Why did Caroline Kennedy really drop out?

Conflicting reports are being leaked from the various parties involved, and now there's word of tax problems.

By Alex Koppelman

Published January 22, 2009 8:45PM (EST)

At this point, trying to figure out exactly why Caroline Kennedy won't be the next senator from New York is a little like trying to explain the continued popularity of Dane Cook: It just can't be done.

The official story, initially, was that Kennedy called New York Gov. David Paterson Wednesday to tell him she didn't want to be Hillary Clinton's replacement after all, and that her uncle Sen. Ted Kennedy's health was the reason.

Very quickly, though, the story started to change. Before Kennedy released a statement confirming she had withdrawn from consideration, some of her associates were even telling reporters that she was in fact still in the running for the job.

The suddenness of Kennedy's decision, especially considering that her uncle has had health problems for months now, prompted some speculation -- apparently quite informed speculation -- that she was really doing this to save face, that she knew Paterson wouldn't appoint her after all.

Then there was reporting coming from people like Time's Mark Halperin, who said, "According to a knowledgeable Democratic source, Caroline Kennedy withdrew because of a personal matter that arose 48 hours before she fully expected to be chosen... The source says the 'personal matter' was wholly unrelated to Senator Edward Kennedy's health emergency at the inauguration, or Kennedy's health generally."

That fit with other reporting from another Time staffer, Karen Tumulty, who writes that people close to Ted Kennedy, including some of his family members, are unhappy he was used as the public excuse, because his health is stable and any appearance to the contrary might stall health care reform.

Now, the New York Times has additional details. The paper's Danny Hakim and Nicholas Confessore write that the real reason for Kennedy's decision was "problems involving taxes and a household employee." That's sourced to an unnamed "person close to" Paterson, who also said the governor "never had any intention of picking Kennedy because it was clear that she wasn’t ready for prime time.

“She had botched her rollout. She was unprepared. She clearly had no policy experience and couldn’t handle the pressure of the public stage.”

But Hakim and Confessore have plenty of contradictory reporting in their story; they say "other Democratic operatives and people who talked to the governor said that he had all but decided to select her as senator, and that his staff was arranging a press conference for late this week."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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