Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Paving Caroline Kennedy's way to the Senate

Caroline Kennedy’s way to the Senate is being paved by a skillful, coordinated and expensive PR campaign long on nostalgia and images.

Issues? Policy details?

She’ll avoid them except to say things like: “America has to be ready meet the health care needs of all our citizens. If I’m fortunate enough to be appointed, the first thing I’ll do is consult with Gov. Paterson and Sen. Clinton about how I can work with out new president to make health care affordable for all. That was my father’s dream.”

We see a good example of the PR paving in a
New York magazine article today following Kennedy’s announcement yesterday she’s interested in filling Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat.

The article leads:

The Cinderella Kennedy

Suddenly, it seems possible that David Paterson will pass the torch to a new generation of Kennedys. But is this really a good idea?
Is “this really a good idea?”

New York and writer Chris Smith surely know they’re not fooling many people with that “question.”

But keeping up appearances is important, something Gov. Blagovock never learned. The Kennedy’s and their media flacks have known that for more than 50 years.

When the Kennedy’s and their flacks are at work, PR isn’t really PR. We’re all magically transported to Camelot where the brave and brainy are creating a better world.

As to whether it’s a good idea for Kennedy to be appointed to the Senate, I think the question has already been decided in her favor.

What we’re seeing now if the playing out of the PR campaign to paint Caroline Kennedy as highly qualified to serve and a popular choice for Gov. Paterson to make.

Chris Smith and New York help set that up with this closer - - -

In one respect, Kennedy’s flirtation with the Senate isn’t totally out of character: Relatives say she’s always been politically astute and competitive, just quietly, and that she greatly enjoyed her campaign trips for Barack Obama.

It’s also true that Caroline’s curiosity has been piqued by the decline of her Uncle Teddy, but not in the way conventional wisdom has rendered it. Yes, the man who became the closest thing to a father figure after JFK’s death is nearing the end of his days in office, but Caroline isn’t interested in a Senate seat because she thinks it is a family heirloom.

She genuinely, cornily, wants to advance the ideas the family cares about, and she knows better than most that only so much can be accomplished through symbolism. An actual seat at the bargaining table is still more valuable. This is also the way in which her choice makes the most sense for New York, and elevates her candidacy beyond her thin résumé and mere sentiment:

Kennedy’s Democratic patrician values and her power-elite connections are not negligible assets. And of course, there are all the sword-in-the-stone connotations, the political magic (fantasy?) that a new Kennedy in the Senate conjures.

But the plot has some weaknesses. Perhaps it’s still possible to be a different kind of senator, in the Paul Simon–Pat Moynihan mold: a legislator-intellectual, above and in the fray at the same time, who leaves office with his good name intact.

Caroline Kennedy’s desire to deploy her brains and her celebrity on a grander stage, primarily in service of public education, is admirable. But even if her motives are pure, and even if she’s able to navigate the swamp of modern politics, there’d be something sad about seeing her subjected to all the grubby gossiping and money-hustling that the job inevitably entails. We’d be gaining a senator, possibly even a good one. But we’d be losing an icon.

Smith’s entire article’s here.

I thought the last two grafs were outstanding shilling: Smith works in a reference to one of New York’s great senators, Daniel Patrick Moynihan; suggests Kennedy might be another Moynihan: hails her as an idealist above the money-hustlers (note he says nothing about the power-hustlers); worries the real world may sully her; expresses admiration for her willingness to lend her brains and celebrity to the greater good; and frets we could lose “an icon” in the process.

Oh, dear.

If I thought Smith didn’t realize he was shilling, I’d say, "Someone get the man a chair and a glass of water."

Meanwhile, the Kennedy's pave on.

Hat tip: Realclearpolitics.com


Anonymous said...

A senate seat is not a birthright even though that is the way it is being reported (though not in those exact terms). Will the media also give her a pass when she defends the seat that she will probably be awarded solely because her last name is Kennedy?
What is interesting, though not reported, is that Cuomo was once a part of the Camelot web - he was married to a daughter of Robert Kennedy, if memory serves me, and I believe that the marriage was dissolved. Though not a fan of Cuomo's politics, he has far more experience than does Kennedy. Chuck Schumer will have a difficult time maintaining his position as top dog in New York politics if Kennedy is appointed. All in all, the senate politics in New York may prove just as interesting as those in Illinois.