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Susan Estrich
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Caroline's Exit


I do not know what ultimately persuaded Caroline Kennedy to withdraw her name from consideration for the U.S. Senate. Maybe it was something about taxes or a housekeeper, the two rumors that seem to have the most "juice" as I write this. To be honest, I don't care. All I know is that it's too bad. I believe she would have been a wonderful senator — committed, compassionate and inspirational. I believe we desperately need more women like her, women of stature, women who command attention, who could do and be anything in the world, but choose public service.

I am certain she isn't perfect. I am certain that if you dig long and hard enough, you would find mistakes of some sort.

The sad part is that it should, would, did disqualify her from doing what she might have done to help people and to inspire a generation of women — girls today — to walk in her footsteps.

I do not begrudge her the decision she made. At a time when the process of "vetting" people for public office has mushroomed into 100-page questionnaires that few people who have lived outside a convent could pass, it never surprises me when a high-profile person takes their name out of contention. What is surprising, in a way, is when they don't.

Tim Geithner, Treasury Secretary designate, has some unpaid tax problems, as well. He is, presumably, something of an expert in tax matters. There is an even better case, as to him, that he should have known better. I have no doubt his taxes will be paid (they already have been) and that the "delinquency," if that's what it was, will have absolutely no impact on his fulfillment of his official responsibilities. But I have to wonder whether he would have been picked in the first place if the tax problems had been known then. Somehow I doubt it. Too bad.

I don't think I know anybody who has never done anything wrong. I don't think I know anyone who has never made a mistake, had one made as to them or trusted someone they shouldn't have.

Some of these people, luckily for them and us, go on to become president. Some of them are forced to give up their dreams. Usually, it has more to do with how they "handle" the mistake — whether they succeed in getting out front of it and spinning it away before it blows up in their face.

Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama became president notwithstanding admissions of drug and alcohol use. Doug Ginsburg was denied a seat on the Supreme Court because he was witnessed smoking marijuana at a party. Zoe Baird was denied the top job at Justice because she didn't pay Social Security for her housekeeper. Kimba Wood was denied the same seat even though she did — as a matter of fact, she was the one who taught me how to do it and explained to me why it would be so important to the recipient in the future to have the Social Security paid in. My housekeeper will be retiring in a few years, and she can thank Kimba Wood for the fact that she will receive full benefits. But somehow, it cost Kimba the job lawyers spend a lifetime dreaming of. I can't even remember why.

Caroline Kennedy will be just fine. She will go on to work for the causes she cares about, to be a loving wife and mother and cousin and aunt to her family. But when a little girl walks into the gallery of the United States Senate, she will have a hard time recognizing anyone who looks like her as she looks down on the assembled senators. There are strong and smart women there, but none who would inspire in that little girl the same dream Caroline Kennedy could inspire, none who will make her feel, as Obama today makes countless young African-Americans feel, that they can do anything, and that nothing they could do matters more than serving their fellow Americans.

I wanted Caroline Kennedy to serve in the Senate not because she deserves the job more than any other contender — doubtless, there are others who have worked harder to be there — or because she knows the issues better. I wanted her to serve because her very presence on that floor, the presence of a woman who has throughout my life been larger than life, might inspire so many other girls to dream the sort of dream that our country's future depends upon.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



18 Comments | Post Comment
Sorry about Caroline, but, you were against Sarah Palin? A dream for the MSM has now been destroyed. One cannot have it both ways. Palin has much more experience in the ways of government than Kennedy who stayed at home all her life. Indeed if the comments about the illegal citzen working in her home and unpaid taxes are true it only fits the Democrats image of being corrupt. I think the Governor of New York did the Right Thing.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Gene44
Fri Jan 23, 2009 7:43 AM
Susan, I wish you would get over this notion that the Kennedy Family has the answer to running this country. Why not let this new woman, Kirsten Gillibrand, have a shot. She may not have the "Kennedy" name, but she is more a moderate and has won elections being the same. Let's have new people and faces in the government instead of the same old dynasties. The one thing that is consistent is that the same old names keep running our country in the ground. The two branches of government remain the same, with the same kind of people in charge, no matter who is President. They are the ones who make the laws that has put such a burden on our Country. Let's have change, and let different people serve our country who has not inherited it by virture of their name.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Anne
Fri Jan 23, 2009 10:13 AM
The statute of limitations for Murder never runs out. Thats what he did to Mary Jo. He also drove his poor wife Joan to drink and now we find out Caroline is no different than her father JFK, her uncle Robert and uncle Teddy. One good thing is when Teddy goes he will meet his father Joe,and his brothers Bobby and JFK in HELL. Thanks T.J. Gildea
Comment: #3
Posted by: thomas gildea
Fri Jan 23, 2009 10:36 AM
Susan, with all due respect to your opinion, I do not understand why Caroline Kennedy as a senator (based 100% on her name) would have somehow been more inspirational to little girls than other women who have earned success, such as you! Please explain.
Comment: #4
Posted by: jill day
Sat Jan 24, 2009 6:32 AM
Ms. Estridge, how sad it is you seem intent on destroying any credibility you maty have outside of the Democrat elite and the lunatic liberal fringe. You hold your friends and fellow travellers to one set of standards, and everyone else to quite another. You don't care what criminal activity C. Kennedy may be guilty of, she'd still make a wonderful Senator? If she was the conservative daughter of a Republican President, you'd be screaming from the rooftops what a bad choice she was.
And what makes you believe that a tax cheat, other than being a Democrat, is a viable choice for Treasury Sec.? As more details come to light, his were not innocent mistakes in accounting, it was outright fraud. And by the way, he only made restitution when he learned he was the nominee. If he weren't a player in Democratic political circles, the IRS would have been freezing and siezing.
And it always amazes me how lawyers refuse the plain text reading of any section of the constitution they disagree with. Please tell me, which part of Article I, Section 6 doesn't disqualify Senator Clinton to be the Sec. of State?
The 14th Amendment guarantee's equal protection under the law. I have to wonder where learned that some are more equal then others.
Comment: #5
Posted by: typical white person
Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:50 PM
Re: thomas gildea;..Sir,.. All us Irish go to hell, but we are always so busy shaking hands with old friends and making time with hot chicks that we never notice even when our butts are on fire... You know what; I don't like those kennedys...I don't like the way old Joe lobotomized his idiot daughter so he would not have to keep her on a leash...But here is the thing...I'm gutter Irish compared to them.... You heard that old joke about the wheel barrow being invented to teach the Irish how to walk??? That was me they were talking about...Working class all the way... When some guy like Teddy says the democratic party is the voice of the working man, it makes me want my voice back...Why do rich folks even with the best intentions think they know what working people want and need???I know what we need, and I know what we think we need... We think we need good and honorable leaders...Fair enough, but wrong...What we all need is self government... Even if we have representatives, we all need the opportunity to send them back to the drawing board to come up with something better...I know you don't like me...I know you may not like Catholics; especially rotten ones like the kennedys and myself... But I support your right to decide on your own affairs, and I hope you would do the same for me.... One thing is certain... All those American royalty have nothing new to offer this country...I hope the Kennedys are about done making a spectacle of themselves... They are making us look bad...I mean; they are making us look stupid without doing beans to excuse our bad behavior as they can their own, as the spoiled brats of wealth...If they passed me a million, I'd try to like them... Short of that they are just trash...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:16 PM
wow, it's sad to see someone of your stature being so blinded by celebrity, and celebrity much removed. paterson has named a woman. a woman who has worked hard, probably voted in all elections, went to law school, is a mom and apparently is a popular representative. while ms. kennedy may be qualified to serve as a senator (and the qualifiications are minimal so that the little person could run, except for no support for one of the two parties and a bazillion dollars) she is woefully lacking in experience. is there direction in her life? or is she dabbling? personally, i want a woman representative that can stand up in a fray and communicate with the best of them. sorry, but i think you are on thin ice here.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Scruz
Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:23 PM
What the heck was Carolines achievements in life? That she passed the Law boards! As a Law Professor I can assure you that lawyers are being churned out who haven't the foggiest idea about the law. Liberals like you excoriate President Bush for trampling our Constitution while lauding our 16th President who not only trampled it every chance he got but suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Roger Taney, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court voiced his opinion in his Ex parte Merryman opinion. Then again Ms Estrich YOU know all that. Now Lincoln is revered and worshipped by the clueless and brainwashed which sad to say are the vast majority of American's. Now Mr Obama, having ascended to his lofty perch high above the common man, zero's in on a certain radio personality in order to deflect any real criticism of himself. When will American citizens awaken? When the U.S. Dollar becomes the Icelandic Krona and we awake to the dawn of a new age. Yes the age of a North American Union run by the Socialist Bankers, dare I say The FED who have BK our once great country. You and the people like you have an evil agenda. That is why many fight so hard to keep you from abolishing a certain amendment. The time will come when American's fight back. They will have ample courage and the ability to do so.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Max Bialystock
Sun Jan 25, 2009 5:34 AM
Maybe I'm missing something, but should we be looking for people who actually know something? Palin had far more experience but she was cut down. It's sad to see such little balance in the media, much less one columnist. The only good thing that is happening in the media is that it's no longer "hidden." Everyone with half a brain sees the far left agenda in play.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Darek
Sun Jan 25, 2009 9:13 AM
Your allegience to the Kennedy's is unbelievable. As an ex democrat now independent (more conservative) I always admired Jackie Kennedy and her children. I am sorry but I do not feel Caroline was senate material. Yes, we all make mistakes (known actions on all). If they were republicans you would be calling for their heads. After what the liberals put George Bush through I have no respect for any of them especially Pelosi and Reid.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Kathaleen McCausland
Sun Jan 25, 2009 2:50 PM
Re: Darek;...I wouldn't care if she was Einstein, God, or the Apostle Paul; because there is not one person on this earth better at telling the needs of a person than that person with the needs... We have out grown representative democracy; but Government has shrunk before our eyes...You tell me why the founding fathers had one representative for every thirty thousand, and we have one representative for every 600,000...It is an obscene denial of democracy, and every failure of government can be laid on this single fact: That we do not know our representatives, and they do not know us, and we are so numerous that they can divide us rather than gratify us... This government once worked; and leadership is not the reason it now fails us; but because power will not be loosed even when two could do the job better that one cannot do at all... We might survive with a truly representative democracy, but it is not superior to everyone having a say on their own affairs and a veto on any infringement of rights... And government cannot correct itself, so if we cannot reform it, we are done with it... Thanks; and be a leader... Don't look for a leader.... Go your own way, look ahead and don't look for followers... Disorganize... Sweeney
Comment: #11
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:09 PM
As a NY registered upstate Democrat for almost 30 yrs I'm thrilled our Hon. Gov. David Paterson chose a qualified person to fill our now departed Senate seat. I can't believe you'd believe because Caroline Kennedy was born into a long time Democratic family she somehow could "inspire a generation of women to walk in her footsteps." That's so unlikely anyone else could do so with few storied families to compare too and it's not someones right to any elected political position because of their family name.

Shame on you for assuming many other girls won't dream the sort of dream to serve, most of the other women in this country will have to work hard for the jobs they seek and don't have the luxury of relying on the Kennedy name. Yes indeed Ms. Kennedy has faced unspeakable sadness with the tragic loss of so many family members and we'll never know exactly why she removed herself from the selection process but that does not make her a suitable Senate candidate.

Her voting record was terrible considering the voting booth is like a second home to the Kennedy's and it's likely the doors opened quickly for her when fund raising so it's unrealistic to think it didn't play a role in her success.

If she's so skilled in public service perhaps Obama will appoint her as an Ambassador or another less high profile state will encourage her to be their Senator. She didn't speak well in public, she has little idea what goes on in State or Federal politics and she could never have caught up to the experience level or passion of Ms. Gillibrand just by being tutored by her Uncle and relatives.

Kudos to the Hon. Gov. Paterson for having the courage to make the right decision.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Heather
Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:39 AM
I think you are mistaken in stating 'I wanted her to serve because... might inspire so many other girls to dream the sort of dream that our country's future depends upon'
In fact, it would have led them to think that they need to be daughter or wife of a president to get to the Senate.
Choosing another woman, who presumably climbed the ladder the hard way, sends the correct message.
Comment: #13
Posted by:
Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:57 PM
For all the Kennedy fans out there, here's a thought experiment: imagine that Presidents Nixon and the two Bushes had their terms cut short after the same amount of service as JFK. Their approval ratings just less than three years in were all at or above 50%, which is in the same neighborhood as JFK's when he was cut down. Granted, Kennedy had more charisma than all three of those guys put together, but when you judge his presidency, you have to remember how short it was and how different a presidency can look after 31 months than after 48 or 96, especially when it ends in a tragic fashion that engenders sympathy for him and his family.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Compared2What
Mon Jan 26, 2009 5:23 PM
My daughter already aspires to be just like Caroline Kennedy. She expects me, her father, to buy her everything she wants, put her up in a mansion, and smooth over all the problems in her life. The only problem is, I'm just a working schmuck and she gets kicked back to reality on a daily basis. Guess Caroline getting kicked back to reality once in her life isn't such a dreadful thing by my daughter's way of thinking.
Comment: #15
Posted by: Tim R
Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:22 AM
Nice article hypocrite. A woman who's only qualification is that she's a Kennedy would be a good role model. Meanwhile, in your November 12th article "Sarah Palin mattered", you slam her as unqualifed, while she actually had more experience that Obama himself in actually governing something. Wouldn't she have been an "inspiration" to all those girls to dream the sort of dream that our country's future depends upon? Or is it only little Democrat girls can dream? You're such a jerk.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Peter
Wed Jan 28, 2009 4:31 AM
Wow, can anyone be any more hypocritical? In your article dated November 12, 2008, you talk about Sarah Palin and some of the mistakes she made. ie: different quotes to the press, etc. and how she was unqualified for the position. But in this article, you're an apologist for people who've made mistakes. Which is it??? Sorry to say, but compared to Obama, a man who has done little with his life but has written about his achievements as if he had found the cure for cancer, Sarah Palin was very qualified. But Caroline, because of who she's related to should be in the office? In your article you state: "I believe we desperately need more women like her, women of stature, women who command attention, who could do and be anything in the world, but choose public service." If this is true, this is Sarah Palin. Not someone who was appointed to some Board of Directors because of who her father was. And finally you say "she might inspire so many other girls to dream the sort of dream that our country's future depends upon." I guess only little Democrat girls are allowed to dream, eh Susan?
Comment: #17
Posted by: Peter
Wed Jan 28, 2009 5:11 AM
Ms. Estritch:
What is this infatuation of women of a certain age with Caroline Kennedy? You, Maureen Dowd, Ruth Marcus, Kathleen Parker, Sally Quinn, and others all are heartbroken over the non-appointment of Ms. Kennedy. Surely you were toddlers during the Camelot years and you have believed the mystique for all this time.
An inspiration to young girls everywhere is NOT an heiress with no real life experiences who would have had the position handed to her without any effort.
No, an inspiration to young girls is the success of a Sen. Susan Collins, or Sen. Patty Murray, or Sec. Rice, or Sec. Janet Napolitano, or even Gov. Sarah Palin! These are women that earned their positions through hard work, education, and grit.
Fortunely, American girls (and women) have plenty of inspiration, from both parties, without the appointment of Ms. Kennedy. And she can run for the office, just like everyone else!
Comment: #18
Posted by: Sydney Olson
Fri Feb 6, 2009 11:37 AM
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