Is Caroline Kennedy the New Sarah Palin?

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Caroline Kennedy made her interest in filling Hillary Clinton’s senate seat official this week. While her uncle Teddy is keen on the idea, the dynastic nature of her bid has provoked a resounding backlash in the blogosphere. Among the anti-Caroline offensives being mounted online is this: Caroline Kennedy is less qualified for the Senate than Sarah Palin was for the White House.

Ouch, that’s gotta hurt. But is it true?

After confessing, “I’d never thought I’d write this sentence,” Noam Scheiber of the New Republicgoes out a limb, asserting, “Palin is vastly more qualified than Kennedy,” even considering the higher office Palin sought. Rod Dreher of the Crunchy Con blog seconds Scheiber’s thoughts, adding that “anyone endorsing the Camelot princess for the US Senate owes Sarah Palin a huge apology.”

In a back-and-forth with the ladies of Slate’s XX Factor blog, Emily Yoffe takes a different angle on the same point: “However ill-prepared Palin was for the vice presidency, she was chosen because she got elected governor of Alaska. And she did that without money, connections, or a famous name.” Yoffe argues that Kennedy’s appointment would reinforce the have and have-not dichotomy that rules our society. Many have-nots “think there’s no point making an effort because everything is already wired for the haves,” writes Yoffe. Kennedy’s appointment could help fortify that barrier to upward mobility.

Kennedy’s defenders in the Caroline vs. Sarah debate are likely to make an argument similar to this one by commenter elaine1, posted in response to a Politico story: “Don’t compare Caroline Kennedy to Sarah Palin. Caroline is intelligent, savvy, and dignified.” Also standing up for Kennedy is Bernie Quigley on The Hill’s Pundits blog, who contends that Kennedy has shown “true and natural leadership” and that her experience as a mother, lawyer, and philanthropist “is the kind of varied experience the Senate calls for.”

If Kennedy does score the appointment, it won’t be just because she has a famous name, but because her particular famous name is one Americans have a uniquely persistent, romantic fascination with. Ruth Marcus, in a recent column for the Washington Post, effusively (and without a hint of irony) sums up that sentiment: “[W]hat a fitting coda to this modern fairy tale to have the little princess grow up to be a senator.”

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