Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Dynasty's Dame

When I was at the Democratic National Convention in August, I was lucky to have the opportunity to hear Ted Kennedy mark the twilight of his lengthy career of public service by giving what was presumably one of his last major speeches. At the time, everyone in the convention hall assumed that Kennedy's speech also signified the approaching sunset over the family dynasty. Though members of the Kennedy clan remain in the public eye (Maria Shriver, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend), none has achieved the prominence or transcendence that JFK, RFK or Ted Kennedy rose to in their lifetimes.

Governor Patterson now has the opportunity to polish off the dusty chandeliers at Camelot and rescue the Kennedy dynasty from its inevitable demise by appointing a new dame of the dynasty, Caroline Kennedy, to be the distinguished junior senator from New York. It's an opportunity, I think, that he should delicately pass up.

Though Caroline Kennedy is obviously intelligent and accomplished, any legislative appointment would be made principally because of her last name. Until she became involved in vetting Obama's vice-presidential short list, Caroline Kennedy did not have a career in public service and, in fact, consciously shunned the limelight. Numerous other individuals have devoted their lives to public service and who have a proven track record upon which Governor Patterson can make an appointment. Carolyn Maloney (congresswoman from Manhattan/Queens), Kirstin Gillibrand (congresswoman from Albany), Jerry Nadler (congressman from Manhattan) and Brian Higgins (congressman from western NY) all come to mind. (Andrew Cuomo doesn't because I don't think he's going to get plucked from his new position as the state's attorney general.) Moreover, Caroline Kennedy doesn't have any connections to upstate New Yorkers, whose support is crucial to keeping the reigns of political power in the state in Democratic hands, in Congress and at the state level.

Let Caroline Kennedy run for office in an election, when she would have the opportunity to prove her bona fides to the public and make more of a convincing case as to why she should serve as a representative of her state. Until then, however, Governor Patterson should keep those pearly gates to Camelot closed shut.