Thursday, January 22, 2009

Caroline Kennedy does the obvious thing

The New York Post, I'm sure, got it exactly right when it reported that Caroline Kennedy withdrew as a candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as junior senator from New York because she knew she was not Gov. David Patterson's choice.

The unsourced claims that Kennedy withdrew out of concern for her ailing uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, seems a pretty obvious cover story. Are we supposed to believe that the daughter of Jackie and John Kennedy was prepared to become Ted Kennedy's caretaker?

Throughout Thursday, there was a flurry of reports -- always citing sources "close to" somebody important, beginning with Patterson -- about Kennedy problems ranging from "tax issues" regarding a nanny to the state of her marriage to Edwin Schlossberg. I'm sure that there were all kinds of peripheral issues that could be brought to bear. But there's something far more important regarding the exit of Caroline Kennedy from electoral politics. The uncomfortable truth is that Kennedy, despite her estimable pedigree, showed no political skills or charm when she entered the selection race after Clinton was nominated by President-elect Obama for secretary of state last month. Polling in mid-January showed that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo was preferred by more New York State voters than Kennedy. Patterson, who is an accomplished politician, had to wonder whether Kennedy could live up to the challenge of being a senator from New York (think Clinton, Daniel Moynihan and, of course, Kennedy's uncle, Robert).

Kennedy's several attempts to improve her very private, Upper East Side image (which included not voting in many elections) by glad handing with upstate politicos looked contrived. She was not in her element, and photographs that emphasized her strained public demeanor didn't help.

Many offspring of the three politically successful Kennedy brothers -- John, Robert and Ted -- have stumbled badly as they tried to keep the dynasty alive.

Right now it looks like that dynasty might end with the youngest of the brothers.

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