Why Caroline Kennedy Went After Hillary Clinton’s Senate Seat


When Caroline Kennedy expressed interest in Hillary Clinton’s vacant Senate seat it was never clear why Kennedy wanted to be in the Senate. Vanity Fair has run an excerpt from Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died by Edward Klein which shows that it was Ted Kennedy who was primarily interested in keeping a Kennedy in the Senate:

‘There has been a Kennedy in the Senate for nearly 50 years, and Ted wanted to extend that run for another 50 years,” said a longtime family adviser. “He felt it was very important to have a Kennedy in the Senate after he was gone, and when Hillary [Clinton] announced she was leaving the Senate to become secretary of state, Ted thought that Caroline should take her seat. He put it to Caroline almost like a last wish, and Caroline felt that she couldn’t let her uncle Teddy down.”

Kennedy was considered to be a shoo-in for the appointment by many, but she was not very impressive when in public while this was under consideration. She was surprised when Patterson didn’t immediately give her the seat:

Caroline was humiliated; she had expected that the appointment would automatically be hers,” said the Kennedy-family adviser. “In her mind, it wasn’t just that it had been her uncle Robert’s Senate seat, or any other aspect of her legacy; it was that she is a constitutional scholar who has helped secure funding for the New York City school system, that she’s acted as an adviser to her uncle, and that she’s a star of the Democratic Party. It honestly never occurred to her that the seat wouldn’t be given to her immediately. When Governor Paterson failed to react, and made her wait, she seethed.”

Ultimately it was her children which convinced Kennedy to remove her name from consideration:

“In the end her daughters, her son, and her husband, Ed, sat down with her at their New York apartment and gave her something of an ultimatum,” said the family adviser. “Her children felt that she was becoming a different person—one that they didn’t much like. They had never heard her talk so tough. They told her that, if she was getting this worked up just getting the job, they didn’t want to see what she would be like in the trenches of a political campaign or a fight in Washington.

“One night, Caroline and Ed Schlossberg were dressing to go out to a dinner party when her daughters, Rose and Tatiana, came into her bedroom to confront her about the situation. Caroline was putting on her makeup and was a few minutes from leaving when they sat down on her bed and told her what they were thinking. When they knew they had her attention, Rose, the eldest, ran out and got her brother, Jack, to join them so that their mother would know they were unanimous.

“Jack is actually the most emotional of the kids, and he was the most upset. This was totally uncharted territory for them. Mom had always been in charge. Their family is very matrilineal. Caroline calls the shots. Rebellion is not something that happens. For that reason Caroline was stunned. She stopped what she was doing and gave them 100 percent attention, shushing and waving Ed out of the room when he ducked in and pointed to his watch to indicate that they were running late.

“Rose pleaded, saying, ‘Mom, you are above this.’ That was a wake-up call. It jerked Caroline back to reality. What would her mother [Jackie] think of all this tabloid attention she was getting? Her mother wouldn’t have liked it. It was Caroline’s conversation with her children that tipped the balance. If Paterson had called and offered her the job an hour earlier, she would have accepted. But after that conversation she wouldn’t have taken the job if Paterson had come begging on his hands and knees. That’s when Caroline called Paterson and told him she was withdrawing her name.”

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