Caroline Kennedy wants Clinton's Senate seat. In other news, a good portion of America thinks Oprah should be Ambassador to Mars.
We knew Caroline Kennedy was after a nice prize like this when Susan Rice was named UN Ambassador (a position Kennedy was floated for, and it seemed at first like she would get). Kennedy was also previously mentioned as Ambassador to the Court of St. James, a position her grandfather Joseph Kennedy held before World War II. And then, everyone seemed to lose interest in sending Kennedy to Great Britain.
For us, this all seems to be about Ted Kennedy’s illness. From what we consistently hear from people long-involved in Democratic politics, Ted Kennedy is much sicker than the media’s been admitting. A suspiciously large number of Kennedy family and friends are headed to Massachusetts this year to have a big Christmas honoring the last of the Kennedy brothers — much more so than usual. It all very much reads like it will be Kennedy’s last Christmas, because his malignancy is advancing much more rapidly than the public knows.
With Ted Kennedy so ill and no heir apparent, the Kennedy family needs Caroline in the Senate now. Like it or not, she needs to fill the role her younger brother would have played, had he lived into the new millennium. Caroline’s aggressive campaigning for Obama (alongside Oprah, most notably in California) was a strong break from personal tradition for her — one we knew would be well-rewarded after Obama won the national election. UN Ambassador is what we pegged her for — that, or possibly taking over for Uncle Ted before the New Year, with Obama and Ted urging Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to appoint Caroline to fill a retiring Ted’s seat (just like with Obama’s Senate seat and Governor Rod Blagojevich here in Illinois, a replacement should be appointed before the incoming class of Senators takes office, thus ensuring extra seniority points for the Democrats’ Senate replacements).
Ted Kennedy, however, shows no sign of retiring, despite his illness — and certainly not before the incoming Senators are sworn in.
Clinton, however, has stated firmly that she will remain in the Senate until she is confirmed as Secretary of State — and that can’t happen until after January 20th (and after the new class of Senators arrives in Washington). So, Clinton’s replacement will have less seniority than the newly-elected freshmen.
That’s an interesting piece to this puzzle to consider: whomever replaces Clinton will have to win re-election in her or his own right in 2010 in the special election Clinton’s vacancy sets in motion. More seniority points means Clinton’s replacement has a leg up on the other new Senators, which means, theoretically, that this person would have a slightly (but not much) easier time making a mark in those two years than someone who would come in with what could very well be the lowest rank in terms of Senate seniority (because, assuming Clinton’s not confirmed as Secretary of State until a week or two after the new Senate is in session, then Clinton would not vacate her seat until that late date, and her Senate replacement would then be #100 in terms of Senate seniority, as all other Senators would be sworn in, including replacements for Obama and Biden).
Caroline Kennedy would have no trouble raising the enormous sums it will take to win Clinton’s seat outright in 2012. It seems doubtful she’d have to face Mayor Bloomberg, who fought hard for a third term as New York’s mayor and is thus unlikely to try for a Senate seat in 2012. Rudy Giuliani could make another bid for that Senate seat, picking up where he left off in 2000, though it remains to be seen how much he damaged his brand with his 2008 campaign strategy.
It seems like Caroline Kennedy would have no trouble winning the 2010 special election or the 2012 Senate race either (while other names being mentioned for the seat, like Carolyn Maloney or Andrew Cuomo, would not be such slam-dunks).
Governor Paterson also wants to win his own special election in 2010: and having Caroline Kennedy on that same ballot would help his own chances, we imagine. Much more so than Carolyn Maloney (who would be a great Senator, but who lacks the name recognition of someone like Kennedy). And it would be bizarre if Clinton’s seat did not go to another woman, considering only 17 women sit in the Senate (and a very definite point is being made to replace Obama with another black Senator, even if that ends up being someone as repugnant as Emil Jones).
The bigger question in all of this is what Caroline Kennedy wants in the future: she’s never shown any interest in elected office before, so we wonder if she intends to replace her uncle in the Senate, or if she aspires to challenge Clinton in 2016 to follow her own father into the White House. Caroline’s never shown that sort of ambition.
Oddly, Richard Nixon said repeatedly that he believed, to his dying day, that the first female President of the United States was going to be Caroline Kennedy. That was, of course, long before George W. Bush — and whatever distaste that will leave in the electorate for putting another “legacy” administration into the White House. That very much remains to be seen, though we can’t imagine the public holding Bush against Caroline Kennedy.
Already, in the articles linked above regarding the Senate seat, Obama followers are giddy at the prospect of Caroline taking Clinton’s place in the Senate…and then taking the nomination in 2016 to become the first female president instead of Clinton. And please remember these were largely the same people who said all year that Clinton should not be president because America does not need a royal family and we should never support dynasties (except when it’s a Kennedy kingdom). Now, this same crowd seems ready to hand that 2016 nod to Caroline Kennedy here and now.
We doubt the Democrats will make the same mistake the Republicans did with George W. Bush and fail to annoint an immediate heir for 2016 when the time comes. Just as Dick Cheney was never going to be the nominee in 2008 after Bush, 74-year old Joe Biden will be unlikely to run for president in 2016 (assuming Obama gets a second term — and it is obviously much too early to read tea leaves on that).
But, if he does get a second term, Democrats would be smart to signal who’ll lead the party next. We obviously want that to be Hillary Clinton in 2016, but no one knows if she’ll even want to go through all of this again. Considering how vile the media behaved for the past 2 years, we would not blame Clinton if she never wanted to run for anything else, and instead considered herself retired after her tenure at State.
There are definitely a lot of possibilities and what-ifs floating around…so a lot of things really do come down to who ultimately lands in Clinton’s Senate seat.
We don’t believe we’ll have an answer on that until well after Obama’s inauguration.
We’d love to get Oprah on a rocket to Mars well before then, though. 2009 is a launch window to the Red Planet, and Oprah’s special blend of New Age quakery seems tailor-made for a diplomatic post as far off into space as we can possibly send her.
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