Sweet Caroline for Senate?

Thoughtful leadership could dispel the stench of celebrity
By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  December 29, 2008

Just like everyone else, P+J have been following the saga of Caroline Kennedy and the New York senate seat. There are, of course, the Kennedy family worshipers and the Kennedy family haters, and each have weighed in, in predictable fashion.

P+J count ourselves as admirers of many in the Kennedy clan for their public service. We consider Senator Ted Kennedy one of the finest and most productive members of the US Senate in its history. His slain older brothers were also admirable American public servants, and we especially revere the example set by Robert in the final year of his life.

But there has been another long running theme in the Kennedy saga that reminds us of the line in The Great Gatsby: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

This, however, cannot be said of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg’s life. There was a rather startling letter to the editor in the BeloJo last week, in support of naming Caroline to fill Hillary Clinton’s term. It was startling because of the source, Bruce Lang, a founder of Operation Clean Government and a former official in the Almond administration.

We have known Bruce for many years and have great respect for him. There is little doubt that he is a proud conservative, not someone you would expect to pen a letter in sup-port of Caroline’s quest. But he did, and his thoughts on the matter are worth repeating: “Some people wonder if she’s ready to become a US senator. Obviously she’s smart, is good with people and generally generates a lot of respect. But most importantly, she truly seems to be honest, ethical and, crucially, a person who ‘will do the right thing’ — now and always! These are qualities that we desperately need a lot more often. So is Caroline Kennedy ready to be a senator? Absolutely!”

P+J cannot ignore the blatant pandering to celebrity and inside power that Caroline’s selection would signal. Your superior correspondents are not fond of dynastic power in the democratic (small d) United States of America, and we hate the celebrity culture, although it should be noted that Caroline had no choice in the matter of celebrity. Her selection would certainly smell bad to a lot of people.

Who knows what Governor Paterson will decide? We tend to lean toward Bruce Lang’s perspective on this. If she is selected, a demonstration of capable and thoughtful leadership on her part will whisk away any bad aroma. The “carpetbaggers” Hillary and RFK proved their mettle, and we feel that Caroline is fully capable.

THE BLAGO BEAT GOES ON
P+J haven’t commented on the Governor Rod Blagojevich fiasco in Illinois since the news first broke. Perhaps this is because the back story, of the tradition of corruption in the state of Illinois, seems to be giving the Biggest Little a break.

Well, Blago’s gonna fight this thing until his last public breath (which we expect to occur some time in June or so, because, constitutionally, he can keep this whole thing going for a pretty long stretch). We anticipate a doozy of an explanation for the wiretapped conversations about auctioning a US Senate seat to the highest bidder. Something along the lines of: “I knew my phones were tapped, so I thought I’d just yank their chains a little and say a lot of crazy stuff.”

We noticed that our bete noire, Pinky, over at the Urinal mentioned in a recent column that he was envious of Blajo’s hair. You’ve got to be kidding, Pinky! This is one of the worse hairdos we’ve seen on a public official since the glory days of John “Monsieur Pompadour” Holmes was ably leading the Republican Party here (and boy, does the RI GOP need another Holmes today). The hairdo, in fact, was the first tip-off to P+J that this guy might be something special. The faux Elvis threads only add to the suspicion. Good luck to the state of Illinois in ridding itself of this creep.

EARTHA AND PINTER: TWO LIONS
Two lions of the arts passed away during Christmas week. Eartha Kitt was not only a fascinating and unique performer, actress, singer, dancer, etc., but besides her one-of-a-kind theatrical persona, she was a strong and fiery individual who spoke truth to power.

Those of a certain age (P+J’s age and older) remember her courageous quarrel with President Johnson (unfortunately delivered at a Lady Bird-sponsored event), calling him out for the obscenity of the Vietnam War. Her tirade did serious damage to her career for a number of years, leading her to clean out her locker and break camp for the more friendly environs of Europe. She was right, and she took the hit. Bless her.

The Nobel Prize winning playwright Harold Pinter was arguably (there’s this Irish guy Beckett) the most influential writer of plays in the second half of the 20th century. And like Ms. Kitt, Mr. Pinter did not keep his mouth shut when he saw injustice. While the Brit’s estimation of the US in general may have been a bit too harsh, his characterization of the Iraq war as “a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law,” in his Nobel laureate address of 2005, was, to your superior correspondents’ ears, pretty much spot-on.

These two were not shrinking violets, and the world profited from their disquiet voices.

NEW BOOK FROM AN OLD FRIEND
Marc Joel Levitt, the storyteller, writer, artist, and all-around good guy, has a new book and for some folks, it might prove really useful. Marc is probably best known around these parts for his long-running Chowda Hour, a weekend staple on WHJJ-AM for almost a decade — a sort of Prairie Home Companion variety show — and as one of the founders and brains behind Action Speaks!, the long-running live-discussion series.

Putting Everyday Life On the Page: Inspiring Students to Write is, in the words of its author “about, among other things, valuing what students bring into the classroom; teaching writing as a thinking skill and finding ‘real world’ reasons for writing (like love letters).” Marc continues that it is also an “implicit criticism of formulaic writing instruction, some of which has been brought about by the necessities of No Child Left Behind.”

Do yourself a favor and order the book (from Corwin/Sage Press) via corwinpress.com, or call 800.233.9936. Not only are you likely to discover some fresh and creative approaches to writing and the teaching of writing, you’ll also be supporting the ongoing activities of an artist who has been crucial to the Vo Dilun community for decades.  

Send impertinent wishes and Pulitzer-grade tips to p&j@phx.com.

  Topics: Phillipe And Jorge , U.S. Government, U.S. Congressional News, Politics,  More more >
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