As angered as I am at the idea of socialite Caroline Kennedy waltzing into the U.S. Senate seat, I can't imagine how I would feel if I were a resident of upstate New York, where people struggle daily with poverty and despair.
For them Park Avenue, where Kennedy lives, is a million miles away.
Unlike Kennedy, I've been to Buffalo, Albany, and Schenectady. And while Kennedy can today say that she's been to Rochester and Syracuse once—as part of her initial photo op tour—I've been to those beleaguered cities multiple times when I covered New York during my Merrill Lynch investment banking career.
I'll bet that I received a warmer welcome than Kennedy did. Predictably, she was greeted cordially but indifferently [Kennedy, Touring Upstate, Gets Less and Less Low Key, by David M. Halbfinger and Nicholas Confessore, New York Times, December 17, 2008].
In the unlikely event that Western New Yorkers read the social pages, they would know that Kennedy is regular at posh cocktail parties, Broadway openings and celebrity galas. She wears expensive designer clothes and has her hair done on Fifth Avenue.
Kennedy has her schmoozing skills down pat. But she has nothing else going for her.
To get into the Senate race, all Kennedy had to do was pick up the phone to call immigration-loving Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his endorsement. Then Kennedy made a second phone call to the powerful public relations firm Knickerbocker/SKD [e-mail here]. And just that easily, she's off and running.
Part of my annoyance with Kennedy is her claim that she's qualified for the Senate because she's an advocate for public education reform and has helped raise $65 million for city public schools. Kennedy is the Vice Chairthing of the Fund for Public Schools, a public-private partnership founded in 2002.
Consider two points:
In some ways I'm surprised at myself that Kennedy has put me into so much of a lather. She's issued no official word about her immigration stance—or anything else for that matter.
Maybe what causing my exasperation is the prospect, within months each other, of an effusive celebration complete with media gushing surrounding Caroline's coronation followed by endless canonization-type eulogies to Teddy.
I'm strong. But how much can a man endure?
Adding to my frustration is that we just can't get rid of these turncoat dynasties: the families Kennedy, Bush, Clinton, Biden, Salazar and Jackson. Eliminate one from the Senate or wherever, and his brother, his son or his cousin pops up to replace him.
The good news: by mid-January the media, already picking Kennedy apart, will have devoured her. Bits and unflattering, indefensible pieces of Kennedy's disinterest in politics are already seeping out.
The New York Daily News examined the City Board of Elections records and found that Kennedy failed to vote in more than half the elections and primaries since 1988—including in races for the Senate seat she now seeks.[Records Show Caroline Kennedy Failed to Cast Her Vote Many Times Since 1988, by Erin Einhorn and David Saltonstall, New York Daily News, December 19, 2008)
Paterson, the man on the spot, could easily take the heat off Kennedy—and himself.
The governor has two escape options.
Paterson could request a special election claiming that that all New Yorkers deserve a say in who becomes Clinton's replacement.
But the reality is that special elections are costly and New York is broke.
"Caroline, I have the greatest respect for you and know you would be an outstanding U.S. Senator. But my advisors [who Paterson doesn't name] have recommended that I appoint an experienced politician who currently holds an office to which he has been duly elected. I hope you will run in 2010."
That's it! Paterson is off the hook and Kennedy can do what she pleases. And the truth is that Paterson, up for re-election in 2010, needs the hard core Democratic machine—dismissive about Caroline— behind him more than he needs her.
Whatever may happen—and my prediction is that Kennedy will drop out—the story has a silver lining.
Staunch anti-immigration Congressman and top House Homeland Security Committee Republican Peter King announced that he will run in 2010 against whomever Paterson picks.
"From watching TV and listening to the media, she [Kennedy] was almost being given the nomination and the election both in 2010 and 2012. ... I didn't want to seem like I was playing catch-up."
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, still admired by many, immediately endorsed King, calling him "exactly the sort of senator that New York City and New York State needs."[King Plans to Run Against Clinton Replacement in 2010, by James T. Madore, Newsday, December 10, 2008]
Let Kennedy go back to her do-gooder charity work. Leave U.S. Senate aspirations to qualified patriots like King.
In the final analysis, New York and the Senate deserve a more qualified individual.
And more qualified than Caroline Kennedy is easy to find.Joe [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.