Friday, July 11, 2008

In Obama’s Celesteville, Caroline is the True Guide

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 7/11/08

If the Kennedy era came to be known as Camelot, what seems to be emerging in the awakening Obama period is a kind of Celesteville, the mythic kingdom of Babar and Celeste. Babar, benevolent king of the elephants, always took his final counsel from his chief advisor and mentor, the graceful and wise, “little old lady” who had no actual name. With a touch of a quality of organizational genius that appears to come naturally to him, Obama has latched on to Caroline Kennedy as the same kind of serene advisor.

Caroline is Obama’s “little old lady.” Not gray and elderly like Babar’s, but wise and subtle and with a touch so deft and precise that it virtually turned history a few months back. Obama’s campaign turned and so did the generations when Caroline placed an op-ed in the NYTs endorsing him, trumping the NYTs own endorsement of Senator Clinton just days before. From then until now her presence has been felt. Like in the astonishing Oprah rally with Michelle Obama and Maria Shriver which ran on TV parallel to the Super Bowl (and turned Bill Clinton – watching at Bill Richardson’s house with the clicker in his hand – green). Caroline dots the Obama campaign like the puffs of white dog wood buds which awaken spring in the Appalachians; there she is with Uncle Teddy going into the Senate vote yesterday and there she is on the plane with Obama and Senator Clinton heading to New York. She is here, there and everywhere.

Obama will need her. Politics is Power. A look at the trajectory of politics in America since Yalta shows a rise of the Power Principle manifest primarily in the Republican Party; Eisenhower and Reagan on a trajectory which is likely to continue. True Democrats like Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, interspersed regularly with levity and playfulness; the yin dancing through the yang, but always in yang’s house. Some, including myself see Obama as potentially a new JFK; some say a new Lincoln. I have a friend who says Obama is the Chosen One – the Aquarian - and will lead a movement to last 2,000 years. But in the perspective of recent history, the most likely scenario is a happy one-term affair, like the breathing space between Watergate and Reagan, a time when the Republican Party was seen as dead in the water, as it is seen today. But Watergate was the best thing to happen to the Republicans. It allowed them to dump the trash and rebuilt within a decade and dominate the political scene for the next 25 years.

In Obama’s short list of VP candidates Kathleen Sebelius and Ed Rendel have the management ballast to institutionalize whatever this rising spirit brings forth. But while they are in New York I hope Barack and Caroline stop in to see Mike Bloomberg. He and his buddy Arnold are two of the best managers in America; both virtually offer themselves as “post partisan” to either party and both have vision well beyond the narrow reach of their recalcitrant and time-bound state governments. As counselors, they could rebuild the Democratic Party as a new entity. And Obama should poach them. Because if he doesn’t, they will rebuild the Republican Party by 2012 with Mitt Romney at the helm.