OFF THE GRID

Caroline Kennedy Can't Catch a Break

Apr 10, 09 | 9:01 AM   byMichael Wolff
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I am glad that it turns out that Caroline Kennedy is still looking for a job. Her brief but painful pursuit of a Senate seat was a bracing sort of soap opera, oddly raising politics to a level of personal angst and a public quest for identity.

Now there’s a mini-movement to make her the ambassador to the Vatican, which, given the Kennedys' place in the history of American Catholicism, is rather a nice touch. What’s more, ambassadorial appointments need not, or at least in the past never have had to, pass the experience test. There are always a number of ambassadorial slots that are just plums. One of Caroline’s aunts, Jean Smith, who had not previously held any sort of job, was a not unsuccessful ambassador to Ireland.

Also, Caroline deserves to get something. Among endorsements of Barack Obama, hers was not an insignificant one.

But here she is, once again, in the crossfire. Former Vatican ambassador and mayor of Boston Raymond Flynn, a politician and diplomat of no distinction, is vociferously opposing her selection, ostensibly on the grounds of her lack of right-to-life fealty.


(AP Image)

So we are back in the soap opera. In this political melodrama, Caroline Kennedy has come to represent something that makes people crazy. Whatever she wants, people don’t want her to have. This is partly because she can’t but seem to act like she’s entitled to it. And it is partly because she does not seem to want to bother erecting the pretense that she is qualified for it (after all, she, of all people, knows that most politicians are not brain surgeons). And it is partly because her desperation is so apparent. She needs a job. Any job. Please. Which is not a good way to present yourself.

Still, you would think that her obvious reasons for needing a job—that her children are leaving, that she’s 50 and doesn’t have much to show for her opportunities and education, that if she is ever going to do anything of substance she better do it now—would strike a chord. Who of a certain age doesn’t feel like this?

Alas, middle-aged people, baby boomers who for so long have dominated so much, don’t get a lot of sympathy.

And there’s the dynasty thing. Until Barack Obama came along it really seemed like American politics was doomed to be dominated by these dysfunctional, horror-show families: the Bushes, the Clintons, and of course the Kennedys. This man-handling of Caroline is, perhaps, an expression of our relief that the dynasty spell has been broken.

Still, we ought to be sympathetic to her unfolding tale. It’s not a spun one (or it's been spun so poorly that the spinning doesn’t count). Hers is a pilgrim’s progress through the burdens of middle age, American mythology, the harshness of political life and all the sudden new loyalties and certainties and paradigm shifts in the new age of Obama.

Caroline Kennedy is, as almost never happens in American politics, a true story.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com
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