On Caroline Kennedy

caroline_kennedy.jpgThe big story in New York is that Caroline Kennedy wants to be a senator and judging by the reaction, her opponents use one of two arguments:

-1- She’s rich.

-2- She’s not qualified.

#1, we simply have to ignore. This is the United States Senate where there’s an argument to be made that #1 solves the problem of #2.

So let’s deal with #2.

The New York Times article today — once you get past the shock of the number of New Yorkers who don’t know who Caroline Kennedy is, features several references to her qualifications.

Elmer A. DeLeon, 23, manager of a hip-hop group called Solar, said he was familiar with Ms. Kennedy but dismissed her bid for public office. “I don’t think she’s qualified,” he said, “She’s using her name to get into office. The way this country is going, we need people who are going to do their job.”

As Lyndon Johnson might have said — but didn’t — “if I’ve lost the hip-hop manager vote, I’ve lost America.”

Unfortunately, nobody seems to be asking a fairly pertinent question: What qualifications should one have to be a good U.S. senator?

Albert Hunt takes a stab at it in today’s International Herald Tribune:

She has all the qualities – intellectual curiosity; a friendly, at times pointed, sense of humor; and a deferential manner (she hails her own cabs) – that are the stuff to make a good senator.

Hunt contends her biggest failing is she doesn’t have a big enough ego to be in the Senate.

Let’s take a stab at it here. What qualities should a U.S. senator have?

(Aside: As I wrote this, CBS’ Face the Nation was starting. Ms. Kennedy’s qualifications were today’s topics but one of Kennedy’s cousins couldn’t appear on the show because the TV satellite truck ran off the road on the way to her home in Mt. Kisco, NY. So let us agree that one qualification is: good tire chains.)

  • There is only one important qualification: you have to stir people’s passions.

    Now, an argument could be made that this runs completely counter to any notion of good government, but it is true. Senate races are run in large districts – whole states – and to win one of those you have to fire people up.

    Our own Paul sure got us motivated. Some others stir passions around the Trinity of God Guns & Gays.

    Does Caroline Kennedy ignite the passions of New Yorkers, a state that seems to always have a Senate seat reserved for celebrities? Not my call. But if they want to chant and weep for her, have at it. We’ve had worse – but more importantly, we had worse that someone was very animated about. That’s a chilling thought.

  • Qualifications

    Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for senators: 1) each senator must be at least 30 years old, 2) must have been a citizen of the United States for at least the past nine years, and 3) must be (at the time of the election) an inhabitant of the state they seek to represent.

  • Bob Collins

    It was interesting reading the Times this morning and hear references to upstate New York. On Face the Nation, someone made reference to her arriving in a foreign-made SUV.

    Has that guy ever been to Albany. It’s not Calcutta, for crying out loud. It’s actually like St. Paul.

  • Joanna

    Good reminder of what the Constitution says! I find it fascinating how many people have a strong opinions about CK’s “qualifications” without actually knowing anything about her beyond her name.

    Using the handy combination of Google and Wikipedia, I find that she wanted to be a photojournalist, interned with news and arts organizations, has run a library, raised about $65 million dollars for the New York Public schools (for which she was paid $1) through her work with New York City schools, has a law degree from Columbia, has co-authored two books on constitutional legal issues (the bill of rights and the right to privacy), along with a number of other activities that come with being a member of a wealthy and politically connected family (charity, boards of orgnizations, other publications related to her family). She supported Obama early on, has liberal-progressive views on a number of social issues. Oh, and she is a parent.

    Everyone will have an opinion as to whether or not any of these things count as “qualifications” and whether one should have won an election before being appointed to finish out a Senatorial term, but she is certainly as qualified as many other people currently holding public office (gov. of California?) Whether the gov. of NY (who is the only one who gets to decide on this appointment) gives her the job or not, I’m glad to see that she is considering public office, and I hope she runs for Senate in two years if she is not appointed. She does bring a long record of public service without a lot of grandstanding, and has an intellectual and professional background that demonstrate a high level of achievement.

  • bsimon

    “What qualities should a U.S. senator have?”

    Clearly, hailing one’s own cab should be high on the list, if not act as an outright litmus test. Sadly, I don’t recall this as an option on Select a Candidate.

    Perhaps we can find out now – and appropriately notify the canvassing board, in the event that our candidates’ responses are different.