Caroline, We Hardly Knew Ye

Now that Caroline Kennedy is out of the running to be appointed for the senate seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it’s worth asking a few questions. First, is more just eye-rolling: How could the appointment of four vacant senate seats become such a mess. First, there was the Blagojevich scandal to replace President Obama’s seat followed by the mini-scandal over whether to seat Roland Burris. In Delaware, the appointment of Joe Biden’s long time top aide was an obvious attempt to keep the seat warm for his son, Beau. And in New York, it’s become an unholy mess. Only Bill Ritter in Colorado seemed to have come through this thing unscathed with his appointment of Michael Bennet.

My guess is that if Caroline had remained Greta Garbo, she might have gotten the job. Traditionally, Senate appointments were given to clean, respectable types who got the job in part by not showing any political aspiration to keep it and seemed to take the seat only with reluctance and out of duty. Thus you wound up with Nicholas Brady in New Jersey. Had Kennedy not said anything, I think there’s a decent chance she could have gotten the seat. Instead, her mini-candidacy became a nectar for swarms of political consultants, Bloomberg allies, and others who wanted a piece of the action. I don’t mean to suggest that she’s a victim in all of this. She chose this odd path and has now suffered the biggest defeat of a Kennedy since Kathleen Kennedy Townsend lost her bid to be Maryland’s governor. She allowed the handlers in and they made a mess of it. Sometimes, silence is golden.