The New York media is starting to ask the elusive Senate-wannabe questions:

SYRACUSE — In a carefully controlled strategy reminiscent of the vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, aides to Caroline Kennedy interrupted her on Wednesday and whisked her away when she was asked what her qualifications are to be a United States senator.

In her first public appearance since letting it be known that wants to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ms. Kennedy emerged from a closed-door meeting with Matthew J. Driscoll, the mayor of Syracuse, where about a dozen reporters were waiting.

She offered a 30-second statement saying that she would respect the process undertaken by Gov. David A. Paterson to fill the vacancy.

Then, as reporters asked why Ms. Kennedy was seeking the Senate seat and whether she was ready, she did not answer, then walked away, heading toward a waiting black sport-utility vehicle.

When one reporter asked what she would tell New Yorkers who question whether she has the qualifications for the job, Ms. Kennedy, 51, started to respond. But then an aide stopped her from saying more, and led her to the waiting vehicle.

“Hopefully I can come back and answer all those questions,” she called out as she got into the S.U.V.

But, of course, she really doesn’t.

After all, she’s not running for election. She doesn’t need anyone to vote for her. All she needs if the vote of one man, Governor David Patterson.

As Charles Mahtesian notes, though, Kennedy’s potential appointment is only one example of the extent to which nepotism has become ingrained in America’s political system:

Barack Obama’s path to the presidency included beating what had been one of the nation’s most powerful families. But, in an unusual twist, his election last month is helping accelerate the trend toward dynasty politics.

His secretary of state will be Hillary Clinton, the wife of the former president. The Senate seat she’ll vacate is being pursued by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of a president and the niece of two senators. Joe Biden’s Senate seat may go to his son Beau. Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, Obama’s pick for interior secretary, could end up being replaced by his brother, Rep. John Salazar.

And Obama’s own seat could go to the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. – less likely now in light of developments in the Rod Blagojevich scandal – or to the daughter of Illinois’ current House speaker.


In 2008, the storied Udall clan, sometimes referred to as the Western Kennedys, saw two members elected to the Senate— Mark from Colorado and Tom from New Mexico. In 2010, they could be joined in the Senate by Florida’s Jeb Bush, the son and brother of presidents and the grandson of a senator.

All told, it’s entirely possible that the Senate will be comprised of nearly a dozen congressional offspring by the end of Obama’s first term as president.

Of course, as James Joyner notes, this dynastic politics is really only a problem when you’re talking about someone, like Kennedy, who walks into high office rather than actually campaigning for it:

Far more troubling are the Mary Bonos, Lisa Murkowskis, Jean Carnahans, and (potentially) Caroline Kennedys. These people catapulted over dozens (if not tens or hundreds of thousands) of more qualified people to get appointed to high office. Their sole qualification for the job, really, was being related to politicians.

The easiest way to stop this from happening, of course, is to end the practice of allowing Governors to appoint people to vacant Senate seats, as Ruth Marcus suggests in today’s Washington Post. We don’t have appointments without election for any other political office, and unless you’re going to follow my advice and return to the way we selected Senators before 1913, there’s no reason we need it for the Senate.

H/T: Originally posted at Below The Beltway

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