Reports abound that Caroline Kennedy, the oldest child of President John Kennedy and the niece of Senator Robert Kennedy, is interested in being appointed to Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate seat when she vacates it to be come Secretary of State. Her cousin, Robert Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer, withdrew himself from consideration a few days ago.
Politics, like life, is driven by individual human decisions, actions, and external happenings. Often, it is the twists of fate that shape the political and societal landscape. Earlier events and decisions affect everything that comes after. An assassination, a decision to go to war, a stock market crash all impact decisions and events which come after. In this context, the potential of Caroline Kennedy to hold a senate seat from New York reminds me of events which occurred almost decade ago.
On July 16, 1999, John Kennedy Jr., Caroline's brother, decided to fly his wife and sister-in-law to his cousin Rory's wedding in Hyannis, Massachusetts. They never made it--the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean killing all aboard. The 38 year old Kennedy was primed to enter the world of politics at the time of his death. In 1995 he had launched a chic political magazine, George, and was very much in the public eye.
About the time of JFK Jr.'s death, Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced he would not seek reelection to the New York Senate seat he had held since 1977, and Kennedy was a presumptive front-runner to replace him (a Guardian article reported a 65% approval rating for Kennedy at the time). Based on his family name and lineage, his popularity, his comfort in the spotlight, he would have been a shoo-in for the seat, even if Hillary Clinton had decided to challenge him in the primary (which would have been doubtful she would have even considered it if JFK Jr. were in the race). Assuming he would have won the seat in 2000 and had a scandal-free eight years, it is conceivable that Democrats would have looked to him in 2008 to run for president. Perhaps we would be discussing Kennedy's transition right now and there would be umpteen stories about the third son to follow a father to the White House.
Instead, on that foggy night almost 10 years ago, the world of politics--and perhaps the world--changed when John Kennedy Jr's plane plunged into the cold waters of the Atlantic. Rather, we are talking about his sister Caroline being appointed to the seat John may well have won in 2000 and used as a stepping stone to the presidency.