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Soap Opera Digest: The Caroline Kennedy Issue

Well, I guess our long national soap opera is over.

Could this have been botched any more -- by both sides?

New York Gov. David Paterson conducted the search for Hillary Clinton’s replacement in a way that made Rod Blagojevich look like Winston Churchill. Paterson’s process was too long, too public and too dithering. Would he pick Kennedy? Wouldn’t he? The whole event seemed like a cross between American Idol and the selection of a new pope -- excruciatingly drawn out, personally embarrassing, and conducted behind closed doors. Really -- why not have Simon Cowell judge the contenders’ performances, then send up a puff of white smoke?

But whatever happened in the Wednesday night-Thursday morning follies -- She’s out! No, she’s still in! No, she’s really out! -- the party that really mishandled this, from start to finish, was Kennedy. The disastrous visit upstate during which she initially refused to speak to reporters. The disastrous “interview” conducted by e-mailed questions and answers. The, like, you know, series of even more disastrous actual interviews.

And then, the world’s weirdest withdrawal.

The first thought of a cynic like me, of course, is that Kennedy knew she wasn’t getting the job and decided to preemptively pull out to save face. Except that she embarrassed herself more by withdrawing at the last minute than she ever would have by simply losing out. Even to Andrew Cuomo.

So I have to conclude that something really did come up, at the last minute. Nanny taxes? That’s one of the first things that should be on the candidate checklist these days. If there’s a nanny tax problem, or an illegal nanny problem, that should have been known and its impact assessed long ago. And, yes, not paying taxes for your household help, or employing someone not authorized to work in the United States, is a problem for a Senate wannabe.

By the way, this is not a pick-on-the-girl thing, Tim Geithner’s different tax woes notwithstanding. Ever since Zoe Baird, anyone with an interest in public life has been on notice to pay up and hire legally, or face the political consequences. Last-minute nanny problems make no sense. Neither does Ted Kennedy’s illness.

So we’re left with an unexplained “personal situation” -- a tidbit that I’m sure the docile New York media will let drop now that she’s out of the race.

I wrote, six long weeks ago, about my head vs. heart debate about Caroline, and how I was emotionally drawn to the notion of Caroline as senator by the “modern fairy-tale quality of it all.”

Okay, so it turned out to be less fairy tale, more telenovela. One thing seems sure, though. Once this is done, we won’t have Caroline Kennedy to kick around -- or in my case, moon over -- any more.

By Ruth Marcus  | January 22, 2009; 6:41 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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Next: Gov. Paterson's Spectacle


Not that I don't think Caroline Kennedy has done lots of good for NYC charities, but perhaps the issue is, finally, she realized that she simply has no qualifications to *be* a Senator.

She could probably continue to do more good in her current state of working on boards and such than as a Senator.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 22, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Non paying taxes is a problem for a senate wannabe but not for the Treasury Department!!

Posted by: ninco | January 22, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

the “modern fairy-tale quality of it all.”

You're a moron.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 22, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I saw your article 6 weeks ago and also your PBS appearance supporting, however lukewarm, the Caroline Kennedy for New York Senator campaign. Personally I thought this was a bad idea, really somewhat outrageous from the start. I could be a little more forgiving if she had at least run for dog catcher previously. Caroline Kennedy & I are about the same age, I grew in New York but currently live in CA & am a (mostly) liberal democrat. I didn't get this at all but if Ms. Kennedy wants to start running now for the 2010 open election, I'll be happy to watch with great interest. Being appointed in 2009 is, I believe, an awful message to send to begin the Obama presidential era & her withdrawal both overdue & ultimately correct.

Posted by: gt3612 | January 22, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

I sensed it would be a choppy ride early on. When Caroline went upstate and stiffed the media, she told them their frustration was all Paterson's fault. When the Governor says to keep it low-key, that means you have to keep repeating that the Governor wants a fair and orderly process -- while you spin the hell out of the reporters. Caroline just sticks it them and gets in the SUV.

Posted by: blasmaic | January 22, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Maybe if you had actually examined the situation, as opposed to fawning over her, you'd have seen what the rest of us saw: nothing! She had no substance, no experience -- the whole thing was a sham! So glad it's over!

Posted by: L223 | January 22, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

You wrote a nauseating gush piece, now you think you are facing reality. I doubt it.
You will continue to gush over "The One",
instead of waiting to see if there is substance underneath the form.
So continue your dance towards "Obamalot".

Posted by: fgoepfert1 | January 22, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

While many of us 'boomers' will always regard Caroline with special affection, the plain, hard political facts of this 'game' she tried to enter are that she would have to actually run for office in less than 2 years. The polls in NY don't look too favorable for her. And could the Democrats afford to take a chance that she would hold onto a critical Senate seat AND help Paterson retain power in Albany? Senate Republicans like McConnell have switched from being Bush's rubber stamp to Obama's roadblock; consequently, the Dems need all the seats they can muster to help Obama translate his promises into policies. And, maybe Caroline decided she prefers a more private life now that she's had a taste of the often invasive questions a national public figure has to endure. I hope this decision is best for all concerned--Caroline, New York Democrats, and our country.

Posted by: free9604 | January 22, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Compared to Kennedy Sarah Palin looks like a genius and you look more like the idiot you have always been based on your fawning column weeks ago. This is your weak attempt to salvage your reputation as a clear thinker. At least libs like Richard Cohen make sense even if us conservatives don't agree with him. When you're done drinking the Obama Kool-Aide we'll look for a similar, "I never liked him that much" column as well. BTW, waiting for kennedy's boyfriend at the NY Times to weight in on the "fairytale princess." As for Uncle Ted, Mary Jo is waiting for you.

Posted by: gmanjim | January 22, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

This whole notion of "princess Caroline," "entitled" or "fairy tales" is all the figment of a press who long ago forgot what journalism is and of talk radio windbags. Caroline Kennedy whether you like her or don't is as qualified to serve in the senate if not more so than 85% of the people who are in there now-- Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Democrat. Only a small handful have those special "qualifications" that they really do merit being there. This county has become paralyzed by professional politics and the circus that swarms around it.

Those who think Sarah Palin looks like a genius compared to Ms. Kennedy should really schedule an appointment with their ophthalmologist. They should refrain from calling people idiots when their hackney diatribes about Mary Jo et al was tiresome 20 years ago.

As for the alleged remark about "not being ready for prime time," I wager Governor P. is destined to be a one termer. I would not be surprise if he appoints himself.

Posted by: HeddWyn | January 22, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

For those who criticize Caroline Kennedy's desire to become the junior senator from New York on the basis of her lack of prior elected office, what elected office did Hillary Clinton hold before she became senator? At least Kennedy has been a resident of New York for many years, something that Mrs. Clinton was not.

Posted by: marmac5 | January 22, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

"our long national soap opera " by my count it was 47 days. It appears that the only thing shorter than the attention span of a congressman is that of a reporter. As an admitted news junky, the CK story was at most mild entertainment, no angst nor pathos really. God I hate it when the subject of a overhyped story quits before the reporters do.

Posted by: crete | January 22, 2009 11:04 PM | Report abuse

not trying to be religious ... there's a season for everything, including withdrawal from a beauty contest ...

Posted by: wwt101 | January 22, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

". . . not paying taxes for your household help, or employing someone not authorized to work in the United States, is a problem for a Senate wannabe . . . "

Troubling for a Senate wannabe, but not for a Treasury Secretary/Head of the IRS wannabe?

Posted by: JoeCollins1 | January 22, 2009 11:09 PM | Report abuse

Good riddance to Caroline, who turned out to be more of a frogette than a princess. I'm sure her visit to primitive outstate New York had a lot to do with her decision ("People actually live here outside the city?"). That and the governor's steadfast refusal to kiss her behind and immediately anoint her when she first asked. (No more Kennedy money for him)

Now if Teddy "Killer" Kennedy would have the grace to resign or die, America would finally be rid of the Kennedy 'curse!' It can't come too soon!

Posted by: surfer-joe | January 23, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

For some time, until Obama's campaign, this Nation seemed to feel that lying, attacking, the politics of personal attack were proper ways to choose the leader of the free world.

It seems from the moment Caroline Kennedy signaled her interest, the press and the republicans were insisting that she become the ruffian in order to qualify...

Patterson is to blame for the entire... Caroline Kennedy is an intelligent, thoughtful, honorable person who does not have the down and dirty approach to anything, let alone public service. Patterson dillied and dallied, set up some sort of vetting process, publically wondered out loud about this and that, and refused to make a decision.

The moment he signaled his own hesitancy, he doomed the seat to something less than his enthusiastic support and protection...

Good luck to his appointee... but don't expect the Kennedy family to be much interested in furthering Patterson's ambitions. He was also appointed.

Posted by: dutchess2 | January 23, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Marcus writes: "... I was emotionally drawn to the notion of Caroline as senator by the 'modern fairy-tale quality of it all.' "

A modern fairy tale? I guess that in the new editions of Cinderella she is the daughter of privelege, the rich scion of a powerful family, who makes it to the ball not because of hard work and merit but because of entitlement.

And people like Marcus are the ones to tell us that it is Republicans who have an issue with class and dynasties?

Posted by: argie | January 23, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad Princess Caroline did not get what she wanted. Her approach showed disrespect to the office of the Governor. That was not a humble approach to gaining the Senate appointment.

Posted by: forgetthis | January 23, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

My only question is why does Ruth Marcus continue to have a platform at the WP in which to write? As voters and consumers of political news I would hope we would all examine each candidate and journalist on their individual merits and not according to their labels. Marcus has neither the credentials nor the body of work worthy of this respect and her most recent episode of fairy tale senator pining is just one more example.

Posted by: tmw-online | January 23, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I never supported Caroline, particularly because she and the rest of the Kennedy clan vigorously campaign against Hillary (not just for Obama).

It was crystal clear to anyone that was watching that this was Teddy Kennedy's attempt to pile on Hillary for daring to compete against his anointed candidate. Carolyn put her name in because uncle Teddy wanted her to. It was obvious that her heart was never in it.

Fortunately, New Yorkers are savvy enough to spot a ruse at 100 paces. They had no desire to have an aging Senator from Massachusetts pick the new Senator from New York. Carolyn poll numbers plummeted and Patterson, inept as he is, saw that she could not help his upcoming gubenatorial run. So he dumped her.

The sad part for me is that Teddy Kennedy has always been one of my heros. But with the Kennedys, you have to accept that the sword is always double-edged.

Posted by: dclb | January 23, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus, this is not your finest hour. You neglect to say that courtesy, decency, and, perhaps, law, prevented the Governor of New York from making an appointment before Ms. Clinton had both resigned her seat and won confirmation. All your column today convinces me of is that you were annoyed at having to wait for the Governor to act so you could post today's yawp on the Post. Shame on you.

Posted by: valerieprintemps | January 23, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Oh well,so now Marcus and her evil twin Kathleen Parker can go back to their constant bashing of Gov Sarah Palin,and their endless mooning,swooning,gushing,
and never ending fawning over the Kenya born fake Messiah,President Imposter that
Marxist/Scialist/Liberal Democrat Braindead
Barack Hussein Obama,but now they will have to get in line after Fred Hiatt and all the other WAPO Obama Shills and boot licking butt kissers pathetic excuse for
an American Press Corps. Impeach Obama.

Posted by: sandy5274 | January 23, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Ruth writes, "So I have to conclude that something ....."

Here is a good example, I think, of why so much opinion journalism reeks of b.s..

Not knowing Ruth's psychologial makeup, I cannot dispute the possibility that she might have to do that, but I can state rather confidently that a more rational thinker probably would not.

What compelling evidence do we have that would permit us with the absolute certainty of Ruth's wording to make that somewhat snarky inference?

Clearly, her conclusion goes beyond available evidence. In fact it may be a decision the reasons for which Kennedy herself could be unclear about and thus simply be unknowable. To anyone.

But a more tempered and reasonable claim to knowledge, with less edginess and bite, is apparently not what makes most columnists marketable is it?

Posted by: YondCassius | January 23, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

My daughter's family are working poor living in St. Lawrence County, NY. Four hours north of Albany...really Upstate...Two hours north of Lake Placid. There is not one municipality in St. Lawrence County. She lives in Ogdensburg where over 70% of the population is on some kind of public assistance...majority working poor or seniors, I might add. My daughter and her husband both work, opposite hours because daycare isn't even available, let alone affordable, for their one-year-old daughter. 16% of people in St.L.Cty. live below the poverty level...3% more than the U.S. average. In Ogdensburg, formerly a thriving port town on the Seaway, there are five places to shop: Walmart, three "dollar" stores, and a big Ace big box store will go there.

This is Upstate NY. I just wish there was someone who knows they're up there.

Fuel assistance won't touch your heating bills when the temperature gets down to -28F without the wind off the St. Lawrence Seaway. Why don't they move? Their families have been there for 200 years. Then what? We bulldoze all of Upstate NY and forget it ever existed? Make it one big windfarm? Green jobs!!!! Now all we have to do is get them through the next few years until the jobs come. And if no one knows they're there, they won't get the jobs anyway.

It's not just Caroline's problem.

Posted by: LeftyinNH | January 23, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I am sorry for Caroline. It it sad that this competent woman, this working professional and successful fund raiser should have been encouraged to step up into the tough and competitive political arena. Clearly she has been uncomfortable in the previously avoided limelight . It is appalling that the simple fact of birth would influence people regarding the role Caroline Kennedy would play in this race for the senate. Why the necessity anyway to have a Kennedy, albeit reluctant, in the Senate? In a lack lustre and incoherent interview she displayed nothing of the political charisma, if you will, from her famous father. Indeed, she appeared weary and half hearted, a tired and droopy middle aged PTA mom instead of the vibrant, alert and polished go get 'em image we are accustomed to from our politicians. Her allusions to her "family" were tiresome and reeked of entitlement. Much criticism of Sarah Palin has been tossed around but in fairness clearly she has shown political ability , self-confidence and experience in her role as Governor,this cannot be disputed. Poor Caroline. One cannot modestly hide under a bushel and then suddenly emerge into the political daylight and expect to crowned queen in a day. Whatever their motives may have been, it was cruel of those to encourage her. Caroline Kennedy was by no stretch of the imagination politically equal to Hilary Clinton, but does she have to be? Hopefully she will pick up the pieces and continue with her life which up to this unfortunate episode must have been a happy and fulfilling one.

Posted by: elizabeth6 | January 23, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

It seems like taxes and employee status is much less an issue for elected positions than appointed ones. If the tax-dodger can make the case to the electorate, then the issue can be considered settled (penalties and late-fees aside).

Posted by: HardyW | January 23, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

She would best serve the country by staying home, editing art books, and staying married to a rich man.

Posted by: justchecking1 | January 23, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Drama, drama, drama, drama..........

Kennedys: The unqualified leading the uninformed to do the un-necessary and still having the nerve to be proud of it.

Posted by: F-4Phantom | January 23, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: whocares666 | January 23, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Governor Patterson deserves a lot of criticism for his 'dithering" as you call it. I do not understand why it took so long! What could be so hard about it? I think Caroline would have made a good a senator as anyone. But, we will never know now.

Posted by: sandnsmith | January 23, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

many of you expect some thoughtfulness from this columnist i never knew why. don't expect it or waste your time reading the column. i was tricked, for the last time, by the clutter on the home page--the most confusing of any MSM Web site. the post is on a 1-way trip to demise.

Posted by: axolotl | January 23, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

LeftyinNH | January 23, 2009 11:24 AM

My daughter's family are working poor living in St. Lawrence County, NY. Four hours north of Albany...really Upstate...Why don't they move? Their families have been there for 200 years.

WTF? That's a good reason to be poor 24 - 7 - 365 and freeze your arse off in the winter!

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 23, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Nanny issues, asset disclosure and Uncle Ted are all smoke screens - those were all apparent as reqs. long before she announced.
I think it is the buzz of bad karma surrounding her after plunging that dagger so deep into Hillary Clinton's back.
Goes 'round, come around.
Stick to your one half-day per week NYC schools fundraising job, Caroline. Hope your voice will count for nothing in the next election cycle, and your clumsy personna renders you mute.

Posted by: OrlandoNan | January 23, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

An interesting contradiction here. Marcus calls herself a cynic, then admits to her initial positive reaction to gifting the Senate seat to Caroline as the fulfillment of a "fairy tale." No, Ruth, I don't think you qualify as a cynic.

The CK saga was fascinating to watch. Many swooned, as Marcus did initially. Then the harsh reality of CK set in. It is not a coincidence that she has led a very private life and she would be wise to return to it. She does not have the personality of a successful politician and is unlikely to develop one at this late stage. NYrs, wise folks that they are, quickly figured that out and put their emotional reaction aside.

Posted by: YellaDog | January 23, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I really think the negative remarks directed at Governor Patterson are uncalled for. I don't see that he did anything other than what he is called to do as Governor!

Posted by: paris1969 | January 23, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I didnt care for the idea that anyone had a right to start a political career as a US senator. That said, I also don't care to see people needlessly humiliated.

Posted by: davidscott1 | January 23, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I am glad the Caroline saga is over if only because the sycophantic, anti-intellectual nostalgia nonsense for a thoroughly unqualified candidate will no longer get to be championed by the media. This pining for "royalty" is revolting to the egalitarian and democratic ideals I think America stands for, and should be so to all, especially to those in the media.

Posted by: akena1 | January 23, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

After reading sandy5274 posting on January 23, 2009 at 10:24AM, it becomes crystal clear why the U.S. is sinking due to its own stubby plenitude.

Posted by: wwt101 | January 23, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Change is here with the "old" ways of using the powerful Kennedy name no longer having the effect it once had. Carolyn Kennedy, as qualified to become Senator as President Obama was qualified to become president failed in her attempt due to a lack of good lackies. It is a wonder why anyone would aspire to a high office with the internet providing all the true or untrue details of the candidate's life.

Posted by: dodavatar | January 23, 2009 11:29 PM | Report abuse

The crux of the problem--a potential appointee is NOT a candidate for public office. When Caroline announced her availability, it appeared that she did it with the governor's blessing, and with his advice not to talk to the press, as campaigning for an appointed office was not appropriate.

We assumed in fact that the governor may have asked her to go public because her appointment was imminent. She was, however, put in the awkward position of wanting to reach out and appear accessible to officials and voters, but as the Appointee Apparent, could neither mount a campaign nor presume to speak as senator-to-be. (Did anyone see Roland Burris or the appointee in DE running all over their states?)

Things started falling apart when the governor did not make a move, went on a trip to Iraq while debate flared, and on his return appeared not to mind all the attention. He dragged out the process, acted coy, and played the Hamlet game on a very public stage.

Too bad.

If Andrew Cuomo wasn't going to be the appointee, I think that Ms. Kennedy would likely have been a very good senator. Her political views would have been welcome, she is intelligent and accomplished, and she wanted to be a part of the action. She is not a politician, (usually thought to be a good thing).

I am very sad to see in the comments expressed here, so many people taking entrenched positions in what they see as a culture war. Roosevelts, Rockefellers, and yes Kennedys were wealthy, and wished a life in public service--is that not allowed?

I am also sad to see the double standard once again applied in the mocking comments of readers and of columnists such as Al Kamen ("A Lovely Consolation Prize..."). If Caroline's brother, John, Jr. had lived, and were offered this position by the governor, do you think folks would scoff at the idea, as they have at Caroline? I do not.

Posted by: janeb2 | January 24, 2009 2:57 AM | Report abuse

"We won't have Caroline Kennedy to kick around - or in my case, moon over - anymore."
You're still mooning, Ruth.

Posted by: rmpatera | January 24, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Nevermind what CK said or didn't say over the last couple of months. Her simple body language made it pretty obvious she doesn't have the type of forceful personality necessary to survive at any level in politics.
If her last name was Smith would a Clinton, Kennedy or even the rather laid back Obama even notice she was alive?

Posted by: richardsonj92 | January 24, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Oh WOW so the village idiot Marcus has found a new obession in Princess Caroline
Kennedy after the one that her and fellow
WAPO idiot Kathleen Parker got nowhere with
their attacks on Gov Sarah Palin as well.

Hey Marcus Eat Your Heart Out Loser!!!
Vote Gov Sarah Palin For President 2012!

Posted by: Donna78 | January 26, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Oh - this is funny!

The same people that promote down and dirty politics of personal destruction discount Caroline Kennedy because that's not her way?

Show us where a 'fight' determines who is better able to do the work of Senator?

You've got your 'fight', cause Patterson chose a NRA baby. They will pour money in to make sure New Yorkers keep enough guns on the streets to kill every kid in school.

Paterson's pick arrived tainted.

Posted by: dutchess2 | January 26, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Marcus blames Governor Patterson for the soap opera. This is nonsense - it was Marcus and her colleagues in the media who were obsessed over Kennedy's candidacy and created a situation in which many would be displeased no matter who was selected.

Posted by: skeptonomist | January 26, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I’m not from NY but I’m glad he chose his “own” person. Everyone kept saying that he is independent and when he shows he is he’s being vilified.

The entitled (Kennedy & Cumomo) got their comeuppance.

Posted by: rlj1 | January 26, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I have no doubt that Caroline came to grips with an age old problem - " careful what you wish for, it might come true". She really didn't want to be senator from NewYork - she want's her father's old senate seat, not her uncle Bobby's...

Posted by: hariseldonsr | January 26, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I don't make any apologies for supporting her in this. Caroline is highly educated and has been quietly involved in public affairs for a quarter century. I can see appointing someone else--New York is chock full of good candidates--but she would have made a good senator. I think she was put in an impossible situation: campaign-but-don't-campaign-for-this.....Impress-me-with-your-political-skills-but-don't-politically-pressure-me....Moon over your daddy's photo....perform your grief....stop saying 'you know'....but don't act like an elite princess.....yada yada. As for the "personal issue" (if it's even true) John McCain dumped the wife who had stood by him and picked up a chickadee half his age. No one said he was not suited to be a candidate.

Posted by: Ladyrantsalot | January 26, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

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