Strange tale of Caroline Kennedy

The aborted bid by Caroline Kennedy for the U.S. Senate from New York is certainly one of the stranger chapters in American political history.

According to Associated Press, a person who worked closely with Kennedy said she was withdrewing her Senate bid because of a personal matter unrelated to her ill uncle. Kennedy, the 51-year-old daughter of President John Kennedy, had emerged as a front-runner to replace Hillary Clinton. But there were questions about her experience and her reluctance to answer questions about her finances. Kennedy discussed withdrawing from the race with Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday, and Paterson asked her to reconsider for 24 hours, the person said. But by 11 p.m. Wednesday, the associate said, Kennedy decided she couldn’t take the job if appointed, and she issued a statement shortly after midnight saying she was withdrawing.

Kennedy did not decide to bow out because her uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, suffered a seizure during an inaugural luncheon Tuesday, the person said. The 76-year-old Massachusetts senator was diagnosed in May with an aggressive type of brain tumor. The person wasn’t authorized to disclose the conversation between Kennedy and the governor and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The person would give no other details about the personal matter. Kennedy’s one-sentence statement ended hours of uncertainty as she appeared to waver. “I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate.” There was no comment from Paterson. So, it seems that we’ll never know what really prompted Kennedy to not seek the appointment. Was it secrecy? Kennedy, an author, lawyer and fundraiser for New York City schools, has long guarded her privacy, and the questionnaires were expected to include some closely guarded Kennedy financial data. Paterson had said he thought the candidates’ responses would be confidential because it was his personal request that they fill them out.

But the state’s open-government expert and good-government groups told the AP that once the forms were written and submitted to the governor at least some of the responses would be subject to public review under the state Freedom of Information Law. Or was it because Patterson had picked someone else? Had Hillary Clinton persuaded him not to appoint her. After all, it was Kennedy’s early endorsement of Barack Obama that severly damaged Clinton’s own bid for the presidency.

 Kennedy hardly set the political world on fire and was no sure bet to win re-election in two years. She jumped to the top of statewide polls in early December, but her public support waned following a brief upstate tour and a few press interviews.She was criticized as reluctant to answer questions, and her knowledge of New York and its issues were suspect. She was also mocked nationwide for her frequent use of “you know” and “um” in interviews and was branded a lackluster campaigner.

So, her campaign is over, about as abruptly as it began. And we’ll probably never know not only why she decided not to see the appointment but why she even sought it in the first place.

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