After remaining out of the public eye for nearly her entire adult life, exactly why did Caroline Kennedy decide that now was the time to jump into the political spotlight? Well that's precisely the question the New York press has been struggling to have answered from what appears to be one very reluctant Ms. Kennedy.
Two weeks ago, she took a quick upstate New York tour to talk to mayors and to "listen and learn" but throughout the tour she avoided the media like the plague. She has been compared by some Democrats, both upstate and downstate, to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as lacking in governmental experience. Her critics apparently discount the fact that serving as Governor of a State was experience enough for Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter to serve in an even higher office. Granted, Caroline Kennedy has never held any public office so it is more than fair and fitting for the press to ask not only why, but why now? Why dodge the response?
According to the Associated Press:
Her real problem has been the criticism from news organizations that she ducked basic questions about issues and she hasn't been specific about why she wants to be, or should be, New York's next junior senator.
In interviews over the weekend, she offered explanations for running that included the 9/11 attacks on Manhattan, where she has lived since the 1960s, Barack Obama's encouragement, and the commitment to public service by her father, President John F. Kennedy, and others in her family.
One does have to question why it has taken Ms. Kennedy eight years to decide to become politically active after the 9/11 catastrophe? Also, one wonders if she would have been so inclined and inspired to serve the people of the Empire State had Republicans prevailed in the election?
Let's ask a simple question in light of the madness that has become American politics. Is name recognition alone grounds for electing or appointing a Senator? If she were not a Kennedy would she have any chance of being appointed?
This disturbing trend in American politics to favor celebrities as candidates may reflect just how shallow, out of touch, uninterested, and disillusioned mainstream Americans have become with politics and political issues unless there is some entertainment side show to keep their attention spurred on by the media. After all, for many, reality TV is much more exciting and entertaining and — who knows? — maybe the Obamas will syndicate a reality show in the White House for Michelle and the kids.
All joking aside, the mainstream media's obsession with finding — and/or creating if they have to — a certain level of entertainment value and a good "story" to feed their viewers, boost ratings and help keep a fundamentally bored public tuned into their punditry and their network comedians late night material has caused a dumbing down of the American voter. So Caroline Kennedy as next N.Y. State Senator will have legs awhile longer, if for no other reason than the inherent entertainment value. Yet ironically, whether by overt design or not, the would be candidate's exposure and credibility is enhanced simply by the attention she is getting without possessing an ounce of experience.
You don't have to look further than the Minnesota Senatorial election to see an additional example of this trend in American politics. Qualifications and experience? Heck, why bother when you have name recognition and some degree of pre-existing social popularity — like a former President for a husband or father or maybe your own TV sitcom? Why we even had a former WWF wrestler as Governor which according to the script should make him qualified to run in 2012 as an Independent.
As for Caroline Kennedy, the Democratic Party should think long and hard before appointing her with no credentials whatsoever. But then again… why stop when you are on a roll?