Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'm Out

As we awoke this morning, we heard that Caroline Kennedy has abandoned her campaign to be appointed to fill the vacancy for the United States Senate in New York created by the confirmation of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. It is expected that NY Governor David Patterson will appoint NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to the seat.

It is a shame that the Kennedy campaign is over but maybe it is better that it is. In her effort to establish credibility to serve in the position, Caroline actually created more doubt in people's minds. Her whirlwind tour of the state seemed disjointed and unauthentic. Her responses to the media was less than awe-inspiring. Her public perception was that she was being handled, which gave the impression that she may have been overwhelmed by the process.

It was not pretty, especially when it got personal, as her cousin, who was married to Cuomo, sounded more like a bitter ex-wife rather than a family supporter and solid character witness. That is why it is a shame because Caroline Kennedy is a great American and a genuine person, something that the United States Senate needs, especially during this historic and challenging time.

Her commitment to public education is unquestioned. She is a role model for the modern American woman, perfectly balancing a professional career with motherhood. Some would say on that point that she had the means to pull it off, but how many stories have we heard about rich, powerful women neglecting their basic maternal instincts to pursue their careers?

Admittedly, she said that her recent passion for public service was inspired by Barack Obama's campaign and she was criticized for that. Why? She was no different than millions of other Americans who were more prone to vote for the next American Idol rather the next President of the United States. However, since she is a Kennedy, she was not given that latitude of typical American apathy.

The Kennedy name has become iconic in American politics. Many of Caroline's relatives have been, or still are, in public service. So to admit that she had not voted in some elections did not bode well with the electorate. Her support for Obama had some Hillary supporters seeing red, especially looking at her as Hillary's replacement. Nevertheless, a Caroline Kennedy in the United States Senate would have been a good thing. Her perspective on the world of public policy would have been welcome and refreshing.

However, the ultimate test in the political process is how one handles the spotlight and the scrutiny. As every aspect of your life is examined and questioned, one has to have the mental toughness to take it all in stride, understanding this is just a hurdle to obtain the prize. The fact that Caroline has abandoned her quest indicates that she was not up to the task. If you don't have the stomach for politics, don't get in it.

This is why a lot of good, qualified people don't get into public service. My advice to anyone who has developed a desire to serve in that capacity, especially during this Obama/change movement, learn from Caroline Kennedy's mistakes and grow a thick skin. Politics is an acquired taste.