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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Who is Caroline Kennedy to Endorse Anyone?

By Michael Linn Jones

Henry David Thoreau once said that the state of a man’s mind is dependent upon the state of his bowels. Nothing truer has ever been said…anyone with intestinal flu will argue the point. Visual impairment also has an effect upon one’s state of mind, but fortunately not as drastic as the digestive system. When everything is fuzzy you might assume that fuzzy thinking is to follow.

Perhaps that is true. But I”ve managed to follow most of what has been going on with the primaries. Today I read an opinion piece by Ruth Hochberger in the Huffington Post, Endorsed by Caroline: What Was the Times Thinking?

Much has been written about why someone who has never before evidenced any particular political proclivity felt the need to declare for a candidate in a primary in a state in which there doesn’t seem to be much doubt who is likely to win. Some theorize her recent political conversion may stem from a lifelong search to recapture the dad she never knew or from an antipathy toward the Clintons.


One would also expect that one standard would be that the author has demonstrated some prolonged interest and acquired expertise in the field of the commentary: for example, an academic, a published author, a former government official. To my knowledge, Caroline Kennedy had a brief career as a lawyer, then authored a couple of well-reviewed volumes on privacy and constitutional law, and a collection of her mother’s favorite poetry.

So, why does the Times elect to publish a column basically extolling hope for the future as the prescribed elixir for our children? Could it be (gasp!)… a desire for publicity? A certain knowledge that Caroline Kennedy’s name — just like Britney on the cover of US Weekly– will attract attention, hit the wires, and maybe sell more newspapers or get more eyeballs to the Web? When I looked this morning, her column was the most frequently e-mailed at the moment.

If that’s the case, the Times has declined a bit in my estimation. No better, really, than People magazine. I still believe (I know, I know, I’m too old to be this naïve) that the principal function of journalism — including the editorials and commentary — is to educate. While I have no beef with Caroline, nor with her electoral choices, I am suspicious of the motives of the Times in publishing her opinions. There are way more qualified “endorsers” and way more educated and involved kids of politicians (if that’s what they were after) available. Their last names just aren’t “Kennedy.”

The impression I get is that Ms. Hochberger does not consider Caroline Schlossberg as “qualified” to endorse a political candidate. It is fair to ask if this sentiment would have been expressed had the endorsement gone to Sen. Clinton instead. I don’t know if Obama is the right choice…don’t know if Clinton is, either. But Mrs. Schlossberger is a citizen and entitled to an opinion.

Ms. Hochberger seems to feel that one must be an elite to offer political commentary, yet even that is qualified by what KIND of elite. Blogging (ewww!) allows a whole slew of “unqualified” people to offer opinion on things political. Blogging is the closest thing to a national townhall meeting that modern Americans have ever experienced. It’s quite untidy and full of opinions that vary as greatly as the people who populate this nation. The great unwashed are capable, believe it or not, of common sense from time to time and dare I say…wisdom?

To compare printing the thoughts of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg to Britney Spears is a blind swing of the axe. I”m a few years older than Caroline, but my unrefined and unqualified memory brings me to make certain observations about Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg:

* Her father was publicly murdered when she was six years old. Each November of her life since 1963 she has to endure the possibility that someone will ask her about the Zapruder film, or something similarly insensitive.

* She was not quite 11 years old when her uncle Robert was gunned down.

* She is married and has 3 children. She has had the unique experience of burying her father, mother, and brother before she was 45 years of age. She has chosen to live a life of relative privacy both for herself and her family.

I probably shouldn’t mention that she is also an attorney, editor, and writer. Such activities are no indication that an individual has what it takes to express an opinion.
At least according to some.

But in my opinion, is Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg “qualified” to post an opinion in the New York Times?

You’re damned right she is. She’s earned it in a way very few could equal.
Originally posted at

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the words of the Lerner and Lowe song:

Don’t let it be forgot,
That once there was a spot
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.

The noble king, the elegant queen, the beautiful princess and prince.

It was what we made of it and is to be cherished despite the reality of history.

I hope Caroline can find the spirit she is seeking.

Aside to Michael:

I, too, struggle with visual impairment and, yest, it's true, people do equate blindness with a lack of intellect. I have been in checkout lines or accepting a package and attempting to sign my name and have had the cashier or delivery person say, "Just sign an X." Keep up the great writing and the enthusiasm!

4:09 PM  
Blogger Papamoka said...

Welcome to Papamoka Anonymous. Thanks for the comment and I look forward to many more. Please check his site out on the link in the post when you get a chance.

Side Note: Mike's vision is not doing well these days so keep him in your thoughts and prayers. He is an amazing man and a brilliant writer.

10:50 PM  

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