Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Caroline for Senator . . .

Of Illinois

by Noemie Emery

Thus far, the young Obama regime has been marred by three major dust-ups relating to three different things: the tax-skipping schemes involving nominees to the Cabinet, the flap over the disposal of his Illinois seat in the Senate, and the disposal of the Senate seat of New York's Hillary Clinton, involving a row among four or more dynasties, in which the Princess of Camelot found herself dissed. Nonetheless, the news that Illinois appointee Roland Burris is now in hot water opens a happy solution: oust the now-tainted Burris from his place in the Senate, and give it to Caroline Kennedy. Caroline doesn't live in the state and knows nothing about it, but this isn't important. For the following reasons, this makes perfect sense:

1. The seat she wanted and didn't get was being vacated by Hillary Clinton, a president's wife who ran for the Senate in New York, though she was born in Illinois and was First Lady of Arkansas, before living for eight years in Washington. Illinois thus offered New York a senator. Since Caroline is a president's daughter who lives in New York, (and lived as a child in Washington), it makes perfect sense that New York should pay back the favor by offering Caroline in return to the state of Obama and Lincoln. You could call it a new form of interstate commerce. Or, turnabout being fair play.

2. Aside from having been Hillary's seat, the seat Caroline wanted was also held by her uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, who, like Hillary, moved to New York for electoral reasons when he found himself at loose ends. Thus, between 1965 and 1968 and between 2001 and 2009, that seat was held in effect by a non-resident, or a resident only by means of ambition, who was also a president's relative. This is an important tradition that should not be allowed to die out, or be restricted to only one polity. Let Illinois share in the fun.

3. Caroline lived as a child in Washington, summered in Massachusetts, wintered in Florida, (and later on Skorpios), and lived most of her life in New York, but this does not mean her connections to Illinois are nonexistent. Her father carried Illinois in 1960, aided (some people think suspiciously so) by the late Mayor Daley; he became a national figure and heartthrob when he lost to Estes Kefauver at the 1956 Chicago convention; and her Uncle Sarge lived there when he was running the Merchandise Mart, once an enormous cash cow for the Kennedy family. A 'return' there could be seen as a move to the family's political roots, or at least to its money. Legacies have been built on much less.

4. According to friends, Caroline's late brother, John Kennedy Jr., was irked at reports Hillary was moving to New York to run for the Senate, and reportedly joked about moving to Arkansas. He died in a plane crash before he could do this. But if Caroline moved to Illinois and the Senate, she would have made good on his threat.

5. She could also annoy Governor Paterson, ex-cousin-in-law Andrew Cuomo, and the dozen or so congresspersons who dumped on her by becoming a senator anyhow, even if out of their state.

6. She could house sit Obama's posh digs in Hyde Park during recess while he is in Washington. She does have $400 million, but in this market even millionaires can use some assistance.

7. Obama could pay off her and her family without further annoying the Cuomos, the Clintons, or Paterson. And Illinois is in no state to complain about anything. She's underwhelming, but unlikely to show up on a perp line. At this point, this is all it can ask.

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Noemie Emery, a WEEKLY STANDARD contributing editor, is the author of Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.

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