08 January 2009

Caroline's "Magic Capital"

Maureen Dowd's latest New York Times column in defense of Caroline Kennedy is a delicate blend of cynicism and sycophancy. In it, she asks readers to give Mrs. Schlossberg a break because few of her illustrious predecessors in the Senate were intellectual or moral giants, either. The princess's inarticulacy is written off as shyness, as if that attribute is desirable in a legislative body where members are supposed to try and persuade one another with intellectual eloquence. More desirable than eloquence, in Dowd's view, is the "magic capital" possessed by the Kennedy family. Rather than question whether voters should be swayed by glamour, Dowd trusts that the great lady will do the right thing if we giver her our trust. She blows off reservations about dynastic politics by noting that the Clinton and Cuomo families are the major obstacles to CKS's advancement -- as if to say that we have no choice about dynastic politics, so we way as well go with someone Dowd likes. To begrudge Caroline her great opportunity, in Dowd's opinion, borders on lese-majeste. She writes: "I found it bizarre that when Caroline offered to use her magic capital — and friendship with Barack Obama — to help take care of New York in this time of economic distress, she was blasted by a howl of “How dare she?

Not only is Dowd's appeal for Kennedy cynical and sycophantic, but it somehow aspires to populism as well.

Congress, which abdicated its oversight role as the Bush crew wrecked the globe and the economy, desperately needs fresh faces and new perspectives, an infusion of class, intelligence and guts.People complain that the 51-year-old Harvard and Columbia Law School grad and author is not a glib, professional pol who knows how to artfully market herself, and is someone who hasn’t spent her life glad-handing, backstabbing and logrolling. I say, thank God

Yes, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg is one of the common people, not one of those professional, market-tested career politicians. Or, conversely, she is to the manor born, and government ought to come to her naturally, without the over-practised arts of the bourgeois political hack. But in the end Dowd's ultimate argument is that she has spoken with her, finds her intelligent, and presumes her politically correct. What you make of that depends on your estimate of Maureen Dowd. If you don't make a habit of blogging or reading op-ed pages, you may be excused for having no estimate of her at all. But perhaps you know your Green mythology better than she does. She equates the Kennedys with the tragic House of Atreus. That seems plausible to Dowd because several Kennedys have come to bad ends -- that's "tragedy" for some people. But the Atreus myth is about a family whose members are under a curse based on crimes against each other. That's not a flattering analogy for the Kennedys. Nor, probably, is Maureen Dowd's endorsement objectively flattering to Caroline.


yellojkt said...

In my blogpost on that column, I also pointed out that the Atreidae would be a pretty touchy comparison.

Samuel Wilson said...

Thanks for posting, yellojkt. Perhaps Dowd should submit her columns to you before publication. I remember when the Gracchi were the more common and fairly more accurate analogy, but it'd probably be no more encouraging to Caroline.