Andrew Sullivan – who loyal readers of the blog will know is the reason I began to blog – is hyperventilating today. In a post titled “Less Qualified Than Palin,” Sullivan wants to convince his readers that Caroline Kennedy is like Sarah Palin. But his argument fails miserably to prove the point he wants to make:
In fact, Sarah Palin was more qualified to be vice-president than Caroline Kennedy is to be a Senator.
The problem with Sarah Palin that Sullivan more than anyone else made was that she was not a serious candidate in that she hadn’t seriously considered the issues that would be facing her as Vice President. This was the qualification she was lacking that Sullivan rightly harped on. As he wrote immediately after she was announced:
Yes, Obama is inexperienced in foreign policy. But at least he has thought seriously about it. Do you really believe that Sarah Palin understands the distinctions between Shia and Sunni, has an opinion about the future of Pakistan, has a view of how to exploit rifts within Tehran’s leadership, knows about the tricky task of securing loose nuclear weapons? [my emphasis]
These are issues that Palin would be faced with as Vice President – and based on her public comments, she hadn’t seriously dealt with the issues. And her lack of serious thought on the issue seemed to be the result of deliberate ignorance – or perhaps incuriousness – as Sullivan pointed out citing George Will:
Can you name a single newspaper or magazine you currently read? If you can, you are more qualified to be president than Sarah Palin.
And you can feel him stretching the facts to make his point fit in his recent piece claiming Caroline Kennedy – who can almost certainly name a few dozen newspapers and magazines she reads, as well as a few she has published serious pieces in. The worst example is how Sullivan takes this statement by Kennedy:
“I’ve written books on the Constitution and the importance of individual participation. And I’ve raised my family.”
And responds to that sentence with: “Good for you. But so have millions of others.” I presume he only means the latter part. He describes the above defense as “even more painful than Palin’s.”
Really? Remember this?
Look – I’m not saying Caroline Kennedy is the best possible candidate for the Senate seat. But the over-the-top criticism by Andrew Sullivan – as well as others – demonstrates a lack of perspective. Caroline Kennedy – with her involvement in constitutional law and education issues – can bring that experience with her to the Senate.
Kathleen Parker gets to the heart of the issue in a way that defuses Andrew Sullivan’s argument:
The real rub is that she hasn’t earned it. The sense of entitlement implicit in Kennedy’s plea for appointment mocks our national narrative. We honor rags-to-riches, but riches-to-riches animates our revolutionary spirit.
Palin paid her own passage unfreighted by privilege. But I and others opposed her spot on the Republican ticket for good reasons, some of which resemble concerns now aimed at Kennedy.
To wit: It isn’t enough to want the prize. One must be up to the job, in a league with one’s fellow actors.
In Kennedy’s case, those actors would be senators, not heads of other, potentially belligerent, nations. If appointed, she would be a single vote among 100 and otherwise a placeholder until 2010, when she would have to run for election as any other.
Which is to say there are three differences here that make all the difference:
- Kennedy is “a relatively erudite person who has authored several books” including on legal issues while Palin had a “demonstrated lack of basic knowledge…intellectual incuriosity, and… inability to articulate ideas or even simple thoughts [which] all combined to create an impression of not-quite-there.”
- Kennedy wants to be 1 of 100 senators; Palin wanted to be 1 old man’s heartbeat away from being Commander-in-Chief.
- Kennedy would need to run in two years on her own to keep the seat.
These are significant differences – which makes this sentiment all the more jarring, especially from a normally astute observer like Sullivan.