For years, I’ve thought of Caroline Kennedy as my doppelganger, if you stretch the term a bit. On most counts we have nothing in common — she’s rich, skinny and has excellent bone structure, while I’m none of those things. But we are almost exactly the same age; I was born two days before she was, on the date that would become her baby brother’s birthday three years later. (More proof that there’s nothing else to do in February.) So I’ve always taken a certain interest in Caroline, the way a changeling might watch the one having the life that was obviously stolen. Caroline summered on the Cape; I, at the city pool. Caroline went to Harvard; I enrolled at Ohio University. Caroline got a mega-rich stepdaddy with a yacht and the sort of inheritance that provides one with a comfortable life of wealth on Park Avenue, spent raising children and doing Good Works; I got…well, I got what I got. I’m not complainin’. I’m just sayin’.
By the way, an aside: My Caroline scholarship foundation text is this, a cookbook that came to the newsroom a few years back, and which I immediately nicked for myself. It’s part memoir, part recipe collection, written by Marta Sgubin, the woman who was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ cook and later, nanny to Caroline’s family. The recipes are better than you think, but the anecdotes will make you want to chew your leg off. Thanksgiving, for instance, spent at Jackie’s Virginia hunt-country house, where everyone arises early for the Thanksgiving Day foxhunt, then home for a light lunch of minestrone soup before the banquet later in the day. Changeling! Changeling! This was supposed to be my life, dammit. (Thanksgiving is also when Caroline and John Jr.’s birthdays are celebrated; Caroline always wanted chocolate roll, a recipe I never tried.)
So of course I’ve been following the discussion of whether Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg — which she’s never called, by the way; did she stop using her married name? — should inherit Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate seat. And while I’ve never begrudged my doppelganger anything, from the summer vacations on Skorpios to cinnamon toast made under the broiler, by a goddamn servant, after sledding in Central Park, I’m putting my foot down on this. And it’s not class envy, but simple justice: No Senate seat for the martyred president’s daughter. Got that, Gov. David Paterson?
Others have made the case against her with clarity and bullet points. Jane Hamsher:
Her leadership could have been really helpful when we were trying to keep the progressive lights on and getting the stuffing beaten out of us by a very well-financed right wing for the past eight years. But when things were tough, she was nowhere to be found.
Now that the Democras are in power, she’d like to come in at the top. We have absolutely no idea if she’s qualified, or whether she can take the media blast furnace of being a Kennedy in public life. She’s certainly shown no appetite for it in the past. She’ll have a target on her back and if she can’t take it, if she crumbles, she will become a rallying point that the right will easily organize around.
The woman has never run for office in her life. We have no idea how she’d fare on the campaign trail, or how well she could stand up to the electoral process. She simply picks up the phone and lets it be known that she just might be up for having one of the highest offices in the land handed to her because — well, because why? Because her uncle once held the seat? Because she’s a Kennedy? Because she took part as a child in the public’s romantic dreams of Camelot? I’m not quite sure.
Richard Bradley, who mixes in a little personal score-settling:
Kennedy would become senator simply by doing something at which she has long excelled: working the phones with powerful people who take her calls because of her last name. And though such talents aren’t irrelevant to a senator’s job—and though Kennedy has long experience fulfilling ceremonial obligations, another senatorial duty—they are far from sufficient. Sometimes a senator has to get her hands dirty.
Disclosure: My view of Kennedy is shaped by personal experience. Before my book “American Son,” about working with John Kennedy Jr. at George magazine, was published in 2002, surrogates of Caroline tried to prevent its publication. They failed, but it was ugly stuff. If Caroline Kennedy didn’t know the specifics of their efforts—which ranged from threatening my original publisher to planting negative stories about me in the media—she certainly knew of their existence. How do I know? Because I told her, in letters to which she never responded.
Michael Wolff sees it as a fait accompli, and shrugs:
The fact that she has never had a job, other than as a retailer of sentimental poetry, and keeper of the flame, and occasional figure-head on commissions and committees, is beside the point. What she has is glamour—true, old-fashioned, gives-you-a-little-buzz glamour—which is quite remarkable, given the oddness, ungainliness, and general lack of sociability of the latter-generation Kennedys.
…Assiduously courted by benefit committees and PR types, she’s a china doll. A kitschy presence. In real life, she is said to be rather droll and, even, quite captivating on the subject of her bizarre family (come on, they are bizarre) and unimaginable life. So much so that it is a kind of perk of power and status to get near to her at a dinner party or benefit gala and receive a small tidbit, an insight or witty view, about what it is really like to be a Kennedy.
Whereas Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post merely embarrasses herself, and ho ho, she’s got a doppelganger, too:
On the question of Caroline Kennedy for Senate, my head says no, on balance. My heart says yes! Yes! Right now, as you might guess from the hedging on the former and the exclamation points on the latter, my heart is winning.
…What really draws me to the notion of Caroline as senator, though, is the modern-fairy-tale quality of it all. Like many women my age — I’m a few months younger than she — Caroline has always been part of my consciousness: The lucky little girl with a pony and an impossibly handsome father. The stoic little girl holding her mother’s hand at her father’s funeral. The sheltered girl, whisked away from a still-grieving country by a mother trying to shield her from prying eyes.
In this fairy tale, Caroline is our tragic national princess. She is not locked away in a tower but chooses, for the most part, to closet herself there. Her mother dies, too young. Her impossibly handsome brother crashes his plane, killing himself, his wife and his sister-in-law. She is the last survivor of her immediate family; she reveals herself only in the measured doses of a person who has always been, will always be, in the public eye.
Oh, shut UP. Of all these, I think Bradley gets closest to the truth: She shouldn’t be a senator — a representative of the people, after all — because she doesn’t particularly like people. If she did, she might get out and about among them once in a while. Of course, we all know she’s been dealt a different hand, and for a daughter of Jack Kennedy, getting out among them means paparazzi, blind items in Page Six and other pains in the neck. On the other hand, her brother had all the same burdens, and carried them with evident grace. Both siblings got law degrees, but only John actually practiced law. Caroline got a big apartment on the upper east side, wrote a couple of unreadable books and, in the cliché phrase, “zealously guards her privacy.” Again, under the circumstances, these are entirely defensible decisions for a woman to make. But there have to be consequences, even for a Kennedy. And sorry, you don’t get to simply waltz in and claim a prize like this, because why, exactly? Your uncle is dying and the United States Senate has a Kennedy affirmative-action spot?
This is still America. In your world, you can become one of the incoming president’s “dearest friends” simply by picking up a phone. But to be a member of the Senate, you still should have to shake a few unwashed hands. Sorry, you don’t qualify.
So, a little bloggage before I go out in the chill freezing rain for the one thing that can get me out in the chill freezing rain: We’re out of coffee.
I can’t find it now, so no link, but I was surprised by some of the blog reaction to the SUV prayer services in Detroit stories yesterday. Commenters in particular seemed appalled that cars were brought into the church itself, on “the altar.” You’d think even if you haven’t been in a church lately, you’d know that when you read this phrase — “the 8,000-member Greater Grace Temple” — we’re not talking altars as they’re commonly understood. These folks are Pentacostals, anyway, and don’t do altars per se; it’s the One True and related outfits that make a big fuss over altars and chalices and genuflection. The SUVs were on a stage. Get over it. (Which reminds me: Apply for credentials for the auto show in January. Should be interesting.)
Mother of the Year, Detroit-style.
Coozledad got his mules. My money’s on Jane putting a hoofprint on his ass before they reach an understanding.
A break in the rain! I’m off.