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Caroline Kennedy Hits Harlem

By Keith B. Richburg
NEW YORK, Dec. 18 - Yesterday it was a three-city tour of upstate New York to meet with mayors and local party activists. Today, it was a trek to Harlem, for soul food - fried chicken, collard greens and cornbread - with the Rev. Al Sharpton.

With those carefully measured steps, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the former president and scion of the most fabled American dynasty, continued her slow and deliberate entry into the rough and tumble of New York politics, touching base with all the state's key constituencies.

She also today opened up more to the press, which gave Kennedy's initial rollout a typically bare-knuckled New York welcome. After trying to avoid reporters in her first stop yesterday in Syracuse, this afternoon she stood outside in the Harlem chill to answer questions and expound more on why she decided to end her relatively private Upper East Side life to compete for Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be-vacant senate seat.

"I come at this as a mother, as a lawyer, as an author, as an education advocate, and, you know, from a family that has really spent generations in public service," Kennedy said, in some of her most expansive comments to date. "And I feel this commitment. This is a time when no one can afford to sit out."

Asked where she placed herself ideologically, if she would follow the policies of Hillary Clinton, Kennedy said, "I feel like I'm a Kennedy Democrat. A Clinton Democrat. Chuck Schumer. Barack Obama. These are all leaders whose values I share."

"I'd love to take the skills and relationships I have to Washington," Kennedy said. "I have, you know, quite a lot to learn, but I feel like I bring a lot with me, as well."

Kennedy seems to be winning some converts.

Sharpton said there are many qualified candidates for the Clinton seat, but he gushed, "The person in this with some unique skills is Caroline Kennedy."

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), whose district includes Rochester and Buffalo, said she had never met Kennedy before now but has become an enthusiastic backer. "I think she's superbly qualified," Slaughter said in a telephone interview. "I think she has the intellect for it. I think she has the drive for it. And she's got the recognition."

Slaughter said, "I was really quite astonished at the barrage that hit her," referring to questions from political rivals for the seat, and the New York media, questioning Kennedy's qualifications. "I've not heard people grilled like that, like 'where have you been lately.'"

However in upstate and western New York, there is considerably more resistance. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, also mentioned as a possibility for the senate seat, said in a telephone interview he found Kennedy "warm, approachable, very down to earth" and said she had the "capacity to do the job."

But he added, "I stressed to her very strongly that people from Buffalo and Western New York would want to see an upstater on the ticket."

Kennedy's campaign rollout - likened here to Hillary Clinton's 1999 "listening tour" around the state before she ran for the senate - is all the more unusual since there is only one person she is appealing to; New York Gov. David Paterson, who alone has the power to appoint the replacement for Clinton's seat.

Paterson has said he will make his choice only when Clinton's seat officially becomes vacant, once she is confirmed as secretary of state.

By Post Editor  |  December 18, 2008; 9:02 PM ET
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Did not the same attitude prevail for Mr. Obama? Caroline was steeped in politics before she was born! She has the basic background to become a great Senator.
Game time is over. She is ready to dig in and serve her country NOW. Don't hold her "family first" obligation against her. I admire her courage to be close to her family first before stepping into the political arena. That does not mean her head has been in the sand all this time. She is now ready to give her all.

Posted by: gwendolynmwilliams | December 25, 2008 12:43 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if Caroline Kennedy was ever in Harlem before. Kennedy is not qualified for the Senate. She has never run a campaign and put forth an agenda. She has never held any political office of any kind. She, like all the Kennedys, thinks she is entitled to to replace HRC. If Kennedy wants the NY Senate seat, she should run in 2010. An election must be held then and in 2012, when HRC's seat would be up for election. Caroline did not impress me. When she was in upstate NY, she was whisked away by her assistants when asked what her qualifications are, a perfectly legitimate question. If she does not know her own qualifications, she is not fit for the office. Why doesn't she denounce Al Sharton? Anyone wih any integrity would do so. Caroline is a socialite and nothing more. She has spent her adult life lending her name to causes she supports in private. She has no public record to examine. I doubt she could find her away outside of the poshest areas of Manhattan without help.

Posted by: Maryann261 | December 22, 2008 5:21 AM | Report abuse

I would love to see Caroline Kennedy in the senate. She has been "political" from the womb.
She has class and compassion combined with great intellengence.
Her brother was witty and fun and great to look at as well as taking press instride.
He was not as smart as Caroline but was an almost perfect politician personality.
Caroline will lend some class and style that will be appreciated.

Posted by: brinny | December 19, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

carolyn kennedy is more than qualified. it is disgusting that she is being tested against the jackasses that run government. i don't vote in every election because sometimes i don't care to vote for the lesser of two evils. is there a biography on every senator so we can compare their first years? sometimes we can win a fight with a little less sweat. it's like the guy that fights with a golden razor and his opponent says "you missed me" and the razor guy says "shake your head." lets stop all the noise and watch and listen. we need honesty and common sense. can't hurt. if you are smart you can read the rest. she will do just fine. i'm really tired of stupid noisy people in government.

Posted by: sm98yth | December 19, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

According to the AP, she has missed several votes during key election years. I have stood in the rain for 3 hours to vote. If she cannot even vote by mail in at least 5 elections, one of them a general election for the office she is trying to cajole out Governor Paterson. I think this should put an end to someone with a famous name with no qualifications trying to be appointed Senator of New York.

Posted by: sghdr | December 19, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I cannot understand why one would want the backing of Al Sharpton for any political office!

Reverend Sharpton, over the years, has been a divisive character, who exploited Tawanna Bradley, for racial reasons. He has failed to pay his taxes and the judgements rendered against him by dubious means.

If anything the Reverend Al Sharpton should be condemned, that might actually get you some votes.

Posted by: mwhoke | December 19, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I don't see how these people keep getting positions they are not qualified for. America needs to really start paying attention. This is what our forefathers did not want to happen.

Posted by: NANCYT1 | December 19, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Governor Paterson

You served in NY government for many years before campaigning for and being elected Lieutenant Governor in November 2006 and subsequently assuming the Governorship in March of 2008 when Elliott Spitzer resigned. The fact that you are a legally blind African American has not stopped you from finding the courage and determination to be successful. Now you must step up to the plate and make a decision that will further show your character. It seems to me you have 2 good choices:

1. Appoint a highly qualified and experienced individual to fill the Senate vacancy that will be left by Hillary Clinton for 2 years before the 2012 election and ignore those whose primary qualification for the job is being a relative of successful politician.

2. Appoint an experienced elder statesman who agrees to serve only for the remaining 2 years of Hillary Clinton’s term and who will not seek election in 2012. If Caroline Kennedy or anyone else really wants to be a NY Senator let them run for election at that time and let the people of NY decide.

Posted by: bobwestafer | December 19, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Oddly, in the recent attacks by the media, including the WaPo that VP candidate Sarah Palin was "inexperienced" seem strangely missing from the prose of the leftist media!
Caroline Schlossberg couldn't get to run for mayor of Palookaville, but Caroline Kennedy should be crowned by NY's dems because? So what's the story with the democrats? Does this smell all too fishy to anyone?

Posted by: vgailitis | December 19, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I wonder is Kennedy wants the same "separate but equal" for Gays that Obama desires.

Posted by: newagent99 | December 19, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Caroline could be so bruised by this Senate race that she would be unelectable in 2010.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | December 18, 2008 10:38 PM | Report abuse

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