Sunday, December 28, 2008

Caroline Kennedy Does Not Vote Often, But Still Wants to be a Senator

The recent comments by Caroline Kennedy regarding her lack of electoral participation in past political campaigns reminds me of Adam Sadler in the Wedding Singer. The main character, Robbie Hart, decides to pursue serious money by applying for a job at a bank. He tells the interviewer "No, sir, I have no experience, but I'm a big fan of money. I like it, I use it, I have a little. I keep it in a jar on top of my refrigerator. I'd like to put more in that jar. That's where you come in." Those familiar with the movie know that this memorable line didn't help poor Robbie land the job.

Fast forward to reality and you have Caroline Kennedy applying for an even bigger job -- the US Senator representing the state of New York -- and sounding very similar to poor Robbie. You can almost hear her, "I don't really vote, but I like power, and I certainly want more of it by being chosen to the Senate." In fact, she wants the seat held by her late uncle Bobby. After all, it is a family business, she seems like a logical candidate. But then she is haunted by the experience question. Not only does Kennedy lack any substantive policy experience to speak of, she has often decided that voting in elections (including the actual seat she is running for) wasn't worth her time. In retrospect, she has been "dismayed" by her lack of voting.

The New York Times notes that "She did not vote in any of the last four primary elections for New York City mayor. Nor did she vote in the general election of 1994, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose Senate seat Ms. Kennedy now aspires to fill, was elected to his fourth and last term." The article goes on to point out that "a review by The Daily News indicated that Ms. Kennedy, a Democrat, has not voted in about half of the 38 contested elections since 1988, most of them primaries."

Caroline Kennedy is well down the road of being middle age and has little to show for her Kennedy name. Her role has largely been ceremonial. The last surviving member of Camelot, the keeper of the Profiles in Courage award, but little else to show for her efforts. It appears now she has more than a little remorse and is trying to play catch up by pursuing one of the most important positions in the US government. There is, after all, only 100 US Senators. They serve for six years (such a long time is a luxury in politics), their fingers touch every major Presidential appointment and have a profound impact on policy not afforded to many other elected officials. It would seem that a person who wanted to hold such a high office would want to cut their teeth on at least one or two positions before the Senate.

The US Senate is usually the reward for years of works in politics or policy. When it comes to the substance in the case for Caroline Kennedy, there really is not any. But she is, after all, a Kennedy. If she is chosen by Governor David Patterson of New York it will be because he is lost in the legend and romance of Camelot or because of orders from President-Elect Barack Obama (a big Caroline fan). It won't be because she is the best candidate for the job, which is what the Senate and New York needs and deserves.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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