Thursday, June 05, 2003

Caroline Kennedy. Working Hard? Hardly Working.

What an odd article in this morning’s New York Times on Caroline Kennedy and her role as a chief fundraiser for the New York Department of Education.

She is charged with raising private funds for New York City's troubled public schools. Yet after eight months on the job and as the school year comes to a close, Kennedy has apparently raised not one thin dime.

the funny thing is that the Times can't bring itself to criticize Princess Caroline. The article insulates delicate readers from the uncomfortable fact of her incompetency with a froth of mundane filler about her footwear and fatuous alibis about her busy schedule.

She had to fly to Paris to open an exhibit at the Louvre, then she presented an award in Boston, and after that she had to attend the opening of the American Ballet Theatre. What she did for the other 240 days she’s held the job of Chief Executive of the Office of Strategic Partnerships is left to the imagination.

It takes the Times, 1700 words, two fawning photos and two bylined journalists to report that Kennedy “has yet to announce a single major donation.” She leads a staff of 15 and yet her ideas “have just barely been put on the drawing board.” Kennedy would not say how often she works at her office in the infamous Tweed Courthouse “or how many hours she spends on the job.”

According to one sycophant, Caroline Kennedy is “still putting her shop together . . . She has been bogged down in more nuts and bolts details.”

But that’s OK. She may not be effectual but “nor is she unapproachable” we are told.

“She rides the subway” and her colleagues were amazed to see on one of her rare ventures into the office that she “wore Merrell sports sandals, which have developed a cult following among outdoorsy types.”

The problem would seem to be that she is spending too much time outdoors instead of indoors on the job.

Of course, much of this could be said about me too. I’m not unapproachable. I ride the subway. I sometimes get bogged down in details. But I still manage to show up for work. And if I didn’t I would probably be reading the want ads in the Times rather than flattering coverage inthe Metropolitan section.

But then Ms. Kennedy is “a fixture in the American psyche” we are instructed. A psyche fixture “whose mere presence at events can make guests of a certain age tear up.”

My freshman year roommate was just that sort of “fixture” but you rarely read about him in the Times.

Still, a hint of skepticism tarnishes this otherwise pristine exercise in Kennidolitry. “Her daily activities and overall plans have largely remained a mystery” the article hints.

“There are a lot of glitzy things out there that someone with her profile could do,” said Joel Klein, the city’s education Chancellor. “This is not glitzy and it’s not about her profile. This is about serious work and her commitment.”

Serious work and commitment . . . well, that's two things one doesn’t naturally associate with the Kennedy clan.

Perhaps if her own children were trapped in a New York public school Caroline Kennedy might feel a bit more urgency about her responsibility. Hell, she might even take time out of her busy day to show up for work!

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