Caroline Kennedy would like to be a senator. I don’t blame her. So would I! Especially if Governor Paterson could just waft me into office, and I didn’t have to, um, you know, campaign. I’ll bet some parts of the job are really fun, and it’s public service, which is so uplifting. You think I’m joking, but every argument that has been advanced for Kennedy is just as true for me. She’s a mother, a writer, a person with no electoral experience or, so far as we know, longstanding interest in acquiring any–me too! She has more kids; I’ve written more books–I’d say it averages out.
In her column in The New York Times Magazine, Lisa Belkin argues that it’s sexist to write off mothers who have opted out of the standard male-defined career path and want to come back into the workforce in midlife: it’s not like those women have been twiddling their thumbs. They just don’t have a traditional ten-single-spaced-page résumé of directly related paid employment, like (Belkin’s zinger) “playing for the NBA or the NFL or starring on ‘The Love Boat.'” Quite right: besides the books and the children, Kennedy has a law degree, she’s sat on worthy boards, raised money for the New York City public schools and (although, oddly, Belkin doesn’t mention this) she served, apparently quite effectively, on Obama’s vice presidential search committee. “Take away the part about her father the president and her uncles the senators, ignore for the moment her Park Avenue address, peel away the talk of the dangers of dynasty and the power of privilege, don’t even touch the question of whether anyone would be picking apart her credentials if it were a male Kennedy who was under consideration–and what is at the core of all this shouting is what, nowadays, counts as experience.” Exactly. Take away all that, and what have you got? Someone as fit to be in the Senate as me. My relatives are also pretty great, if you want to know, and furthermore raise no awkward dynastic issues, being rooted in the meat business and the less profitable parts of the legal profession. I would be the very first senator in the history of the Pollitt and Levine clans. And as for opting out–I am so opted out, the high point of one recent week was catching the rarely rerun Stephen Colbert episode on Law & Order.
I really don’t see how Governor Paterson can resist me. He is, by all accounts, a reasonable man, able, as Belkin advises, to set aside irrelevant stuff like Kennedy’s family, wealth, reluctance to reveal her finances, fondness for verbalized pauses, apparent diffidence and lifelong lack of zeal for politics. Her cousin Kerry Kennedy said on Hardball that she didn’t know Caroline’s position on abortion (she’s prochoice) because they had never discussed it. If true, those two have indeed led a charmed life, and so has everyone they know, because, besides abortion being one of the most-discussed issues of our lifetime, unwanted pregnancy is one of the things life tends to throw at women, and women do talk about it among themselves. It’s good to know that Kennedy is prochoice, but as with many other of her stated positions–opposition to the Iraq War, support for labor law reform and fair trade–we have no idea how firmly she holds these views or how much she cares about them. That would definitely not be a problem with me: it’s all laid out in print.