Caroline Kennedy’s “you knows” turn into “You? No.”

(Updated) Caroline Kennedy’s interview with The Daily News complete with the words “you know” interjected five 200 plus times in two sentences a half hour may very well derail her chances to be appointed to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton. While her friends describe her as being shy my view as a therapist is that she may be pathologically shy. In other words, her shyness is may be* a symptom of some kind of phobia.

“I’m really coming into this as somebody who isn’t, you know, part of the system, who obviously, you know, stands for the values of, you know. I know how important it is to, you know, to be my own person. And, you know, and that would be obviously true with my relationship with the mayor.”
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Added 12/31/08: More reasons why the “you knows” ( and now we have a count: about 200 in a half hour ) can turn into “You? No.”

It’s not about Kennedy’s qualifications. It’s about the perception. For Paterson it’s about her developing into a winner for the 2010 election. I think she can. But it’s up to the governor and he may not.

This is from Margaret Carlson:

Now Kennedy is out there without a script, prompter or even notes and getting hammered in the tabloids for meandering, vague responses. In a 30-minute session with The New York Daily News, Kennedy said “you know” more than 200 times.

On tax cuts: “Well, you know, that’s something, obviously, that, you know, in principle and in the campaign, you know, I think that, um, the tax cuts, you know, were expiring and needed to be repealed.”

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Sometimes phobias can be ignored with little effect on a person’s life. For example if you are terrified of flying, take the train or drive. If you are afraid of crowds, don’t shop at WalMart, get your bargains by ordering online.

But, for example, if you must fly in order to keep your job, if you have high motivation behavioral therapy is very effective, as it is for many phobias.

Caroline Kennedy hasn’t “paid her dues” for entry by appointment into the exclusive Senate club by holding elected office, which is the customary way. If she had, she would have been forced to overcome her shyness, possibly through therapy under the more acceptable guise of public speaking coaching.

The perception that she wasn’t ready for prime time would have been apparent by her just trust me interview with The Daily News even without her interjecting “I know” so many times.

Those who have worked closely with Kennedy are effusive in their praise for her competence and her commitment to the causes she has worked on. It is apparent she overcame enough of her shyness to achieve the goals she set out for herself.

If as I suspect, she hasn’t been in treatment for shyness, as a therapist I question her judgment and self awareness for not dealing with this when she first began to think about becoming a politician.

As Sarah Palin demonstrated, if you exude self-confidence you can get away with fractured sentences and the regular use of endearing-to-some “by gollys”.

Unfortunately for Caroline Kennedy, in public speaking “you know” is another version of “ummm” or “uh”, and frequent use of these interjections conveys a lack of confidence.

In politics perception counts. Lack of confidence is generally perceived as lack of competence.

George W. Bush proved that if you come across as “the decider” you can get away with murdering the English language for years before your incompetence catches up with you.

*amended. I didn’t mean to suggest this was for certain.


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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Comments

  1. Kibitzer

    Glad I had a chance to hear her directly in this blog (it gave me a feel for the woman behind the name); thanks for that link, Hal, and your thoughts on the subject. FWIW: I found myself more interested in what she said between the ‘you knows’ and ‘ums’ than in those interjections. And I have to say that for me she came across quite articulate there.

    It could be a ‘generational’ thing, as someone has suggested, from her conversations with her children; this younger generation does that sort of thing a lot; you know? And LOL, it was amusing hearing her interviewer use the same locution (so maybe that gave her a sort of, you know, permission to talk the way she talks with her kids).

    So: She would need to brush up on her public speaking. But her writing obviously verifies that she can think clearly. But I’m aware that I’m giving her a lot of benefit of the doubt, here, because personally I would like to see her come out of the closet and make a move on the political scene. For one main reason: to open the door on the unfinished business in American politics & history of the assassination of her father and brother. And yes, I said clearly, her brother too.

    We have some healing to engage in regarding our past. Healing, of the fact that some arrogant people in the country have sold out the high hopes of the American republic, and dragged it in the mud, like a tarnished flag; and we need to acknowledge that in our national psyche, and do a purge. And THEN we can move on. Which we can’t do yet, for just this sort of reason: that we haven’t faced our shadow.

    And you can round on me, now, if you want, Hal, from your training. But I think I speak the truth. Thus, I support her move out now into the light of this new day aborning – especially with the hope for meaningful change that Obama has lit in the bosom of the country.

  2. Hal Brown

    I will only round on you for apparently not reading my column Why (I want) Caroline Kennedy to be senator: Think 2016.

    My opinion hasn’t changed.

    Lot’s of people bristle at the thought of getting therapy, and who knows maybe she has been in treatment or is just starting. If her shyness is a problem that gets in the way of achieving her new goals for her sake I hope so.

    There are several people who read my columns just waiting for me to come across as a pompous shrink so they can jump all over me. Methinks they have some (dare I say) issue about the profession I’ve devoted my entire professional life to.

    Am I pompous? If anyone thinks that they’ve never met the really pompous shrinks I’ve met over the years.

  3. claypigeonbx

    I find a possible phobia far less off-putting than a raging obsession. And I would be very pleased to see Caroline Kennedy appointed to the Senate from New York. The fact that she has not “come through the ranks” in a political sense, is, for me, a point in her favor. I have a sense that she may well prove to be even more progressive than our President-elect. And having lived in New York since 1963, she can hardly be considered a carpetbagger.

    Freedom and Justice for All!

  4. Hal Brown

    New: More reasons why the “you knows” ( and now we have a count: about 200 in a half hour ) can turn into “You? No.”

    It’s not about Kennedy’s qualifications. It’s about the perception. For Paterson it’s about her developing into a winner for the 2010 election. I think she can. But it’s up to the governor and he may not.

    This is from Margaret Carlson:

    Now Kennedy is out there without a script, prompter or even notes and getting hammered in the tabloids for meandering, vague responses. In a 30-minute session with The New York Daily News, Kennedy said “you know” more than 200 times.

    On tax cuts: “Well, you know, that’s something, obviously, that, you know, in principle and in the campaign, you know, I think that, um, the tax cuts, you know, were expiring and needed to be repealed.”

    Read article

  5. AustinRanter

    HAPPY NEW YEAR, Hal to you and yours. I appreciate all you’ve contributed to this site over this very wild past year.

    Respectfully,

    Gregg

  6. almandine

    Well, Hal –

    The “You Knows” seem more a product of fuzzy thinking than phobia… unless it’s the fear of having to defend one’s ideas that is the issue. Maybe Caroline is just a wee bit too wet behind the ears to be effective as a Senator. (Maybe not, comparatively speaking.) Given her (lack of) erudition at her current age, it seems like 2016 is a bit too ambitious to think she can become another JFK… which is probably the widespread expectation.