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Caroline Kennedy? Thanks But No Thanks

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Everyone seems to be salivating because Caroline Kennedy called David Paterson and is apparently interested in the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton.

It's a truly terrible idea. 

Her leadership could have been really helpful when we were trying to keep the progressive lights on and getting the stuffing beaten out of us by a very well-financed right wing for the past eight years.  But when things were tough, she was nowhere to be found. 

Now that the Democrats are in power, she'd like to come in at the top.  We have absolutely no idea if she's qualified, or whether she can take the media blast furnace of being a Kennedy in public life.  She's certainly shown no appetite for it in the past.  She'll have a target on her back and if she can't take it, if she crumbles, she will become a rallying point that the right will easily organize around.

The woman has never run for office in her life.  We have no idea how she'd fare on the campaign trail, or how well she could stand up to the electoral process.  She simply picks up the phone and lets it be known that she just might be up for having one of the highest offices in the land handed to her because -- well, because why?  Because her uncle once held the seat?  Because she's a Kennedy?  Because she took part as a child in the public's romantic dreams of Camelot?  I'm not quite sure.

There's an enormous problem in the Senate right now with entitlement, with the sense that its members owe their allegiance to each other and not to the public.  Witness Joe Lieberman's recent confirmation of Homeland Security Chairman, when Democratic Senators circled the wagons and helped him hold on to power -- despite the fact that he refused to hold hearings into the government's response to Hurricane Katrina and protected billions of dollars in contractor graft from being investigated. 

Nobody, including Howard Dean, seemed to think that his performance record as head of the Committee was something that should even be taken into consideration.

The new Senate is going to face incredible challenges in the upcoming session, and we're lucky this year that it will be infused with some much-needed new blood.  It's not a place for anyone to be wearing political training wheels.   

For what it's worth, I think David Paterson should appoint himself.   He's quite the wonk, in a way that would make him better suited for being a senator than being a governor.  With Obama gone from the Senate and Blagojevich's future a total crapshoot, there are no African Americans in the Senate.

One president, zero senators -- neither diverse nor representative.

Clinton's seat will be up for grabs in 2010 and 2012.  That means, as George Stepanopoulos pointed out on This Week today, that the person who wants it will have to raise close to $100 million to hold it. Caroline Kennedy would certainly have the fundraising prowess to do that.  Let her hit the road now, press the flesh, meet the public and start auditioning for New York voters.   It could be a tough year for Democrats in 2010.  It would be good to have her in the game.

In the mean time, I'm glad she had fun being part of a winning campaign in a year that saw a rather rosy playing field for Democrats.  But simply being well-known and a member of the "American nobility" in a celebrity-driven society shouldn't be enough to axiomatically entitle her to be a member of the US Senate.

Jane Hamsher blogs at firedoglake.com