Sometimes it's about the individual

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on January 26, 2009

The Washington Post's Anne E. Kornblut has a hysterical article about women unable to break through the proverbial glass ceiling. I know, you think this is an old article about either: a) Hillary Rodham Clinton's failure to win the Democratic Party's nomination for president, or b) John McCain failing to win the presidency with Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Well, you're wrong. This article is about ... Caroline Kennedy.

With her abrupt exit this week from consideration for the Senate, Caroline Kennedy added her name to a growing list: women who have sought the nation's highest offices only to face insurmountable hurdles.

Like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin before her, Kennedy illustrated what some say is an enduring double standard in the handling of ambitious female office-seekers. Even as more women step forward as contenders for premier political jobs, observers say, few seem able to get there.

In less than two months, Kennedy, 51, was transformed from a beloved, if elusive, national icon into a laughingstock in the New York media, mocked for her verbal tics and criticized for her spotty voting record. After she withdrew from consideration, speculation floated that she had done so to avoid discussion of an illegal nanny and back taxes, charges that people close to Kennedy disputed and that New York Gov. David A. Paterson's office indicated in a statement yesterday were not factors. Paterson plans to name a successor today to Clinton, who vacated the Senate seat to become President Obama's secretary of state.

Of course, this glass ceiling has long been broken. After all, Kennedy aspired to replace Hillary Clinton. And Clinton wasn't the first female senator in the first place. The article appears especially foolish when you take in to account that the very day it appeared in print, Paterson named a woman to fill the seat, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand.

If there's a bigger message behind Caroline Kennedy's aborted bid than her failure to appear as a competent Senate replacement it is the imposition of something akin to a meritocracy instead of an American elite based only on a famous name.


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January 2009



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