I Publius: Making the case for Caroline Kennedy

I have certainly taken my share abuse for having been one of the first to suggest that Caroline Kennedy would be the perfect person for New York Gov. David Paterson to name to the Senate seat now held by Hillary Clinton.

People have come up with lots of reasons for disagreeing with me: The appointment would be too nepotistic; she is not well spoken and says “you know” too much; she hasn’t spent enough time in upstate New York; she didn’t vote in some elections; she hasn’t given enough money to the Democratic Party; she doesn’t have the necessary work ethic to do the job; she is too close to Mayor Bloomberg, and on and on.

For his part, David Paterson, doesn’t seem to want her. The word is going out all over the place that others have been “invited” to interview for the position and some of them are already being vetted for their finances. The New York tabloids have been unduly cruel to Caroline. Now Paterson is rumored to be going for the “seat warmer” option.

Respectfully, I think David Paterson would be dumb not to appoint Kennedy. Here’s my reasoning: She is fabulously wealthy. Some guesstimates have her in the $500 million range. She owns a considerable chunk of Martha’s Vineyard beach front, and she is one of the most popular New Yorkers.

So let’s just say that you were David Paterson and had to run for your own term in 2010. Wouldn’t you want to run with someone who would attract a lot of voters who wanted a chance to touch a piece of history? Wouldn’t you want to be the running mate of the woman whose father was a martyred president, whose uncle was a martyred Senator from New York and whose other uncle just may be the most admired man in the United States Senate? She clearly would bring both money and voters to the electoral process.

Why, then, would Paterson not like her? It’s not as if he didn’t get where he is partially by his own pedigree. There must be a reason but I’ll be damned if I know what it is. Some think that he is keeping the option of his own ascendancy to the Senate open.

One main player to take into account is Sen. Chuck Schumer. Even though Chuck has said that he is staying out of this, rumors abound that he doesn’t want to be eclipsed by the new senator the way he was by Hillary Clinton.

On the other hand, I could understand that if Andrew Cuomo was selected, he might think he’d have a big competitor for the Washington limelight and that wouldn’t be pretty. Both guys are fairly competitive. But Caroline could be a protégé. She could help him continue to get other Democrats elected. Let’s face it, the woman has celebrity.

She clearly helped put Barack Obama over the top and is owed, big time. Surely Paterson knows of her influence in the White House at a time when New York is going to need every bit of juice it can get.

The woman is hardly stupid. Look at the blood lines and at her law degree from Columbia and compare her to some of the lightweights in Congress, like Gary Ackerman, who have been trying to bring her down.

And, of course, let’s remember that the Democrats in the Congress would love having her there. Do you really think that any senator — I mean any senator — would not take Caroline’s phone calls? Do you really think that she wouldn’t hire the best staff that money can buy just as her Uncle Bobby and father John did when they were in the Senate? Do you really think that the best and the brightest minds in America wouldn’t leave their teaching posts at Harvard, Yale and Hunter to staff her office and give her the best advice possible?

Is there anyone who has any doubt about where she would stand on the important political issues like American military adventurism or social justice, or health care?

All I know is that she will certainly be where I am. She will be an incredibly important voice in this country. If Paterson doesn’t see the sense in appointing her, I certainly hope she has the guts to do what her father and her uncles did — run for the office on her own.

Nope, if Paterson blows it, it will be the biggest mistake of his political life.

Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 1/3/09

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