Caroline Kennedy and Sarah Palin

The potential appointment of Caroline Kennedy to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat is raising much more emotion than I think it deserves. I don’t have a strong opinion either way primarily because I don’t know enough about Kennedy to be certain about her ability to be a Senator. Her name is not sufficient qualification for the post but neither is it reason to oppose her.

There’s no doubt that if she receives the post it will be largely because of her name and family ties, but Kennedy would hardly be unique in receiving such advantage. We have a strong history of both political dynasties as well as politicians such as Barack Obama winning against one of our strongest political families. If Caroline Kennedy becomes senator from New York she will follow other big name senators such as Robert Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. Among the top names being considered besides her is a member of the Cuomo family.

Kennedy’s political resume is thin but this is not necessarily bad. Being a career politician is not necessarily a virtue. Kennedy has written books on civil liberties and the Constitution which makes her as qualified as many others who have served in the Senate. Certainly her writings don’t make her less qualified than Al Franken even if she cannot match his resume by also haven written for Saturday Night Live and hosting a show on Air America.

If Caroline Kennedy becomes senator it will be because of appointment rather than going out on the campaign trail, but that would be true of anyone who receives the appointment. If I did have the responsibility for the appointment I would certainly want to have a long talk with both her and those she has worked with, but I see no reason to exclude her from consideration.

I have not written on this issue before as I do not know enough about Kennedy to have a strong position either way. One argument today did make me want to respond. Andrew Sullivan, quoting a report in The New York Times, concludes that Kennedy is Less Qualified than Palin.

Sarah Palin represents the worst tendencies of the right wing to support anti-intellectualism, restrictions on civil liberties, and to oppose our system of Constitutional government. The repulsiveness of both Palin’s views and the movement to support her should not be trivialized by inaccurately comparing others to her, and Caroline Kennedy certainly does not support this comparison.

Palin has spent more time in elected government, but this is not what determines their relative qualifications. Palin’s lack of qualification for high office is based upon her lack of understanding of the basic issues and because of the extremism of her views. Palin repeatedly showed her lack of knowledge both in interviews and in her debate against Joe Biden. While Palin showed a lack of understanding of Constitutional issues, Kennedy has written books on the topic. Palin repeatedly showed in her public statements that she does not understand the First Amendment. While Kennedy has been a defender of First Amendment rights, Palin has attempted to violate it with her attempts at censorship.

Someone who has written books in support of civil liberties at least has reason to be considered as a potential Senator. This makes her far more qualified than someone lacking in knowledge and intellectual curiosity such as Sarah Palin.

There is also a considerable difference between senator and vice president. Being an author and civil liberties advocate without experience in government may or may not be sufficient to be vice president but it is sufficient to at least consider someone for the Senate. As Kathleen Parker points out, “a Sen. Caroline Kennedy would not be a nuclear-enabled leader of the free world, whereas a Vice President Sarah Palin might have been.” Having Sarah Palin wind up in the White House would be a nightmare. Appointing Caroline Kennedy to the Senate and having her face the voters at a later date may or may not be the best decision Paterson can make, but it would not be anything like the choice of Sarah Palin as vice president.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    beachmom says:

    I, like you, was fairly agnostic on the whole thing.  However, one of the responsibilities of being a Senator is to be able to talk unscripted to the press.  Caroline showed she could do that this summer on Meet the Press, but for some reason, is having trouble now.  She needs to show that she can sit in the hot seat and be grilled.  The fact that she could not these last couple of days, is troubling.  Jury is out on this one.  We’ll see if she improves.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Beachmom,

    If I actually witnessed such deficiencies I’d be more concerned. That is also why I included the stipulation that I would want to have a long talk with her and others if I was making the decision. I would also be more concerned if she had never been involved in a campaign before, but from all accounts I’ve read she did a fine job while out campaigning for Obama. Therefore I agree with you–the Jury is still out.

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