What causes a sincerely self proclaimed private person to suddenly at age 51 emerge from the shadows onto the national (political) stage in such a prominent way? Is it a renaissance change in attitude towards (very visible) public service or is it something very different and deeply personal…in her pedigree DNA? The answer boils down to – it’s time.
Who can forget that agonizing day 45 years ago with mother, daughter and son painfully watching as the father’s body born caisson somberly passed by. That poignant moment however, forever captured and etched in our minds, not by Caroline but rather the iconic saluting by brother John. Indeed a marker or harbinger for what was to come as respects her own choice in life, to not be the public focus and centerpiece of the family. Rather, she to live a life of privacy, while the public face of the family now to be worn by mother and son, not Caroline. At least by design.
Then as has become almost tragically predictable, this latest version of Kennedy manifest destiny was disturbed once again, twice, with loss again inflicted on this component of the Kennedy clan. This with death’s intervention first on mother Jackie, then several years later prematurely on JFK Jr.. Now leaving Caroline unexpectedly alone and unshielded in the Kennedy family tree JFK branch to carry on the father’s legacy, a role she has to now proven either disinterested and/or not equipped for. Instead, at peace and comfortably hiding behind the limelight driven family patriarch Ted.
At this point, it’s worth noting some interesting (fate) parallels that can be drawn between JFK’s father Joe Kennedy and JFK himself and their respective offspring.
Joe Sr’s anointed one for greater public and family glory was not JFK as most think, but rather his older brother Joe Jr. For JFK, it was destined to be son John Jr. As with the dynastic Kennedy tradition, the focus of the family leadership and public persona of the family built on passing the baton to a son. Not unlike monarchies have done for centuries, the Kennedy’s arguably the closes thing to a royal family that Americans can get, following similar tradition.
But the desire of each man was not to be, as the Kennedy fate or curse, whichever way one wants to characterize the family’s penchant for personal tragedy, conspicuously if not by now predictably, intervened.
As with the glorified yet tragic story that is “the Kennedy’s”, while both (Joe Jr. and JFK Jr.) were targeted and therefore destined to greatness, neither made it to their 40th birthday, Joe not even his 30th. Both ironically lost not only in aircraft accidents, but adding to the myth, while each was in the pilot position. Joe in a World War II bomber, and John in his personal Piper Saratoga plane.
With JFK Jr. gone almost 10 years, why then only now is Caroline stepping up politically?
The argument here is built upon “obligation”, not personal “desire”. Just like Joe Kennedy Sr. saw opportunity to leverage his substantial (and questionable) business and political connections into a Joe Kennedy Jr. presidency, Ted Kennedy, the current Kennedy King, sees the Clinton Senate seat as a stepping stone to substantively advance and help perpetuate the family’s dynasty and political legacy into the future, after he’s gone.
After 40 years, a unique accomplishment in Kennedy monarchial longevity, Ted’s remaining task as Kennedy King is to appoint a successor. The unexpected onset of the brain tumor has accelerated this need as his days remaining are certainly not what they’d be without. It is clear that the crop of princes from within his own family branch do not pass muster. None have the charm, charisma, presence and/or reputation to continue the Kennedy myth and public image over the next two to three decades. Looking at other branches of the Kennedy family tree, Robert Kennedy Jr., the logical choice, and almost physical clone of his father has neither the leadership presence nor issue repertoire to appeal to the masses. A one trick environmental pony with a crackly voice, he does not breed aura, mystique or confidence. No other princes in the entire Kennedy clan measure up either.
That leaves the search to the princesses, and who is the undisputed princess of Kennedy princesses – Caroline. Living a private do gooder life, she has the earmarks of solid reputation, character and as importantly if not most importantly, the direct genetic link to Camelot. Too, whereas John looked Bouvier, Caroline looks genetic Kennedy. She is her father. Clearly Ted’s determined it’s time to monetize or rather politicize that asset.
And Ted as the keeper of the long term family vision, now too sees the family legacy not only perpetuated but enhanced with another family presidency plausible. Eight years as U.S. Senator from New York, with family and politico support, the perfect “grooming period” (and she certainly needs it, “you know”) positioning for her to be the Democratic nominee for President in 2016 at the ripe and reasonable age of 59.
Backing the right horse in 2008, and assuming President Obama goes down as one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history, give further boost to her chances with his support, both two years from now in the formal NY Senate election and eight years from now in the Presidential.
The future now in motion, one must ask did Caroline suddenly with the announcement of Hillary Clinton’s appointment as Secretary of State jump up and shout “Yippee, here’s my chance”? Absolutely not.
What predictably instead happened was Ted Kennedy called her and “floated” the idea to her. After hearing her reasons why not, Ted said “I hear you but you will….if you’re a true Kennedy”. In other words, “Caroline, recognize the correct answer (from the King) when told”.
Call it a pre-death bed request from Ted and plethora of long term mover and shaker politico Kennedy supporters for a family leadership baton exchange to Caroline, the chosen one to succeed Ted as the new family monarch.