Cinderella versus the Barracuda

December 22, 2008|By Jonah Goldberg

For people who think there's no cultural divide in this country, consider the treatment of two women much in the news in 2008.

The first is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. A woman from humble roots and with a blue-collar life story, she worked with her steelworker and professional-fisherman husband to provide a life for their large family. She got involved in the PTA. She became mayor of her small town, then rose, by dint of her dedication and almost naive fearlessness, to the job of governor. In a mainstream, almost romantic sense, it's almost like she was designed by God for a Hallmark movie of the week.

But, when Sen. John McCain picked her to be his running mate, the full fury of the liberal establishment - and sizable swaths of the conservative establishment - came down on her with a vengeance usually reserved for Klansmen and pedophiles. There were valid criticisms to make. But that is quite a different thing than saying all of the criticism was valid or that the intensity and volume of the criticism was warranted.

Then there's Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, daughter of John F. Kennedy, brother of John Jr., niece of Senators Ted and Robert Kennedy, granddaughter of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, and the cousin of myriad other Kennedys and Shrivers who've burrowed deep into the timber of the house of liberalism. A multimillionaire from birth, Ms. Kennedy has spent most of her life on the charity-benefit and cotillion circuit.

Sweet Caroline (she was the inspiration for the Neil Diamond song) recently made it known that she would like to be appointed to Hillary Clinton's vacant Senate seat.

One could say without fear of overstating things that the liberal reaction to the inexperienced Caroline has been somewhat more gracious than the reaction to the "inexperienced" Ms. Palin. Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post has devoted two columns in as many weeks to this "fairy tale" scenario in which Ms. Kennedy, our "tragic national princess," is finally rewarded - for her years of quiet dignity, selflessly avoiding scandal and the paparazzi - with the Senate seat that once belonged to her uncle Bobby. What's astounding about the normally sensible Marcus' case for "the Cinderella Kennedy" (New York magazine's phrase) is that she doesn't really make one, at least not on the merits.

The editors of The New York Times summarized her qualifications thusly: "Ms. Kennedy has much going for her. As a public figure, she carries the glamour and poignancy of her family ..." The editors then went on to describe what great liberals her dad and uncles were. That's it.

Here's a news flash: Not everyone truckles with doe-eyed awe at "America's royal family." JFK and RFK had their good points, but they don't deserve the beatification they receive on a daily basis. As a man, Teddy Kennedy is hardly a role model, and as a public servant he's not much better. I, for one, don't think denying poor black kids private-school scholarships (aka vouchers) is heroic. Nor do I think his support for alternative energy, except when it might obstruct his Hyannis Port estate's views with windmills, is admirable.

Simply, the Kennedy clan is no priestly caste, serving as the conscience of the nation, and its progeny do not deserve eternal deference.

Now, I know the comparison between Ms. Palin and Caroline Kennedy is not perfect. Each has strengths where the other has weaknesses, and the jobs of senator and vice president aren't identical.

But the comparison is nonetheless revealing. Ms. Palin's selection triggered troughs of bile, vomited up from nearly every respectable liberal quarter. A Florida congressman, and Obama surrogate, insinuated that Ms. Palin was a "Nazi sympathizer" and anti-Semite. Her by-the-bootstraps story was ridiculed by nearly every ex-debutante newsreader and avowed "feminist" in America.

Meanwhile, Caroline, with a resume perfectly suited to being a Kennedy and little else, is a Cinderella who deserves a Senate seat because, well, she just does.

Whatever Ms. Palin's faults, Sarah Barracuda's America has a lot more going for it than Sweet Caroline's.

Jonah Goldberg is a syndicated columnist. His e-mail is

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