Vet the Princess Before She's Crowned


I don't have anything against Caroline Kennedy, though I sort of hate to see her get into electoral politics.

I was in second grade when her father was assassinated about two hours from my home in North Texas, and I always thought of her as keeper of something more pristine and noble than the shenanigans common to life in the nation's capital.

But Ms. Kennedy is a citizen of this country, and if she wants to run for the U.S. Senate, she should. I encourage it with one caveat. She's the closest thing Americans have to a princess, but she needs to remember the most sacred title she holds is "citizen."

That said, it's time for reporters to get past Celebrity Junior Senator 2.0 and to start vetting Ms. Kennedy's ideas and positions.

I don't care who her mother was or who her father was or who her uncle was or is, and I don't care about the tired, threadbare storyline of whether her candidacy would signal the continuation of some type of political dynasty (as if this family depends on her candidacy this year for that).

I don't care whether she can raise money outside New York, so she won't take away from Gov. David Paterson's ability to raise money in-state for his re-election. I don't care if a Kennedy on the ticket or a Cuomo on the ticket makes it easier for Paterson to be re-elected in his own right.

I don't care if her endorsement turned the tide for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, or if her work for the Obama campaign awakened some inner calling in her -- and I don't care if Hillary Clinton cares about any of this at all.

I do care about her vision for my adopted state and this country, and what her specific priorities will be as a U.S. Senator from New York.

I also care about the criteria Paterson is using to name the person who will represent me in Washington, and I care about having a public discussion about it -- and whether journalists put Kennedy and Paterson on the record on all this -- before the decision is made.

(Attention New York reporters: I know it isn't "sexy" as they say on the campaign trail. I know it doesn't get your story read on Hardball or Morning Joe or passed around by Ms. Kennedy's staff or mailed out with her fundraising letters. But it matters. It matters a lot to a lot of us.)

So, if you can't figure out what to ask Ms. Kennedy or at least her flack, here are some questions. (I hope anyone reading this would feel free to add their own in the comments section below.):

• Where does she stand on using our tax money for auto industry bailouts?

• What to her are the non-negotiable elements of the looming economic stimulus package?

• Is her vision of national heathcare closer to the proposals offered this year by Obama, Clinton or Edwards?

• How much more supplemental funding for the Iraq war would she authorize?

• Does she support repeal the Defense of Marriage Act?

It is time for the vaunted, so-called in-your-face New York press corps to get the stars out of its eyes and get some answers before Paterson makes his decision, so we all can let him know what we think about it.

So far, all we have -- one more time -- is the same old predictable "Insider Baseball."

Last night, I clicked on Larry King Live just long enough to see political heavyweight Sarah Jessica Parker, identified as a personal friend of Ms. Kennedy (whatever that means) assuring us that she is qualified for the job.

Today, Adam Nagourney and Nicholas Confessore let New York Times readers know that life could be different for Ms. Kennedy, because the NYC tabloid press, which has left her alone most of her life here, is itching to talk to her.

Over at the New York Daily News Glenn Blain went to Syracuse to cover a meeting she had with an upstate mayor. Blain reported that she didn't answer reporter's questions, but that her decision to wear "a dark overcoat and matching pantsuit ...added a dash of glamour to an otherwise dreary day." He also nailed the mayor to the record saying, "She seemed pleasant ...certainly well-read."

The New York Post continued its dubious coverage of anything significant by dispensing with the pesky act of reporting altogether and getting to the bottom line: an unequivocal editorial endorsement before any semblance of public discussion has taken place.

Out of town at the Washington Post, Ann Kornblut let us know that Kennedy had a catharsis of sorts during the Obama campaign and learned she liked public life more than she thought.

All of this in the wake of David Halbfinger of the Times, who on Monday offered a clip-job/reaction profile based largely on snippets of her past public involvement taken from a resume or news stories anyone can find on the Internet or Lexis-Nexis.

As an old newspaper reporter, I hate to say it, but where are Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric when you need them?