I just love that phrase–used about the dog that bit Chirac. To how many French intellectuals might it apply? Hollywood brats? Members of the mainstream media? Political losers?
Actually, this post is about Caroline Kennedy, who may or may not be depressed for whichever reason one chooses to believe was behind her withdrawal from contention for the NY Senate appointment: wasn’t going to get the job anyway, or Uncle Ted’s worsening health–or nanny and tax problems as it now seems.
I am quite gratified that our Park Avenue Princess will not be my Senator. First, because I always root for the underdog. I was really offended to see the accidental Governor Paterson, with no constituency or fund-raising apparatus of his own and a visible lack of intellectual ballast, get pushed around by the united Kennedy, Obama, and Bloomberg forces into annointing Ms. Kennedy. Notwithstanding the decent job he has done as mayor in some regards, I find Bloomberg’s characteristic bullying streak downright offensive. He has used that tactic of appearing to have overwhelming force so the opposition buckles, more than once–and failed. The sports stadium he wanted to erect on Manhattan’s west side–a terrible use of land on a crowded island–was his first failure. His heavy-handed advocacy for his socialite neighbor, including calling his dogs to ‘work the phones’ for Caroline, has apparently also backfired. I am a bit curious about what leverage he uses. Money, obviously, in the form of campaign support. But how much? His ability to grab a third term also seems more in doubt after this public rebuke.
Second–It’s just offensive to appoint someone to a seat in the U.S. Senate who has no known record on the issues. A normal candidate coming from a field other than politics–often a good thing, as is the “life experience” gained in periods many mothers stay home–would have to define her views on the issues of the day. This is particularly problematic in the case of an heiress, like Ms. Kennedy, who also cannot be assumed to have even the smallest clue about how the vast middle-classes live. She has never held a paying job in her life. She had never submitted to the pressures of meeting other people’s expectations–or losing her livelihood. She has never so much as had to make even a very high-level economic choice between, say, the country house or private school–or even the country house vs. the European vacation–let alone food vs. medicine. The very rich tend to sympathize excessively with the very poor–always at the expense of the taxpaying middle and upper middle classes.
Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the highly orchestrated media and political campaign to install her was the bizarre pretense–by cynics like Maureen Dowd, as well as the more earnest–that if such a magnificent creature was ready to heed her ancestral call to serve the people, we would be lucky to have her. A seat in the U.S. Senate was the least she should be offered.
Public service is often a virtuous career choice, to be sure. I think especially about police, public health people, the military, and those who help disaster victims–even teachers. But really, a U.S. Senate seat is a very powerful perch. (‘effing golden’). Power is a serious objective, worth fighting for. You don’t hand power to a lovely dilettante who just “wants to do some good”–even if she might be able to raise money in the future. Power is for those who have some idea about how to use it. In the end, it seems that Gov. Blagojevich understood that far better than Mayor Bloomberg.
So irksome was this widespread, blatant lie about what, precisely, a Senate seat is, that I found myself having irrational bouts of sympathy for working politicians–including the generally odious Rep. Carolyn Maloney, let alone the more promising Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand. Gillibrand is a somewhat conservative, upstate Democrat (second amendment supporter) who not only had Ivy League degress, like Caroline–but has even worked in real, private sector jobs in her life. I even hoped Rep. Nita Lowey–who has very hardcore views on Israel’s security, and who stepped aside from running for the Senate for Hillary–would ask for it.
Having said all that, Ms. Kennedy is undoubtedly smart enough, and certainly sophisticated–and we now know that she has the better part of a half-billion dollar fortune. She appears to have negative personal charisma, and most of her actual intellectual strengths seem literary and therefore better suited to the private realm. If she really does want to contribute to society, or even get out of the house more now that the kids are older–surely her patrons can find her a real job, with real responsibility, that isn’t something mere commoners spend entire careers working up to. And if she wants actual power–why, she can use her money and celebrity to stand for election on her merits and ideas. After the media coaching–and the back taxes.