Victor Davis Hanson: Caroline Kennedy’s Moment—A Sad Reflection of Our Times





The probable appointment of Caroline Kennedy, the 51-year-old daughter of former President John Kennedy, to fill Secretary-of-State nominee Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate seat is both laughable and yet a parable for our bankrupt times.

Consider aristocratic entitlement. Ms. Kennedy apparently spends a great deal of her time divided between her Park Avenue Upper-East-Side Manhattan townhouse and her hereditary estate on Martha’s Vineyard. She has had no real experience with the ordinary lives of New Yorkers, either a few dozen blocks away in Harlem (despite a sudden ad hoc lunch last week with the Rev. Sharpton at a soul food diner) or the state’s rural towns to the north.

Ms. Kennedy is about as undiverse as one could imagine. She was educated at exclusively private schools among those of her like race and class. Her financial security is due to either inheritance or marriage; there is no evidence of a self-employed stellar legal or business career. But there is plenty of evidence that Ms. Kennedy reflects the current Democratic Party’s obsession with celebrity and Hollywood-like imagery—as we see from the recent politicking of everyone from Oprah to Sean Penn, the Senate run of comedian Al Franken, and the messianic cult that surrounds Barack Obama, from his vero possumus Latin seal to his mass rallies with Greek temple backdrops.

Press reports suggest that the current political junkie Ms. Kennedy was an erratic voter in the past. In any case, her positions on both state and national issues are perhaps doctrinaire liberal in the Kenndyesque sense. But we can only assume, rather than know, that, since she has not in the past voiced any strong views about anything in any detail. Unlike dozens of veteran, hard-working and savvy New York state and federal office-holders in the Democratic Party, who would be both qualified and happy to serve out Sen. Clinton’s term, Ms. Kennedy has never run for, or held, public office. Her only prerequisites for Senator are her pedigree from her father and her purported celebrity mystique passed on from her mother Jackie. She certainly has shown none of Hillary Clinton’s grittiness, traipsing over the rural haunts of America in a bright blue pantsuit, quaffing boilermakers at biker bars and reinventing herself as a sort of Annie Oakley everywoman, clinging to guns and religion.

In 2007 Ms. Kennedy was, in fact, a strong Hillary Clinton donor and supporter, but jumped ship and joined Obama once he surged in the polls at the beginning of the year, when the national media and the fossilized icons of the Democratic Party underwent some sort of ecstatic catharsis and mass hysteria akin to what Euripides’s Bacchants experienced on Mt. Kithairon.

That savvy metamorphosis into an Obamiac explains Ms. Kennedy’s sudden me-too piggy-backing into national politics. Indeed, her current newfound political zeal seems predicated on the larger Obamania craze, a sort of brand name groupthink in which romantic liberals imagine a return of JFK’s lost Camelot....

Finally, there is the third charge of hypocrisy. George Bush, we were told ad nauseam was born on third base and thought he had hit a triple. But when it comes to Ms. Kennedy, her liberal lineage and assumed charisma weirdly nullified the same tired media charges of entitlement that have been customarily leveled against almost every affluent, well-connected Republican politician from Mitt Romney to George Bush.

There were also several liberal media complaints against Gov. Sarah Palin, most prominently three—that she lacked experience for high federal office; that she avoided the media whenever possible; and that she either would not or could not opine on world affairs.

But Gov. Palin had been an elected official for some sixteen years, winning and losing elections until assuming the governorship—always at odds with an entrenched male hierarchy that had run Alaska for years. Through it all, Palin mothered five children without either capital or connections. She endured at the very beginning of her national run a vicious press as interested in ridiculing her as a rube in fancy store-bought clothes as it is catching a glimpse of Caroline’s glitzy labels....


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