THE BLOG
12/21/2008 06:32 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Caroline Kennedy in the Senate

Caroline Kennedy has expressed an interest in being appointed to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Hillary Clinton's designation as secretary of state by President-elect Obama.

Why not?

Well, some people think it's a bad idea. They say her interest in the appointment is presumptuous; that this can't be about family entitlement. They also say she has no real political experience, that the rough and tumble of politics wouldn't suit her; that being a senator from New York is too demanding and too public for someone seen as a private person.

But they also know it's politically ill-advised to challenge Ms. Kennedy's qualifications for office without expressing one's love of the Kennedy family; of the deep sadness felt by her father's assassination, her mother's early passing, and her brother's death. They love Caroline, her critics say, but believe others more qualified.

Some people in politics do this because that's what some people in politics do -- offer fidelity on the one hand and betrayal on the other.

Those who oppose Ms. Kennedy tell the Governor, David Paterson, that she's the wrong choice, but at the end of the night it's his decision -- and his alone.

The question is whether the governor understands that, in Caroline Kennedy, he has the opportunity to rise above politics by appointing a person who transcends them; a person of substance and achievement, of extraordinary grace and remarkable character; a person with a deep commitment to the public interest, not as narrowly defined by the politics of running for public office, but by serving on public boards and commissions, by extensive involvements in the arts and education, by being a wife and mother, and, not least, by having faithfully honored her family's legacy of dedication and service to America - and no family has ever served this nation with greater distinction.

The charge that Ms. Kennedy has been absent from the public square is spurious. She's been in the public square, but on the other side from those consumed by politics. To those thus addicted Ms. Kennedy's appointment may be undeserved, but to most New Yorkers, and indeed to many Americans, her above politics attributes are precisely why she would be a brilliant choice. Moreover, how often does a governor get a chance to appoint someone valued as a national treasure.

It is, of course, the height of arrogance to suggest that Ms. Kennedy, by not having served in elective office, is thereby incapable of understanding the demands of elective office.

The notion that Ms. Kennedy, a Harvard and Columbia Law School graduate, who performed superbly as Director of Strategic Partnerships for New York City Schools - in 22-months she raised $65 million for public schools (she was paid $1 a year) -- and who continues to provide enlightened leadership as Vice Chair of the Fund for Public Schools, who is President of the Kennedy Library Foundation, a Director of the Commission on Presidential Debates and the NAACP Legal and Education Fund, an adviser to the Harvard Institute of Politics, and was a key adviser to Barack Obama during the presidential campaign, that somehow such a person would fail the test of public office because she hasn't been in public office, is absurd.

The argument that a person whose maternal great-grandfather, John Francis "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald was Mayor of Boston, whose father, John F. Kennedy, was President of the United States, whose uncle Robert F. Kennedy was Attorney General of the United States and U.S. Senator from New York, whose other uncle, Edward M. Kennedy, is the legendary U. S. Senator from Massachusetts, whose cousin Patrick Kennedy serves in the U.S. House of Representatives, as did her cousin Joseph Kennedy, whose cousin Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was Lt. Governor of Maryland, who has cousins serving in state legislatures and city council from Maryland to Santa Monica, whose other cousins are involved in issues of social justice, human rights, the disabled, impoverished children, and saving the environment, that such a person doesn't get politics is an argument as empty as it is fatuous.

The decision before Governor Paterson brings to mind the story of Helen Keller, the first deaf/blind person to ever graduate from an American college or university; an individual, not unlike the governor, of remarkable achievements.

Ms. Keller was once asked, "When did you lose your vision?" She answered, "I lost my eyesight; I never lost my vision." Neither has Governor Paterson, which is why he will appoint Caroline Kennedy to the U.S. Senate.

Ms. Kennedy's subsequent exemplary service in behalf of the people of New York and the nation will demonstrate the wisdom of Governor Paterson's choice.

George Mitrovich is president of The City Club of San Diego. He was press secretary to Senator Charles E. Goodell, Republican of New York, who was appointed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller to the U.S. Senate upon Senator Robert F. Kennedy's death. He can be reached at gmitro35@gmail.com.