Monday, December 29, 2008

Two Looks At Caroline Kennedy

New York Daily News and the Washington Post. From the Daily News' Micheal Goodwin:
Asked about her qualifications, she fell back on gibberish and the Kennedy name.

"As a mother, as an author, as an education advocate and from a family that really has spent generations in public service, I feel this commitment," she said. "This is a time when nobody can afford to sit it out, and I feel I have something to offer."

The "sit it out" part is revealing. Among those who want the job, she has done the least public service by any measure. She didn't even vote in about half the contested elections in the last 20 years.

Sensing she's not ready for prime time, her handlers, most of whom have connections to Mayor Bloomberg, suddenly insisted media questions be submitted in writing. The answers they provided, under their names, were vapid. And she will not, as is the campaign custom, release financial documents that reveal her wealth and holdings. We're expected to trust she has no conflicts of interest.

Even the one job she had in public life has come into question. Apparently on the basis of a chance meeting with New York's schools chancellor at a party on Martha's Vineyard, she signed on as a part-time fund-raiser. How much she raised and how much she worked have been challenged, but no matter. The point is that this self-described advocate for the public schools did not send her children to them.


Limousine liberals are a dime a dozen, and carpetbaggers are nothing new in New York. And with the social scene constantly churning out the old for the next new thing, there's no reason middle-aged dilettantes can't also try their hand at politics.

They just can't start in the Senate.
This is from the Washington Post:
But that's when I caught myself, and my more out-of-the-box side spoke up: Kennedy had young children, and no matter how much child care her money could buy, she clearly wanted to be a very-much-there primary caregiver. Perhaps, like many women in her situation, she found stimulation and satisfaction in whatever tasks most easily fit her schedule and her life, and her kids' lives. You could say her work history was spasmodic; you could say it was scattershot. But you could also say that as her children have grown up, her focus on public life has intensified, culminating in her fundraising for the public schools and her participation in Barack Obama's presidential campaign. You could say that, consciously or unconsciously, she was preparing for this moment.

Rather than a privileged aberration, I prefer to view Kennedy as a bellwether, a case study in how things could be if only the workplace were more accepting of an unconventional CV, one that may brim with great experience and skills and talent but is also peppered with gaps and one-off projects and volunteering. After all, if workers can no longer expect the security of a 50-year career with IBM or Procter & Gamble, then maybe employers should stop expecting each and every job applicant to present them with an old-fashioned sequential résumé. Maybe now's the time to change our thinking about what constitutes the ideal CV.

When we talk about women going back into the workforce, it's illuminating to consider the circumstances under which they left it in the first place. For many women, it was never truly a choice, never truly voluntary. As Pamela Stone, author of "Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home," points out, many are pushed out by jobs with long hours, rigid workweeks and inflexible demands. "These women haven't opted out," says Stone. "They've been shut out, by workplaces that don't pair well with family life."
The Post's bit is rubbish. Caroline Kennedy is not like say, my wife, who left her work when we had children, we couldn't afford to have her work with the cost of childcare being what it is. Caroline Kennedy is not like us--not by a long shot, nor, as Goodwin points out, is she ready for the Senate.

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