Caroline Kennedy for Senate
By Bernie Quigley
- for The Hill on 12/17/08
It could be said that the war on Iraq was brought across by the tenacious will and determination of one man, George W. Bush, and the lack of it by many others.
Yet several have distinguished themselves as noble and fearless individuals in this season of the expedient, Robert Byrd, the gray Champion from West Virginia, who, recalling the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, opposed the invasion from the start. Another was Susan Eisenhower who crossed party lines and abandoned her family tradition – one of the most respected in American history – to support Barack Obama.
But no one has shown the keen political instinct, timing and leadership of Caroline Kennedy. This long and occasionally dreary presidential race found its turning point when Kennedy, in an op ed letter to the New York Times, endorsed Obama for president. Just before, the New York Times had endorsed Senator Clinton as expected. But the Kennedy endorsement turned the corner for Obama. The next day, Caroline’s Uncle Teddy followed suit and the Democratic Party took a new, restorative direction.
This is true and natural leadership and people with this gift should be drafted into government.
The entire presidential race has exposed a weakness in leadership and a decline of substance in the Democratic Party. The presidency is a management position and the Democratic rank and file has shown little interest in its competent managers. Governors of the greatest ability, like Virginia’s former governor Mark Warner and Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, were ignored, as were managers of important states like Pennsylvania’s Ed Rendell and most complex and creative places, like NewYork’s independent mayor, Mike Bloomberg.
Classically, the Senate requires a different style of leadership as senators should be sent to learn, discuss and advise. And they should bring something with them. Ideally, an individual should have varied experience to bring to this task and senators should come from varied walks of life.
As a mother, a lawyer, a very successful charity worker and fund raiser and a true blue New Yorker, Kennedy brings a wealth of experience to this task and it is the kind of varied experience the Senate calls for. She has exactly the kind of background needed for the job.
That she comes with a famous name cannot be separated from her or from us. As a child, playing at her father’s feet in the Oval Office is one of the most charmed moments of the post-war period; a moment recalled as our own world family’s.
But when we respond to the name of a well known historical figure known for character or cunning, be it Eisenhower or Kennedy, it is far different than to the fame of an actor or celebrity. We recall something within ourselves of the highest order and something we need to find within ourselves to survive and flourish.
Yet there is no telling if they can and will deliver and choosing a family name has historically brought disappointment, even led to the degeneration of the process to narrow generational identification and even to the monarchist tendency.
There will be none of this with Caroline Kennedy.In fact, her presence in the Senate and as a political representative of New York will have a restorative effect. It will help to reverse this trend by raising the standard of leadership back to the highest standard.
And here in the northeast and everywhere, Caroline Kennedy in the Senate could also conceivably begin to heal an ache that has been felt these past 40-some years from the loss of a gift which was given to us then taken away. Something to which we should hold fast to this time and not let go.