Sweet on Caroline
Ask not, you know, what your country can, like, do for you. Ask what you, um, can, you know, do for your country.
After a lifetime of shying away from the public spotlight, Caroline Kennedy asked herself what she could do for her country.
Her soft-spoken answer — to follow her father and two uncles and serve in the Senate — got her ripped to shreds in the, you know, press.
I know about “you knows.” I use that verbal crutch myself, a bad habit that develops from shyness and reticence about public speaking.
I always thought that Caroline and her brother, John, had special magic capital in America because of their heartbreaking roles in the Kennedy House of Atreus.
Joe Kennedy, the wily patriarch of the clan, had pioneered the use of Hollywood glamour in pursuit of Washington power. With his glossy pop-culture political magazine, George, John reversed that equation, using his stature as an American political prince to persuade Salma Hayek to pose on the cover of his magazine.
I wrote a column once saying that it seemed like a frivolous use of his time. I thought he should run for office and employ his special clout to make life better for Americans. He died before he had the chance.
So I found it bizarre that when Caroline offered to use her magic capital — and friendship with Barack Obama — to help take care of New York in this time of economic distress, she was blasted by a howl of “How dare she?”
People are suddenly awfully choosy about who gets to go to the former home of Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond and Robert Torricelli.
Although Americans still have enough British in their genes to be drawn to dynasties, W. has no doubt soured the country on scions. And the camps of the other two New York dynasties — the Clintons (still bitter about Caroline’s endorsement of Obama) and the Cuomos (who’d like that Senate seat for Andrew) — have certainly done their best to undermine Caroline.
Congress, which abdicated its oversight role as the Bush crew wrecked the globe and the economy, desperately needs fresh faces and new perspectives, an infusion of class, intelligence and guts.
People complain that the 51-year-old Harvard and Columbia Law School grad and author is not a glib, professional pol who knows how to artfully market herself, and is someone who hasn’t spent her life glad-handing, backstabbing and logrolling. I say, thank God.
The press whines that she doesn’t have a pat answer about why she wants the job. I’ve interviewed a score of men running for president; not one had a good answer for why he wanted it.
Robert Duffy, the mayor of Rochester, complained that when the would-be senator visited the Democratic headquarters there recently, she did not respond to pictures in a conference room of her father, mother, brother and herself as a little girl. Isn’t it creepy to expect her to emote on cue? Isn’t it more authentic to want to keep some of your most private feelings to yourself?
I know Caroline Kennedy. She’s smart, cultivated, serious and unpretentious. The Senate, shamefully sparse on profiles in courage during Dick Cheney’s reign of terror, would be lucky to get her.
And believe me, she talks a whole lot better than the former junior senator from New York, Al D’Amato, who once wailed that he was “up to my earballs” in some mess, and another time complained to me that those “little Jappies” bring over boats full of cars and then take the boats back empty.
Anyhow, it isn’t how you say it. It’s what you say. Hillary Clinton is a great talker, but she never stood up in the Senate to lead a crusade against any Republican horror show, from Terri Schiavo to the Bush administration’s dishonest push to war.
Sitting in the Senate gallery on Tuesday as senators were sworn in by Dick Cheney, I saw plenty of lawmakers who had benefited from family.
Two Udalls were being sworn in, under the watchful eye of Stewart Udall. Mark Begich, the new senator from Alaska, is the son of a former Alaska congressman. The classy Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, son of the late Gov. Robert Casey, was there in a festive pink tie. John McCain, whose wife’s money and Arizona pull made his Senate election possible, looked on with a smile. Hillary, whose husband paved the way for her to join this club and run for president, chatted with colleagues. Jay Rockefeller wandered about, as did Chris Dodd, son of Senator Thomas Dodd. And Teddy Kennedy, walking with a cane, worked the room with his old brio.It isn’t what your name is. It’s what you do with it. Or, in the case of W., don’t.