Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh, well, never mind, then.

Kathleen Parker has a vaguely-unhinged column up at today's Post explaining that questioning Caroline Kennedy's qualifications for the Senate is reasonable, but there's a simple reason why those who oppose her on those grounds have got their facts wrong. You see, unlike those who opposed Palin on the grounds that she was "anointed--cynically selected without proper vetting", Caroline Kennedy would only be a Senator, would only be one person among 100, and would have to stand for election (eventually) anyway.

The thing of it is, Parker clearly understands, at least on an intellectual level, the argument against appointing Kennedy:

The real rub is that she hasn't earned it. The sense of entitlement implicit in Kennedy's plea for appointment mocks our national narrative. We honor rags-to-riches, but riches-to-riches animates our revolutionary spirit.

Palin paid her own passage unfreighted by privilege. But I and others opposed her spot on the Republican ticket for good reasons, some of which resemble concerns now aimed at Kennedy.

To wit: It isn't enough to want the prize. One must be up to the job, in a league with one's fellow actors.

Excellent summary! Couldn't have said it better. So what could possibly outweigh this argument?
In Kennedy's case, those actors would be senators, not heads of other, potentially belligerent, nations. If appointed, she would be a single vote among 100 and otherwise a placeholder until 2010, when she would have to run for election as any other.
Oh, well, in that case, it's okay, I suppose. After all, she can't launch nukes, so why shouldn't she have it, just because she wants it?

Hey, I have an even better idea. Since a Senate seat is no big deal, a House seat, where you're one person in 435 and have to stand for election every two years, must be next to nothing. If someone in a prominent family decides they'd like one, why don't we just let them have it? After all, you can't launch nukes or anything. And in fact, we could simply say that certain families have first dibs on the seat. We could pass them down through multiple generations! Won't that be exciting! Think about the fairy-tale endings we could put on our media narratives! And we could give those families special titles to show they're part of the aristocracy! Oh, wait, there's that little matter of the Constitution. Well, the last eight years have shown that it's mostly just suggested guidelines that don't really need to be taken seriously anyway.

Sorry. But simply being a Kennedy and deciding she wants to be Senator aren't enough. For Palin to rise to the Governorship in spite of her apparent lack of qualifications says a lot about her political chops and her determination, if nothing else. If Kennedy wants the seat, let her campaign for it.

Would Hillary have won if she weren't Mrs. Bill Clinton? Probably not. But she still campaigned. She met with voters, she pressed the flesh, ate the ethnic food and pretended to like it, the whole thing. Why should Caroline Kennedy have the seat for even two years, and the benefit of incumbency in the upcoming election, simply because she wants it? If there were a track record of elective office, of something beyond boards and fundraisers, it wouldn't reek so much. And if a prominent socialite not part of the Kennedy clan were interested in the seat, they wouldn't be getting this much serious consideration.

Of course, I'm not a resident of New York, so my opinion matters somewhere between diddly and squat. I don't know where Kathleen Parker lives. But to whatever degree she's trying to influence opinion, including the opinions of those who do matter on this question, her reasoning is shallow, waving away with an airy la-de-da some very real concerns about the corrosive effects of dynastic politics. For someone who tries to consider herself a conservative, she doesn't seem to understand basic political theory all that much.

No comments: