Here we go again. A prominent woman is up for a job and, all of a sudden, comes under attack about whether she is qualified. In recent months it happened to Sarah Palin, and now it’s happening to Caroline Kennedy.
Just what are the qualifications? According to the Constitution, to serve as President or Vice-president, you must be at least thirty-five years old, a native-born U.S. citizen, and have lived in the U.S. for fourteen years. For the Senate, you must be at least thirty years of age, reside in the state you represent, and have been a U.S. Citizen for nine years. Therefore, Palin was qualified for the Vice-presidency, and Kennedy is qualified for the Senate. Whether they are competent is another matter. The only way to know whether they are really competent would be to assess past performance, or to give them the job and see what happens. Call it the gamble of democracy. Or, as Forrest Gump would say, “You never know what you’re going to get!”
New York’s Democratic Governor, David Paterson, will choose the replacement for Hillary Clinton. "She (Kennedy) told me she was interested in the position," Paterson told the Associated Press. "It's not a campaign. She'd like at some point to sit down."
New York's senior Senator, Charles Schumer, said he has also talked to Caroline Kennedy about the job. "And she's clearly interested," he told AP.
But after an initial wave of the excitement that always accompanies the Kennedy name, concerns arose. Caroline Kennedy, while very active for civic causes and charities, has never held elective office. Her appointment would be for only two years, and she’d stand for reelection in 2010. At that point the term of outgoing Senator Hillary Clinton would extend only two more years, so if Kennedy wanted to stay on, she’d have to run again in 2012. That’s a lot of campaigning in a big state.
Democratic New York Congressman Gary Ackerman is among those raising doubts. He told Time Magazine he didn't know of any qualifications that Kennedy has, "except that she has name recognition — but so does J. Lo."
That’s a very funny line from Ackerman, who is perenially one of the funniest people in Congress. But his point rings true to many, especially to some Republicans who may challenge Kennedy, or to any other Democrat who seeks the seat.
"As far as record of achievement, I strongly believe that I'm much more qualified, much more experienced, and have an independent record," said Rep. Peter King (R-NY). "Nothing against Caroline Kennedy, but I don't think anyone has a right to a seat."
Governor Paterson plans to meet with Caroline Kennedy and the other finalists soon. Barring an Illinois-style scandal, we should know pretty soon who will get the U.S. Senate seat from New York.
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