As a once and future New Yorker I have at least some small stake in Governor Paterson’s impending appointment to the State’s soon-to-be-open Junior Senator’s seat.
The stake is unlikely ever to be anything other than small because the Empire State’s Senate seats are now all but Democratic sinecures. So, while one lives in hope, one moves in the real world and has to make many choices that are admittedly faute de mieux.
The reality of the situation is that the appointee will have to hit the ground running raising the major money required for the statewide election contest when the seat comes up in 2010. And 2010 is a year in which Governor Paterson will also be running to earn the honor that fell so unexpectedly into his lap.
The pool of available talent from which the Governor will be choosing includes a number of yeoperson congressional politicos (Nita Lowy, Carolyn Maloney, Kirsten Gillibrand, Steve Israel, Brian Higgins, Jerry Nadler, etc.); Nassau County Exec Tom Suozzi; Andrew Cuomo, the current Attorney General whose ambitions for bigger and better things are well known; and Caroline Kennedy. Many of the practicing pols are predictable liberal ideologues who are already in thrall to the usual special interest constituencies, and haven’t even the slightest potential for independence. In a field like this there is some virtue in being a blank slate.
The congresspersons and state pols are marginal in terms of being able to raise the necessary money and/or to win re-election in 2010. That is why, barring an unlikely kind of intervention that would require their appointment, they’re pundit fodder until the choice is made, but in the real world they’re non starters.
Mr. Cuomo, despite his dynastic pedigree, his focused amibiton, and his aggressive campaigning skills, has some baggage. His record as Secretary of HUD could end up raising almost as many questions as it answers. His fan club may be large, but he has an abrasive aspect, and he has rubbed some people the wrong way.
Which brings us to Ms. Kennedy.
Her voice is flat and affectless. But that is no disqualification for national office.
Her attitude is aloof and snobbish. But that is no disqualification for national office.
She doesn’t appear to have much interest in campaigning. But that is no disqualification for national office.
Her knowledge of the issues vital to New York State appears slim to nil. But that is no disqualification for national office.
And if the worst fears turn out to be true and she really is intellectually and temperamentally unqualified, even that would be no disqualification for national office.
On the plus side, she has, so far, lived an apparently blameless life as much out of the public eye as is possible for a Kennedy. Despite her ininspired and uninspiring public utterances to date, there is no reason not to think that is simply because she is unaccustomed to public speaking. There is no reason not to believe that she is as intelligent, articulate. and accomplished as her background, education, and resume would indicate.
Once she is appointed, she will easily be able to raise all the money she needs for 2010. Without that distraction, her criterion for Senatorial success will be running an efficient constituent services operation while carrying on the tradition of her Uncle Edward as the ongoing embodiment of the dream that will never die.
And, personally, I think that’s a good thing. The liberal idealism that the congressional Kennedys have come to represent is an important part of the American conversation; and where there are no goads there is no progress.
In purely practical terms, as my Junior Senator, Ms. Kennedy will, from the getgo, be able to set up a highpowered operation to serve and advance the interests of our State. With a couple of phone calls she will be able to fill all the slots by activating the Kennedy network of motivated, dedicated, and able individuals who keep their bags packed and waiting by the door so they can be ready to go anywhere and bear any burden to serve and advance the cause.
And, let’s be real, while they’re doing that, they can be bringing home boxcars of bacon. The new President owes Ms. Kennedy bigtime, and you never know when it will turn out to be useful to have a Junior Senator who can get the POTUS on the horn any time she decides to dial.
It’s for all these reasons —and not just because she will add a colorful footnote to the Neil Diamond edition of The Soundtrack of Our Lives— that I’m for Caroline.