02/22/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Did Caroline Kennedy Drop Out?

Of course, no one but Caroline Kennedy knows the real reasons she withdrew from consideration as Senator from New York.

But there are two likely explanations:
1. She realized that Governor David Patterson had decided not to appoint her so she took her name out of the ring to avoid embarrassment.
2. She discovered that the political arena involves a sacrifice of personal privacy that made her uncomfortable and she got out before it was too late.

Until we hear more from Kennedy, we are left guessing, but I am inclined to believe that she discovered that she is more like Jackie than like Jack. Her mother kept the media at arm's length. Her father loved the rough and tumble of political life; he enjoyed sparring with reporters. He also lived before the era of total scrutiny and was able to keep his private life shielded from public view.

That era is long gone and no politician can keep the intimate details of their private life out of the tabloids. Drugs, sexual indiscretions, squabbles with one's partner, temper tantrums, the stuff that once used to be secret is no longer secret.

My hunch is that six weeks of intense media scrutiny was more than Caroline could stomach. Worse, this is a woman who has lived a quiet life in which she was treated as royalty by the public and the media. People lined up to see her and to touch her. Coverage was always deferential.

Now, as an aspirant for a political job, she was treated like any other grubby job-seeker. Reporters took off the kid gloves, asked her tough questions about her qualifications and her personal fortune, and bridled when she ducked their questions. Columnists speculated that she had no qualifications and that the few she offered were inflated. Caroline Kennedy learned that she had descended into the mosh pit of politics, where no one is treated deferentially, and where her name and her heritage were no longer protection from criticism and attack.

My guess is that after six weeks in the spotlight, she longed to regain her private life. Who could blame her?