Incoming Obama administration Secretary of State Sen. Hillary Clinton has reportedly told some of her followers that she does not want her name used in their efforts to stop growing momentum for the appointment of Caroline Kennedy to serve out the remaining time on her Senate seat once she starts her new job.
Apparently Clinton doesn’t want to get enmeshed into the kind of political payback that was seen during Campaign 2008 when a small segment of her supporters worked to defeat her victorious rival for the Democratic nomination Sen. Barack Obama in his successful race against GOP Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain. The Politico reports:
Hillary Clinton has told her supporters not to involve her in their efforts to stop Caroline Kennedy’s path to the U.S. Senate, a person familiar with replacement discussions said.
The move clears a major obstacle between Kennedy and the seat.
Prominent Clinton supporters, including Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), union leader Stuart Applebaum and fundraiser Robert Zimmerman, recently expressed skepticism about the choice, suggesting that Clinton’s supporters would see naming Kennedy — a crucial Obama backer — as a slight.
All three “were told that their comments weren’t appreciated, and that if they have a candidate they prefer that is motivating their comments and actions, they need to make that crystal clear so that nobody thinks we’re behind it,” said a person close to the replacement talks.
Clinton is focused on her transition to the State Department, people close to her say, and being seen as meddling in the Senate choice would likely make her more enemies than friends.
“Sen. Clinton completely respects the privacy of his process so will not be commenting on it or any individual candidate, nor does any third party speak on her behalf,” said her spokesman, Philippe Reines.
There are probably several other reasons behind it:
REASON ONE: The press has started to pick up on the theme that Clinton supporters were trying to halt JFK’s daughter from filling out Hillary Clinton’s term and noting that Caroline Kennedy had caused a big political splash when she, her Uncle Teddy and some other Kennedy family members came out in a big way for Obama (talking about time for a new generation, and suggesting that Hillary and Bill Clinton were oh-so 20th Century).
Here’s a piece by Times Online:
[Caroline Kennedy’s] qualifications are being scorned openly by leading figures from Mrs Clinton’s camp, however. Anthony Weiner, a congressman, Stuart Applebaum, a union leader, and Robert Zimmerman, a fundraiser, have all voiced scepticism about Ms Kennedy’s candidacy recently. Some have suggested that appointing her would be a slight to Mrs Clinton, who was dismayed by the high-profile endorsement given to Barack Obama by Ms Kennedy, 51, and her uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy, at a crucial stage of the Democratic primary.
Critics point out that most of her career has been spent in the type of philanthropic work for education and the arts that might be associated with a minor member of the British Royal Family. Gary Ackerman, a congressman, said that he did not know what credentials Ms Kennedy had for the job “except that she has name recognition – but so does J-Lo.”
The supporters of Ms Kennedy, including the Rev Al Sharpton, the New York civil rights leader, have pointed out that such barbs might have also attached to Mrs Clinton when she stood for the Senate in 2000 on the back of her husband’s presidency.
A friend of Mrs Clinton told The Times: “That was entirely different. Hillary did not ask to be appointed, she ran for election and allowed herself to be excoriated by political opponents. Hillary is known as a fighter. What has Caroline Kennedy ever fought for?
“New York is in crisis with its finances collapsing, joblessness soaring and the upstate facing economic catastrophe. It needs representation rather than an episode of Dancing with the Stars.”
Mrs Clinton is understood to be keen to avoid widening the rift with the Kennedys or any suggestion of meddling with the Senate appointment. Aides said that she was focusing on the State Department and did not welcome the remarks being made by her supporters.
So the Times piece foreshadowed Ms. Clinton’s seeming uneasiness. But there is a second likely reason for her acting now:
REASON TWO: Hillary Clinton is showing that she is a smart public servant and politician by focusing on her new task, which will give her a new enhanced image.
A good politician sometimes has the motto “Don’t get mad, get even.” But there were times when Caroline Kennedy supported Hillary Clinton so she has not been a lifelong foe or ever been considered to be one, until the Obama endorsement.
Also: a smart politician will focus on the task at hand go a) expand his or her resume b) impress the public, his/her immediate superior c) do such good work that it comes to the attention of the news media which can then run stories that help shape (or reshape) an image.
REASON THREE: If there is sentiment in New York for Caroline Kennedy and New York’s Governor seems inclined to appoint her to the seat, then it would be politically counterproductive to even remotely seem connected to efforts to stop Kennedy.
Hillary Clinton will likely get a lot more media attention and press coverage as Secretary of State in a position that provides a non-partisan image (even though most of those who’ve held it have been closely identified with one part or the other).
It’s in her interest to squelch what could be a fruitless effort to deny Kennedy an appointment that will stem from the decision of one man who is reportedly increasingly impressed with her.
HERE’S A CROSS-SECTION OF WEBLOG REACTION TO THE CLINTON-KENNEDY STORY:
Steve Clemons asks the right questions (as usual) about a possible Senator Caroline Kennedy (Schlossberg), though you’ll have to ignore the unfortunate headline.
Sam Stein has more, but unfortunately relies on “multiple reports” of HRC supporters being idiots about the Kennedy possibility, even though Clinton has nothing to do with their political jealousies.
…and yes, I’ve heard from some of HRC supporters who don’t like the idea, but frankly, almost all of them are still in revenge mode, something that is not only a waste of time, but too petty for the problems we face today. Ignore the peanut gallery on this one.
As Clemons says in the post I linked to above, it’s not like Caroline is Sarah Palin, and she was nominated to be vice president, without one clue about anything remotely qualifying her for the job.
This is a non-issue for Clinton, who has moved on to matters of State, which with the world as it is upon Bush’s leaving will certainly keep her busy. But still, it evidently has to be said out loud. Don’t expect [MSNBC’s Chris] Matthews or other haters to drop it, however. Drama is their beat.
—Allahpundit notes that Fox News’ owner Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post has come out for Kennedy. The lively conservative blogger writes:
Yes indeed, appointing Caroline because she’s a Kennedy is a great leap forward from appointing a qualified woman or minority candidate in the interests of identity politics. As for that “unusually high profile” and the extra clout it supposedly brings, just ask Hillary, who took the job at State partly because she was going nowhere in the Senate despite worldwide fame and 18 million votes in the primary. The one good argument, which I made myself yesterday, is that Caroline’s an Obama crony and can count on quid pro quo from the White House for voting the way The One wants; if that’s how New Yorkers want to play it, trading qualifications for pork, that’s fine, but it’s as near as I can conceive to selling Obama the seat without going the full Blago route. What it really amounts to is an argument for electing pro-Obama celebrities — which is precisely what Caroline is.
On my way from JFK to my parents’ house today, one morning radio talk show was discussing the prospect of the appointment of Caroline Kennedy to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat. Specifically they were wondering what she’s done to deserve such an appointment and what sort of Senator she would be. Skepticism — to put it mildly — was oozing out of the radio.
From what I’m hearing on the ground in New York, this radio talk show host is not isolated in his criticism. In fact, there’s the distinct sense among the political establishment in NY that a Kennedy appointment would be seen as an insult, and Ben Smith reported this weekend that some NY Democrats are making their displeasure known.
So, people thought they were speaking for Hillary Clinton, but she’s nicer than they are and doesn’t want her beatification and ascension into the Department of State to be sullied by petty matters of New York State politics? Or, Hillary Clinton used other people to trash Caroline Kennedy, and now Hillary Clinton uses other people to claim she doesn’t want Caroline Kennedy trashed so her own reputation isn’t trashed? Or, Hillary Clinton still wants to trash Caroline Kennedy in revenge for backing Obama, and the “person familiar with replacement discussions” knows nothing?
One of the great things about the proliferation of political coverage is that you have a lot more to read, but you still don’t actually know what’s going on.
—The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reports that Kennedy called Clinton:
Caroline Kennedy has called Hillary Clinton to discuss her interest in the New York Senator’s seat, a source close to Clinton tells the Huffington Post. But the two, as of Monday, had yet to actually speak.
“[Kennedy] called,” said the source, “but they hadn’t connected as of yesterday morning.”
Nevertheless, Kennedy’s outreach to Clinton, who is leaving her seat to become Secretary of State, is another chapter in what is quickly becoming a fairly comprehensive public and private campaign for the Senate post. Kennedy has additionally been in touch with a host of prominent New York figures, including Governor David Paterson, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Kennedy has also hired a well-connected political hand to help steer her candidacy to success. Josh Isay, former chief of staff to Sen. Chuck Schumer and founder of the political consulting firm Knickerbocker SKD, is a well-connected figure within New York politics. He is controversial in progressive circles, in part because of a client list that includes Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Benjamin Netanyahu. But Isay also has obvious connections that could aid Kennedy in the short term, including ties to New York politicos and powerhouse unions like the SEIU.
When Hillary Clinton announced in November 1999 that she was running for the U.S. Senate to replace the legendary Sen. Patrick Moynihan, she had never cast a single vote as an elected officeholder. She had never put forth an agenda that the voters could decide whether she was the best candidate.
First lady. Lawyer. Advocate for healthcare and children’s issues.
But when she made it clear that she was going to seek the job, the New York Democratic congressional delegation stepped aside, bowing to the wishes of the First Lady, who had barely lived in New York state long enough to figure out where to find a great slice of pizza. Even Rep. Nita Lowey, who had spent 10 years in the House of Representatives and was considered the frontrunner for the Senate seat, bowed out to accommodate the wishes of Clinton.
So here we are nine years later, and there is a huge fuss over Caroline Kennedy’s decision to let New York Gov. David Patterson know that she desires the job.
It’s rather pathetic to listen to the naysayers deride Kennedy’s past accomplishments and dismiss them as if she was a spoiled rich kid of a family who has bounced from Paris to Monaco to Dubai, living the high life, and all of a sudden deciding that she wants to ride the Kennedy name into elected office.
New York Congressman Gary Ackerman did his best to dismiss Kennedy’s qualifications by saying that “she has name recognition – but so does J-Lo.” Even Sen. Clinton’s rabid supporters are trying to scuttle her bid, still angry because she endorsed then-Sen. Barack Obama over their candidate for president. Frankly, it’s time you got the hell over it.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.