Why (I want) Caroline Kennedy to be senator: Think 2016

Updated 12/7/08: A relatively short stint in national politics was good enough for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to aspire to the presidency. Sarah Palin’s tracing paper resume was good enough for her to run for vice president and aspire to the presidency. Why shouldn’t Caroline Kennedy look to spending the next eight years as senator from New York as a springboard to run for president in 2016?

Added: After reading more about her (quotes below), I decided she probably doesn’t want right now to be president, that this is just my fantasy. Not to be too sexist, but she really is the un-Palin. Read on.

The original title of this column was “Why Caroline Kennedy wants to be senator….” I know it is sexist to compare her (stop laughing) with Sarah Palin, but the reality is that they both are women who could run for president. Now that we’ve elected our first black president the next step to liberate America from the “Only White Males Need Apply” sign in front of the Oval Office, electing an exceptionally qualified a woman president would prove that at least 51% of the electorate is color and gender blind. And that is a damn good thing.

Consider the mythic proportions of Caroline Kennedy returning to the White House where she lived from January 20, 1961, when she was four years old, to her father’s assassination on November 22, 1963.

I think at present she is qualified to serve as a senator. Her Wikipedia biography describes her education and her career to date. I won’t pad out this column. Take a look and see if you agree with me that they are equal Obama and Clinton’s before they ran for senate.

Sarah Palin has a long way to catch up to her, but assuming Palin manages to become a senator in 2010 when incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski’s term expires, she will probably also be positioning herself for a presidential run.

Sarah Palin will be 52 and Caroline Kennedy will be 59.

I’ll be 73. I can imagine the fun I’d have writing columns about a Palin – Kennedy race.

Caroline: The Un-Palin

Here are some quotes from a CNN article:

A Senate appointment for Caroline Kennedy would mark a change for the woman who has rarely run into the glare of political attention.

“Apparently, she has acquired a taste for politics, having endorsed Barack Obama early this year,” Schneider said. “She wants to be part of this new regime in America, clearly playing a key role in the Senate if she gets that appointment.”

Widely described as extraordinarily shy, self-deprecating and down-to-earth, Kennedy has tended to limit her forays into the public sphere to nonpartisan activity, penning books on civil liberties and serving as the de facto guardian of her father’s legacy.

But in January, she backed a political candidate for the first time, announcing her endorsement of Obama during the Democratic primary season with an opinion piece in the New York Times that drew days of the kind of media attention she has spent her life avoiding

Neil Diamond revealed to Caroline on her 50th birthday that he wrote the song “Sweet Caroline” after seeing this picture. Nobody who lived through the Kennedy assassination can miss the tragic irony of the caption on the Life cover.

President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and their children John, Jr. and Caroline, at their summer house in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

Hal Brown is a clinical social worker and former mental health center director who is mostly retired from his private psychotherapy practice. He writes on the psychopathology of public figures and other topics that pique his interest. He can be found online at www.stressline.com . He also publishes a website about his hometown of Middleboro, Massachusetts (aka Middleborough) called Middleboro Matters. Archive: of previous columns.

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  1. ekaton

    “electing an exceptionally qualified a woman president would prove that at least 51% of the electorate is color and gender blind.”

    And just what is it specifically that makes Caroline Kennedy exceptionally qualified to be president, the fact that she comes from another political dynasty? Haven’t we had just about enough of political dynasties here in America? The Bushes. The Kennedys. The Clintons. How has that worked out for us so far? Are only those who’ve led privileged lives qualified to run this country?

    Kent Shaw

  2. Hal Brown

    The point of my column, aside from it intriguing me as a fantasy, is that she’d have eight years to prove herself as worth being considered, and then of course she’d have to go though what I expect would be as grueling a primary campaign as Obama did.

    Not everybody works their way up to a Senate seat by proving themselves in elected offices. Consider those who filled elected positions because a spouse died in office.

    Consider that before she ran for U.S. Senate Hillary Clinton had never been elected to any office.

    I don’t have time to research this but I am sure that many senators never held elected office before they were first elected.

  3. sherry

    If one told the Kennedy story with the bootlegging, the womanizing, the booze and the drugs, take away the name and you have trailer trash.
    I will never for the life of me understand the lionizing of this family. It is unreal.
    Hal, we have yet to agree on anything yet, why start now? :)
    Dog on Palin all you want, she has balanced a budget and run a state. I don’t really know who Palin is. All I know about her is the depiction the press picked up from Comedy Central and SNL.
    Let’s see, Caroline presides over the Profiles in Courage award…..
    Yup, that is qualification enough for a lot of people.

  4. harrygnorp


    We are in the final days of one dynasty–look how that worked out for us. Caroline Kennedy might be a good senator, but she has to do a lot more than just asking about the job to convince me. Her name isn’t enough–she needs to get out and explain to New Yorkers, especially those of us who live upstate, what she will do as senator. Putting her in that spot to allow her to ripen as a possible presidential candidate is unacceptable. How is any different than what the Republicans tried to do with Sarah Palin?

  5. Walter F. Wouk

    Speaking as a “New Yorker” since birth, I don’t want another out-state appointee. for my Senator — especially an unqualified bint.

  6. Hal Brown

    First, insulting her by saying she’s a bint isn’t very nice. It’s a term not often used. We generally use the other “b” word, but just like that word it shows contempt for women,

    It remains to be seen whether she’s qualified to be senator, but from what I can tell she’s been a New York resident at least since 1980, and is a member of the New York State Bar.

    By the way, she was also born in New York City.

    She certainly doesn’t come to politics in the usual way but it isn’t all that unusual for someone to move from the practice of law, business, or philanthropic work into politics.

    Ross Perot ran for president. Ralph Nader ran for president. Mayor Bloomberg wasn’t a politician before he ran for mayor, he was a very wealthy businessman and philanthropist.

    Wesley Clark ran for president and of course Washington, Grant and Eisenhower were a generals.

    Arthur Vandenberg, a Michigan newspaper reporter, was appointed to fill a vacant US Senate post for Michigan due to the death of the previous senator. He went on to help found the United Nations. Historians consider him to be one of our greatest senators.

    I don’t know all that much about Kennedy, the column was speculation. But to say she’s not qualified merely because she hasn’t been a politician seems unfair.

    From what I can tell her major qualification, rare in this day or any day for that matter, is a lack of a driving ambition for power.

    Plus she does seem to be very intelligent and dare I say, a person of depth and of substance.

  7. Hal Brown

    I hope that Governor Paterson picks the best person for the job. I think he will consider that person’s electability come 2010. I highly doubt he’ll be think of anything about that person’s presidential future for 2016.

    My column was a fantasy, and the notion of a dynasty for it’s own sake is as bad as a monarchy or oligarchy. Come 2016 Camelot as a story about King Arthur or a time in the early 1960’s when John F. Kennedy was president will be meaningless to anyone under the age of 60.

    What is true, when looking at the Kennedy family dispassionately, is that mostly they have pursued careers in public service ever since the end of the bootleg days. You can call this a dynasty and make it sound negative or a family calling and make it sound positive.

  8. gazelle1929


    You realize, I’m sure, that you’re wasting your typing fingers when you try to use reason and logic on someone who will call a person he’s never met a bint.

    You said “it remains to be seen whether she’s qualified to be Senator. …”

    Perhaps we should be discussing here just what are the qualifications for the Senate.

    To me, the first qualification is someone who is willing to do the job. That may sound simplistic, but being a member of Congress is hard work, no matter what a bunch of people are going to say in response to my statement.

    We have heard the complaints about Barack Obama that he comes to the Presidency with only x days of Senate floor time. That’s just poppycock. A good Senator puts in 14 hour days, six and seven days a week during the time Congress is in session, and almost that much time during recess. The demands on the time of an incumbent are immense, and one must truly like what he or she is doing to be successful at it. And it’s got to be difficult to work that hard.

    After that first criterion a good Senator will have a vision for the future, one towards which he or she can work with the assurance that the constituents understand and approve that vision. Anyone who has read “The Audacity of Hope” with an unjaundiced eye can see Obama clearly has vision and purpose (not to mention the ability to communicate that vision.)

    I’ve given a couple of things I think help make a good Senator, and would welcome the ideas of others here.

  9. Walter F. Wouk

    re: “bint”: It’s an Arabic word for girl or daughter. Why did you assume that I chose the term because it’s British slang for bitch?

  10. Hal Brown

    I know it’s from Arabic, I looked it up in a half dozen online dictionaries before I posted. They indicate it is generally used as an insult in English.

    Oxford: noun Brit. informal, derogatory a girl or woman.

    — ORIGIN Arabic, ‘daughter, girl’.


    U.K. an offensive term for a girl or woman ( slang )

    [Mid-19th century. < Arabic, "girl, daughter"] Wiktionary: (UK, pejorative) (also Digger slang) Woman, girl. Tell that bint to get herself in here now! If I went around saying I was an emperor because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me they'd put me away! Infoplease: —n. Brit. Slang (disparaging and offensive). a woman or girl. Dictionary.com noun British Slang: Disparaging and Offensive. a woman or girl. Origin: 1850–55; < Ar: girl, daughter Wikipedia Bint (بنت) is an Arabic word meaning 'girl' or 'daughter'. It is used in female Arabic names to denote a patronym. The term entered the British lexicon during the occupation of Egypt at the end of the nineteenth century and stems, adopted by British soldiers to mean 'girlfriend' or 'bit-on-the-side'.[citation needed] It is used as a derogatory slang word in the United Kingdom meaning woman or girl. Usage varies from the harsh 'bitch', to only a slightly derogatory, almost affectionate, term for a young woman. The latter being associated more with usage in the West Midlands. The term was used in British armed forces and the London area synonymously with (the slang meaning of) 'bird' (sometimes 'brass') from at least the 1950s. The term was also famously used in the classic film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail in a reference to the lady of the lake as a "moistened bint". Free Dictionary n. Chiefly British & Offensive A woman or girl. [Arabic, daughter; see bn in Semitic roots.] Worldwide words: [Q] From Luci Koizumi: “In reading the novel How the Dead Live by Will Self I’ve encountered the unfamiliar word bint in the phrase: ‘widows, spinsters, and bints’. At first I thought this might be similar to an ex in US slang for a divorcee. But when I searched on the Web, I found references that hint at a pejorative connotation.” [A] You’re right: bint is British slang for a woman or girl, but it is always disparaging and offensive and signals the user as lower class and unrefined. It’s also now rather dated. The word is Arabic for a daughter, specifically one who has yet to bear a child. It was in common use as a slang term during the first and second World Wars among British and Allied servicemen stationed in Egypt and neighbouring countries. Sir Richard Burton was the first person to use the word in English, in his Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah in 1855: “ ‘Allah! upon Allah! O daughter!’ cry the by-standers, when the obstinate bint of sixty years seizes their hands”. Only three dictionaries didn't describe it as prejorative. See link

  11. Ladywolf55

    Now Hal, I’m well under 60 and remember the Kennedy days easily. They called it Camelot because the American people had their young King and Queen, along with a Princess and a Prince, so to speak, in the White House. But more than that, the American people
    FELT they had hope, however much an illusion it turned out to be.

    I just hope this time, with the Obama’s, it’s not an illusion.

    I wish Caroline the best. I think she’s a fine woman, and is the BEST of who the Kennedy’s can be.

  12. Janice

    You all are forgetting the slap-down Caroline Kennedy gave Wolf Blitzer during the election. That alone qualifies her for a seat in the Senate. It was great!

  13. Hal Brown

    Maybe one of her qualifications is that she shunned politics and wasn’t driven by ambition to use her family history for anything but helping others.

    Does anybody doubt that she is very smart?

    I haven’t read her books but the title may tell you something.

    (co-authored with Ellen Alderman) have books on civil liberties:

    In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights In Action (1990) and
    The Right to Privacy (1995)

    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caroline_Kennedy

  14. Ladywolf55

    T.J., I agree except for one very important point: Caroline Kennedy is the exception to the rule in her family. She is as different from the rest of the Kennedy clan as night is to day.

    She’s highly intelligent, humble to a fault, and has conducted her life in a manner which shows wisdom.

    Yes, to many in our country, just the name Kennedy would qualify her. To me, it would be a disqualification, except for the fact that she has conducted her life in such a way that would make her Mother and Father very proud parents, indeed. She is the real deal, and I would be proud to have her representing me in whatever office she chooses.


  15. Flapsaddle

    The last thing I want is another round of Kennedy cult-worship. One generation of driven mediocrities from a dysfunctional family founded by a mobbed-up bootlegger and robber-baron is quite enough, thank you.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  16. Hal Brown

    Cult worship is obviously as anathema to an informed electorate as it is repugnant, but I believe it is unfair to judge a person by their relatives and ancestors.

  17. Flapsaddle

    The smartest thing that Jacqueline Kennedy ever did was to raise her children as far away as possible from the baleful influence of their grandfather Joe and their uncle Robert.

    In The Best and the Brightest,David Halberstam’s incisive and unflattering dissection of the hype and drivel of Camelot, you get a very clear picture of what the old patriarch thought of women and men as bearers of the torch for the family. Caroline would have been considered as breeding stock and “John-John” would have been groomed as an heir to the mantle of Camelot.

    I’d agree that she is the best of the lot, especially considering the sorry caliber of the “Y” chromosome bearers of that grossly oversold collection of power-seekers.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  18. ekaton

    “She is as different from the rest of the Kennedy clan as night is to day.”

    And how do you know this? Please provide examples.

    She’s highly intelligent, humble to a fault, and has conducted her life in a manner which shows wisdom.”

    And how do you know this? Please provide examples.

    — Kent Shaw

  19. Ladywolf55

    Start here:


    Then go here:


    And here:


    And here’s a quote from the comments section of one of those pages:

    karela wrote: 6/29/2008 11:00:56 PM
    What a charming woman our little Caroline has grown up to be. I am pleased to see her on the political stage and I love all the happy memories she brings with her. I hope she does decide to run for the Senate at some point. Her father would be very proud of her. And he’d like Obama too.

    To the republicans who spew their hatred here, I would remind you of what Susan Eisenhower, a life long republican and granddaughter of president Eisenhower, said when asked about what her grandfather would say about her endorsing democratic nominee Barack Obama. “My grandfather wouldn’t recognize the republican party of today.”

    I rest my case.

  20. gazelle1929


    Here’s an even more intriguing scenario:

    After four years as Veep, Joe Biden, age 70 in 2012, retires and President Obama picks Senator Caroline Kennedy, D-NY, whose term is expiring, as his running mate.

    Then in 2016, Obama endorses her to be his successor as President and she in turn endorses Chelsea Clinton, then age 36, as the Democratic nominee for Senator from New York. Schumer, who would probably be reelected easily in 2010 would be ending his third term in 2016 and would be promised the next nomination to the Supreme Court in exchange for stepping down to make room for Chelsea.

  21. 33rdSt

    Actually, Chelsea could replace Caroline in 2012, taking her mother’s seat. Only have to be 30 to be a Senator.

  22. Ladywolf55

    Caroline would be paving the way, possibly, for her son as he is growing up. You never know.

    Caroline Kennedy vs Sarah Palin? NO CONTEST. That would be like matching wits with an unarmed person.


  23. Hal Brown

    Mentally brawny beauty vs. mentally scrawny beauty.

    See, you have me making up column titles already.

  24. Alexandria Lupu

    NY native
    Although I think she is a fine person, I don’t see where her experience would merit her appointment as U. S. Senator. Just think of the hard time Hillary had to go through, not only for her post as senator from N. Y. but as a presidential candidate. What experience does Caroline have except as working for charitable groups which follow in the footsteps of her father? I don’t believe she could thrive in the day to day battles going on in the Senate. Again, what are her qualifications?

  25. Flapsaddle

    You ask, “Again, what are her qualifications?”

    She is a Kennedy.

    For the devout, that alone is sufficient to qualify her for the presidency.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle