CAROLINE KENNEDY – MORE MEDIA GENDER BIAS?

Soon after Hillary Clinton’s selection as the next potential Secretary of State, Caroline Kennedy made known her desire to fill the seat to be vacated by Senator Clinton. As the talk grew about her assuming the seat, so did the rise in criticism concerning her qualifications.

Caroline Kennedy’s background:

Caroline Kennedy is an attorney, writer, editor, and serves on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations.

Education:

  • Radcliffe B.A. 1980
  • Columbia Law School J.D. 1988
  • Sotheby’s (art)

Very much in the public eye during her father’s presidency and at her father’s funeral in 1963, Caroline Kennedy graduated from Radcliffe with a B.A. in 1980, trained at Sotheby’s in art, and graduated from Columbia Law School with a J.D. in 1988. She married Edwin Schlossberg in 1986. They have three children.

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg’s 1991 book, In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action, and her 1996 book, The Right to Privacy, were written with Ellen Alderman. She published a collection of some of the favorite poems of her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, in 2001. In 2002, she published a collection of essays which echoed her father’s 1957 Profiles in Courage, and in 2003 a collection of patriotic poems, speeches, and songs.

In 2008, she served as a member of the advisory committee suggesting vice presidential nominees for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

She is a member of the New York and Washington, D.C. bar associations. She is also a member of the boards of directors of the Commission on Presidential Debates and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and is an honorary chair of the American Ballet Theatre.

Organizations: John F. Kennedy Library Board, Kennedy Foundation, American Ballet Theater, John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

The above blurb does not do justice to her behind-the-scenes work over decades of public service.

But, let’s get one thing straight: the U.S. Constitution has very minimal qualifications to serve as a senator. Article I, Section 3 sets out the criteria as follows:

No person shall become a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty years, and been nine years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

Perhaps the drafters of the Constitution felt that any “male” would be adequately trained to assume a senate seat.  After all, in 1787, when the Constitution was drafted, the idea of a woman as a senator would have been non-existent.  According to Federalist Paper #62:

The qualifications proposed for senators, as distinguished from those of representatives, consist in a more advanced age and a longer period of citizenship. A senator must be thirty years of age at least; as a representative must be twenty-five. And the former must have been a citizen nine years; as seven years are required for the latter. The propriety of these distinctions is explained by the nature of the senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages; and which, participating immediately in transactions with foreign nations, ought to be exercised by none who are not thoroughly weaned from the prepossessions and habits incident to foreign birth and education. The term of nine years appears to be a prudent mediocrity between a total exclusion of adopted citizens, whose merits and talents may claim a share in the public confidence, and an indiscriminate and hasty admission of them, which might create a channel for foreign influence on the national councils. II. It is equally unnecessary to dilate on the appointment of senators by the State legislatures. Among the various modes which might have been devised for constituting this branch of the government, that which has been proposed by the convention is probably the most congenial with the public opinion. It is recommended by the double advantage of favoring a select appointment, and of giving to the State governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems.

No where does the Constitution talk about education, experience, or any other quality than the three set out in the Article.  But given Ms. Kennedy’s education, experience, and reaching a “period of life likely to supply these advantages”, it would seem by Constitutional standards, she is more than qualified.

So why has Caroline Kennedy now become the subject of so much scrutiny and vindictiveness? The incessant criticism reminds me of the difference in the way Hillary Clinton was treated compared to the male candidates in the previous presidential election.

Remember the break in Hillary’s voice and the tears in her eyes in New Hampshire? Many were thrilled to jump on her with contradictory accusations: she was shrewd and was using her tears to hijack the primary, but, on the other hand, maybe she was too weak to be president because – gasp – she showed emotion in the form of watery eyes and a cracking voice.

But now, after a few weeks of adjusting to a possible Kennedy appointment, the media has started picking Kennedy apart.  She isn’t qualified, she is only in the run because her name is Kennedy, she doesn’t come across well in interviews, she said “you know” 168 times in one sitting, blah, blah, blah.    Is there nothing better to do than count how many times a person uses a phrase – annoying as it may be?  She has been described as “unflashy.”  Come on, would the media describe a perceived boring male candidate as “unflashy?”

How about the last eight years of a president who couldn’t put two sentences together let alone string together a coherent paragraph – and who strode around like he was getting ready for the shootout at the O.K. Corral.  But, never fear, other candidates’ names have been bandied about – not the least of whom is Andrew Cuomo, another candidate with a recognizable political name – his daddy is Mario Cuomo, a well-known  Democratic politician.

So now it’s the Kennedys versus the Cuomos in a Senate seat battle, and it’s up to David Paterson to decide who will better serve the interests of New Yorkers.

I wonder if the media will find Andrew Cuomo “unflashy?”  Or, will the media find him “dashing?”

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About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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