2008-12-31 / Editorials

Just Asking, Caroline

To The Editor:

In a country whose very creation is attributed to a distaste for divine monarchies and aristocracies, and whose history supports the idea that no person is entitled to preference by virtue of birthright, it is not surprising that the efforts of Caroline Kennedy to be appointed to Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be vacant Senate seat have caused some annoyance. But despite a few instances to the contrary, the news media in general continue to treat Ms. Kennedy (aka Ms. Schlossberg) with kid gloves. In fact, at least one major New York daily has already endorsed her.

It is nevertheless curious that the qualifications Ms. Kennedy cites in favor of her appointment have gone largely unchecked. Repeatedly, she has listed these qualifications: she is a lawyer, a Constitutional scholar and author, a philanthropist, and, as a Kennedy, a person of unusual access and influence.

A moment's reflection may suggest that, if anything, such a background thoroughly disqualifies her as a Senator. Be that as it may, since Ms. Kennedy evidently believes otherwise, let us examine her boasts more carefully.

With respect to her being a lawyer, so what? There are already too many lawyers. And too many laws. The last thing we need in the Senate [is] more lawyers and laws. But since Ms. Kennedy insists that this is an important attribute, it is only fair to inquire of the prospective Senator who her past clients have been, the firms she has worked for as a lawyer and for how long, and the cases in which she has appeared as the attorney of record. Are there any?

As an author and scholar, she has co-authored- -emphasize co-authored--a couple of books on Constitutional law (and edited a few harmless collections of poetry--which amounted to selecting some poems and stamping her name on the volume). As a lawyer myself, I have looked through her co-authored books on law and can say that they are rudimentary tracts almost any law graduate could write, and with the right connections and editorial support, publish. Trouble is, most law graduates lack the time to write books. They have to work--usually as lawyers.

And certainly philanthropy is no guarantor of political success. If that were so, Bill Gates would be president, perhaps even dictator. Just look at Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg. His most important initiatives, such as congestion pricing and the West Side redevelopment, failed miserably, despite all the loot he has given away. Though, as an aside, it was enough for Bloomberg to circumvent term limits and perhaps set himself up as dictator. Are you watching, Bill Gates?

That leaves us with the Kennedy name. I'll leave aside questions regarding why Ms. Kennedy has suddenly dropped her married name, Schlossberg, why the press won't even touch that subject and why she thinks it's okay to abandon the name her own children bear. Heaven knows what eruptions such questions might cause. Suffice it to say that Ms. Kennedy has stated that because of her name she may have to work even harder than others to become Senator. "If my last name weren't Kennedy," she also is quoted as saying, "maybe I would have run for office a long time ago."

Maybe. But that certainly hasn't stopped lots of other Kennedys. Then again, why bother running for office when you can be annointed by just asking.
John J. Cox

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