Caroline Kennedy's claim on Hillary Clinton's soon to be vacant Senate seat took a couple of hits on Friday. The Associated Press revealed that Kennedy hasn't voted in at least six major elections in the last 20 years, including the 1994 election for the seat she wants to claim. And on "Hardball" this afternoon, Kerry Kennedy told Chris Matthews she didn't know whether or not her cousin is pro-choice; she said they'd never talked about it.
I respect Kerry Kennedy and her loyalty to her cousin, but her answer underscored all the reasons why Kennedy's sudden pursuit of the Clinton Senate seat feels so off. This very private person hasn't left much of a public footprint. I applaud her raising $70 million for New York's public schools, but we know very little else about her political views or involvements. The idea that she'd make Gov. David Paterson's short list for the Senate appointment without any public statement on the divisive but crucial issue of abortion is problematic. According to published reports, she has called New York abortion rights leaders seeking support for her Senate crusade, implying she's pro-choice, but the fact that her own cousin can't say with certainty is disturbing.
Kennedy appears to be a person of intelligence and integrity, but she either has bad political instincts or she's getting bad political advice in her sudden, unorthodox campaign for the Senate. Her short tour of New York, visiting Harlem and Buffalo and talking to political leaders, but making no public statements and taking no media questions, has set exactly the wrong tone. She doesn't have time for a listening tour; she's got to talk, too. Clinton's famous listening tour only worked because she began it a year before she faced election. Ultimately the voters would decide if they liked what they saw and heard. Kennedy only needs to impress one person right now, and that's Paterson, and he can't be liking what he's hearing.