'd really like to see our so-called leaders doing a better job of vetting all of the candidates before so rashly endorsing this early, especially the ones that don't even know Caroline. Jeeze.

So, is Caroline supposed to be another one of this post-partisan, stealth progressives with a super-secret progressive plan that she simply can't tell us? I sure hope not. I'm most eagerly awaiting to here from Caroline Kennedy, and I certainly can't be anymore eager than the citizens of the great state of New York. Caroline's got some 'splainin' to do. And, if she does turn out to be a progressive Democrat, great.

As someone else said in another thread, for someone who has spent much of her life running away from the public, I'd really like her to explain what epiphany she's had in the last few weeks that's changed that.

Iphie's picture
Submitted by Iphie on

that's all he needs, that and I'm guessing this is the most attention he's ever gotten from a Kennedy.

But we're not even being told that she's a progressive -- we're just told that she's really smart and will do the right thing. Calling herself an "Obama Democrat" does not exactly inspire confidence on that measure.

oceansandmountains's picture
Submitted by oceansandmountains on

that her family has done so much for this country/sacrificed so much for this country.

If guilt-by-association is so unacceptable, then why is accomplishment-by-association so meritorious?

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

they're using it for Caroline -- like Obama used it with all the Kennedys, and with all the others, dead and alive.

pie's picture
Submitted by pie on

but have given some thought to CK as the replacement. (I, btw, did not understand the controversy about VL asking about comparisons between her and Hillary, but that's another story. Weird thread, that one).

What bothers me about her choice is that it reminds me too much of the way Obama was selected - neither has enough credentials or actual experience as a politician - we're supposed to accept on faith that they'll do a good job and act like democrats.

Sorry. As much as Obama seems to love the linking of politics and religion, faith has no place in the real world most of us live in. Neither he nor she is the best choice, but we rarely elect the best ones.

I also think Ted will probably not return in good condition to the Senate - if he actually returns at all. But the Kennedy influence must remain - and that's Caroline. I think Paterson will probably be forced to appoint her. Too much at stake for the balance of power among the various factions.

Holy crap! We're getting tons of snow!

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

I read that great Bartlett piece earlier and it just squashed any iota of doubt I had whether Caroline actually gives a damn about public service. Sure, she'll award "profiles in courage," but would she actually mind grinding it out on behalf of the public, especially right now when New York needs a brawler on its behalf in the midst of a financial crisis? No. If she was such a person, there would have been, at least, a hint of that in her life. And from what I can tell, she doesn't much like interacting with the unwashed masses or the media.

I feel she's being pushed by Uncle Teddy as much as New York Democrats are. Look at how she responds to the question, "Why do you want to be Senator?" at 1:48. She's got nothing. Even her eyes give her away.

Oh, and there's a new Bartlett piece up that suggests maybe Bloomberg and others are realizing what a mistake it is to appoint someone as Senator who's never been elected basically on surname alone.

Iphie's picture
Submitted by Iphie on

And what she tells us is that her experience as a mother, lawyer, author and education advocate are what she brings to the position. But other than being a mother, all of these other experiences have been part-time at best -- it doesn't matter what you call yourself -- I could call myself a literary critic, after all, I've been discussing and analyzing books that I've read my whole life -- it matters what you have actually done.

Of the books that she has written, all but two are anthologies, and the two that aren't were co-written. That's all fine, but a resume that amounts to co-writing two books, showing up for an hour a week volunteer position, and being so invested in your work as a lawyer that you have allowed your professional license to expire (and even before then, we don't know what work, if any, she did as a lawyer) does not do anything to recommend a person for a job as a United States senator. Especially given the enormously impressive resumes of the other people being considered. It is beyond mere entitlement -- I am almost speechless at the gall.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

and this is what her supporters -- and paid pr spinners -- are always using as her real experience on education.


Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

Starting at 2:32, Rachel remembers that misogyny may actually exist after all! And that there might be a double standard at play with regards to Caroline Kennedy (No, I don't think she should be appointed for many reasons, but I don't doubt that if a man was in her position he wouldn't be as heavily criticized).

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

and you really need to prove misogyny harming, afffecting or even operating in Kennedy's case -- esp when her "news" org along with all the other media are stilll raving about her -- and when she's not at all being held to the standard other pols are in any way shape or form still--and never has been (just like Obama--esp by Maddow's org.).

Kennedy has been exempted from the misogyny that harms other women in politics or public roles and who want power -- bec she's never even been in public, nor been a woman in politics, and is not subjecting herself to any real public scrutiny or examination still.

and Maddow is certainly not examining the issues, her position on issues, or what New Yorkers need either -- in any way at all. Which is itself not helping end sexism or misogyny at all, nor even treating Kennedy as serious.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

What I see the reaction, here, amounting to is a case of not wanting to be fooled and disrespected, for the second time in a year. We've just gotten through with one of these snow jobs. Actually, we're still very much in the midst of it. The audacity of trying this same thing, again, and so soon, is why I'm so offended by the idea. Again, if this was about Kathleen or Bobby Jr., we wouldn't even be here.

If anyone wants to chalk up the reaction to anything negative, chalk it up to Kennedy Derangement Syndrome (which, is definitely not the case with me), but misogyny on this board it is not.

Iphie's picture
Submitted by Iphie on

but I think much more than that, there is a sense of reverence for the Kennedys. But by selecting this Kennedy, the reverence and good will the public has for them is being abused. Supposedly, we don't have a system of peerage in this country -- there has to be something to recommend a person for a job other than their family name. But for a person with a family name and accomplishments? There may be some grumbling about nepotism, but by and large, I think that most people would accept that.

I was very disappointed (and surprised) to see that RFK Jr. was uninterested in the seat, and I definitely have a soft spot for Teddy (though it's begun to harden with this blatant show of entitlement), I would say that I am one of those people with general good will toward the family, but this is beyond the pale.

There was something else that I was feeling about this situation that I couldn't quite identify and finally realized what it is -- embarrassment. I'm embarrassed by the shamelessness of the Kennedy family, I'm embarrassed about the other electeds in my state who are falling all over themselves to aid in her coronation, and I'm embarrassed by the resignation and accepted powerlessness that I see in other people.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

himself a recipient of family name privilege and the benefits of our love of Mario --but with his own accomplishments -- and his ex-wife is Kerry Kennedy.

I think Teddy's way overrated -- and i know for a fact JFK is. (it's so generational tho -- i guess you had to be alive and old enough to be aware of politics by '63 to really buy this whole "magic" thing about them -- i see them as cursed first and foremost, i think -- and that they'd all be better off not being in public or politics -- and would have been able to do more good outside it)

The good thing (if you can call it good) is that everyone 45 and under doesn't have that totally Pavlovian response to the name, i don't think, so the power of it lessens each year.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

Young New Yorkers Know Caroline’s a Kennedy, but Which One?

... Interviews with about 50 New Yorkers — people from upstate and across town, people of all ages and races and political persuasions — suggest that the Kennedy brand is rich with resonance. But it also provokes resentment and puzzlement, especially among younger voters, who are suspicious of dynastic politics as the Bush era ends, and are uncertain of where in the famous family tree she falls. ...

Submitted by lambert on

because the Obama campaign propagated the dynasty meme, and now they can't put it back in the bottle.

Iphie's picture
Submitted by Iphie on

I'm not completely out of step with my generational counterparts.

zeezee's picture
Submitted by zeezee on

generation wrong on the Kennedy mystique. I suspect that it most strongly effected those who weren't around to remember the politics of the early 60's. I' suspect that the mystique is strongest among those of Obama's age who grew up after Nixon, when all the negatives and the hawkishness of Kennedy were airbrushed away, and after he was given posthumous credit for many of the things that Johnson accomplished.

I have some few recollections of JFK as President when I was a child. My memories are enough to put a clamp on any Pavlovian responses I might feel toward the Kennedys. Mind you, I don't have harsh feelings toward them at all, I am simply not enamored, although I can still get choked up thinking about RFK's 1968 run and his assassination.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

i see it most in people who were teens or older when he was killed -- and that the whole "Kennedy" industry is their doing -- and that they've set a whitewashed version of it all in concrete as part of a whole narrative arc of the 60s.

No one alive can avoid it, but it doesn't have the emotional connection or resonance to those of us younger -- it's prepackaged "history" and shorthand, like MLK in many ways.

I see Obama's cynical use of them and JFK as relying on the "product" to give himself validation -- and also to make older voters more comfortable. Not to increase his appeal to younger voters, who had already gotten onboard and already were seeing -- and already constructing "Obama" as progressive generational hero of their own.

Like, the result of the pervasiveness of the JFK product is that he's a standard against and with which Obama wanted to be compared -- and affirmed as the inheritor of -- like he did with civil rights (the "Joshua generation" stuff).

if that makes sense -- it's not like the sighing reverence older people have about him, but much more like a brand extension devoid of everything but the official narrative and selling points.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

i've seen this same exact thing over and over and over -- print and tv and online -- and it's often given as why she should get it no matter what --

It Wouldn't Be A Disgrace --

... I was in college when John Kennedy was president. I was never a big supporter. I probably preferred Fidel Castro at the time. But like everyone from that period, I remember exactly where I was I heard he was assassinated (waiting outside a classroom for a seminar on metaphysics to begin) and I still get a little weepy when I see those picture of John Jr. and Caroline afterwards with their mother. ...

But I am not going berserk as my colleagues seem to be over the prospect that she will be appointed senator. The reason has to do, I suspect, with my understanding of political dynasties. There is a difference between the Kennedy dynasty and, say, the Biden, Clinton, or Bush dynasties. And the difference is that many Americans feel they owe the Kennedy family something for their service.

John and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Whether it is merited or not, they are seen as America’s Brothers Gracchi, the two Roman tribunes who were killed successively attempting to redistribute patrician lands. Much of the hope that the Sixties might have been different is vested in the memory of the brothers--in John the hope of having been able to avoid the Vietnam War and in Robert the hope of having been able to avoid the racial polarization that divided the country after 1968 and that destroyed the Democratic coalition. I think that Vietnam might have turned out differently; I have my doubts about 1968 and its aftermath. But like many people from that generation, I still nourish illusions that life might have been different. ...

So it’s not just name, and it’s not celebrity--we're not talking about appointing a movie star or a zillionaire--but it is a certain feeling of gratitude toward that family for what it has done for the country and a feeling that of all the current Kennedy descendants, Caroline just might turn out OK as a senator. I’m still not in favor of Caroline Kennedy being appointed--I am not deaf to arguments about experience, I don’t like the idea of senators having on the job training--but I am not, to tell you the truth, appalled, dismayed, disgusted or angered by the prospect.

Younger people don't feel when Kennedy stuff comes up. We only recognize that older people feel this way. The investment is not at all emotional, or tied up with some lost paradise that changed the country for the worse. Almost all our "historic" revered figures were assassinated -- from JFK to Lincoln to MLK, etc (it's part of the package/brand/role, i guess).

zeezee's picture
Submitted by zeezee on

disagree about that. I suspect that a lot of Obama worship and the hopey change-y thing among younger voters is a desire to have a current leader with a mystique similar to the one that pervades the Kennedy remembrance. What they don't realize is that the remembrance was airbrushed, and that the mystique is not reality. They don't get this concept with Kennedy, and they don't get it with Obama.

Perhaps I am simply knee-jerking on this. I was 10 when JFK was killed and I don't feel any need to display any greater reverence for the Kennedy family than any other family. I'm defending my generation I guess. Frankly, I suspect that Kennedy reverence is not so much dependent on what generation you come from, but more dependent on one's individual personality traits, thus there are Kennedy worshippers of all ages, just as there are Obama worshippers of all ages .

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

it's just that the JFK "branding" that younger people know of and accept is devoid of real emotion and connection -- and that by contrast, it's something very real -- and loaded -- for many older ppl -- esp the boomers everywhere in our media.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

Joan Walsh/Salon -- Is Caroline Kennedy pro-choice?

... Kerry Kennedy told Chris Matthews she didn't know whether or not her cousin is pro-choice; she said they'd never talked about it.

I respect Kerry Kennedy and her loyalty to her cousin, but her answer underscored all the reasons why Kennedy's sudden pursuit of the Clinton Senate seat feels so off. This very private person hasn't left much of a public footprint. I applaud her raising $70 million for New York's public schools, but we know very little else about her political views or involvements. The idea that she'd make Gov. David Paterson's short list for the Senate appointment without any public statement on the divisive but crucial issue of abortion is problematic. According to published reports, she has called New York abortion rights leaders seeking support for her Senate crusade, implying she's pro-choice, but the fact that her own cousin can't say with certainty is disturbing. ...

Kerry Kennedy is Cuomo's ex-wife, btw.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

It happens, column inches to fill on deadline and a juicy narrative easy to write, although it shouldn't.

Caroline Kennedy is solidly pro-choice. She's been openly active in NARAL for a decade at least, and speaks at their conferences.

Try using Google instead of spreading false innuendo.

Oh, and: There are lots of things my cousins don't know about me. So what? Nothing, that's what; just a cheesy way to spread discontent by false implication, very classy and oh my yes so very Progressive.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

Kennedy Platform Emerges

... On social issues, Ms. Kennedy opposes restrictions on abortion rights, including laws that would require young women to notify a parent before obtaining an abortion. ...

but if she was "openly active in NARAL for a decade at least", her name would appear in their press releases for more than just one appearance -- representing Obama alone, no?

NARAL NY's site

NARAL nat'l site

Card-carrying_Buddhist's picture
Submitted by Card-carrying_B... on

Rudy Rudy Rudy will be running for that just as soon as he can. Kennedy can beat him.

All this dynasty stuff seems like CDS plus high school gossip. What's the problem?

zeezee's picture
Submitted by zeezee on

chance in h*ll at winning the NY Senate seat. NYC voters remember what a loon he was as mayor, and upstaters have no reason to trust that he will give a damn.

There are plenty of well qualified women candidates for the job that are more qualified and experienced than CK and any one of them could easily beat Giuliani. Experience and qualifications should be more important than money and connections when it comes to selecting a representative of the voters of NY. We seem to be slipping into an oligarchy in the US. It doesn't bode well.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Since before the beginning, our governance has been by consent of the wealthy. Initially landowners, later merchants, now corporatists and the investor class, those with wealth have created a system which protects and rewards them. Any who rise from the common people are immediately and completely absorbed within the framework of the wealthy elite, and quickly come to embrace their goals. Those who do not are marginalized and rendered politically ineffective.

This financial oligarchy is one of only three methods of societal governance, the others being military dictatorship or theocracy. Sometimes there is a blending of two of them, sometimes all three, but one is always dominant. However bad governance by the wealthy may be, the other options are far worse.

What is dangerous is when the distribution of wealth becomes exaggerated, as happened with Rome:

"The lands of Italy, which had been originally divided among the families of free and indigent proprietors, were purchased or usurped by the avarice of the nobles; and in the age which proceeded the fall of the republic, it was computed only two thousand citizens were possessed of any independent substance."

Edward Gibbon,
Decline And Fall Of the Roman Empire

The same thing has happened here in America, several times over. The last great disparity came before the Great Depression; the economic collapse we are currently experiencing is a result of the same set of circumstances, where the upper margins have sucked so much wealth out of the lower classes that the economy can no longer function.

Our choices do not include overthrow of the oligarchy, unless we want it to be replaced by something exactly the same or possibly much worse. Instead we need to be supportive of the faction within the oligarchy that is rational rather than the irrational faction that has been in power for the last 40 years. The rational oligarchs, the sane conservatives, understand that they cannot sustain their own power in the face of economic collapse so they will allow the masses to have enough wealth to maintain health and productivity - and hope.

Only when the masses organize and become insistent in their demands, and support the enlightened political faction of the oligarchy, can real progressive advancement be made. This is what happened with labor organizing and economic advances under FDR, and with racial civil rights organizing and advances with integration and voting rights made under Truman and JFK/LBJ. It will take similar sorts of mass action to achieve goals like universal health care and equal rights enfranchisement for women, homosexuals and other groups still legally discriminated against.

Power having shifted from the abusive oligarchs of the Republican Party into the hands of the enlightened oligarchs of the Democratic Party, the masses have an opportunity - a window in time - where pressure brought to bear can be productive. Caroline Kennedy is just as useful for the purposes of mass action as any other, and better than most. She, like many in the Democratic political leadership and their financial backers, is already intellectually sympathetic to the needs of the masses and will want to compromise and accomodate, not confront and punish as Republicans all are happy to do. Democrats, we all know, will fold if sufficient pressure is brought to bear; we should use that tendency to our advantage.

Instead of worrying about whether she or someone else from the enlightened socioeconomic elite occupies that Senate seat, we need to be worrying about how to pressure the government and the oligarchs to get what we want. Those victories will come from strikes, marches, mass action in the streets and on-line and with letters and meetings, and being very loud and very rude and refusing to shut up and sit down. The movement supported here at Corrente to pressure House and Senate members on universal health care is a good one, as is the initiative by ohio and others here to take Obama's health care meetings and use them to advocate for single payer. More like that, please.

zeezee's picture
Submitted by zeezee on

between a Republican oligarch and a Democratic one. Patterson isn't going to appoint a Republican to fill Clinton's term. The choice is between a Democratic oligarch and more politically experienced and qualified Democratic women. I don't see how adding yet another oligarch to the bunch helps to wean us away from an oligarchy, no matter how "enlightened" we might presume that oligarch to be. In fact, relying on "enlightened" oligarchs precludes ever equalizing the system.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Honest, I do. However....

How many US Senators are either already members of the socioeconomic elite when they're elected or become dependent on them in the process? It takes massive amounts of money to run a successful senatorial campaign, $7.8 million in 2006 for an average winning campaign. Hillary raised $30 million for the 2000 campaign, and $40 million for 2006; that kind of fundraising requires serious star power and excellent connections, not just good intentions, and for that kind of money obligations are encumbered however high-minded the initial intentions. See Barney Franks for a sad example in the House.

I'm not arguing that Caroline Kennedy is absolutely the best possible choice; there may well be others who have more direct political experience, although it must be said that past performance is not necessarily a guarantee of future results. What Paterson’s decision will be based on, though, will be more along the lines of who can raise big money for the 2010 and 2012 campaigns, who has star power enough to capture the imagination and affection of the voters, and - not surprisingly, this is politics - who the new president wants in the seat and what he's willing to do for New York and Paterson to get his way. "Appreciation" is a broad term.

But she is an adequate choice, she's a decent, intelligent and respectable person. And yes, if she gets the seat it will be because she's connected and the new president owes her a favor. That kind of political calculation is not unique to Chicago; it works in New York too. If it turns out the voters truly don't care for her, they'll have an opportunity to deal with the problem in 2010. If she gets the appointment and likes the experience, I expect she'll run and I also expect the voters will decide they like her a lot and return her for the rest of the term overwhelmingly. Who knows, you might come to like her too.

My argument - and not mine alone - regarding the oligarchy is that there will never be any "getting away" from it. The best that can happen is a détente, an accommodation, such as has occurred in much of but not the entire EU. While lessened compared to what we now have here, there are still disparities in wealth and income and the political ruling class is still generally drawn from the upper socioeconomic class, but the lower classes are well taken care of and generally without want. That will more likely be reached in this country, IMHO, through dealing with the ruling faction associated with the Democratic Party. Caroline Kennedy won't be our principle obstruction, and I feel she could even become an ally of sorts.