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Caroline and the Grey Lady

There used to be a joke around London that if Martin Amis ever got round to writing his autobiography, it’d have to be called My Struggle. The implication here was that nepotism and the law of succession would do their … Read More

By / December 23, 2008

There used to be a joke around London that if Martin Amis ever got round to writing his autobiography, it’d have to be called My Struggle. The implication here was that nepotism and the law of succession would do their part in ensuring that an ambitious young litterateur got his first book deal. Whatever merit there may have been in that observation — and there was also a lot of envy and scorn — it did nothing to ensure that Amis wrote well, or that he secured his second and third book deals. He had to rely on talent at some point. In any case, his debut fiction The Rachel Papers won the Somerset Maugham Award, which, as if taunting his hyperdemocratic jeerers, was precisely the same honor bestowed on Kingsley Amis some two decades earlier for his masterpiece Lucky Jim. And if anyone remains in doubt about exactly what kind of reliance fils still has on pere, then consider that the autobiography Martin did in fact write was all about his father, and it was one of his best books.

Genetics, we’ve long known, plays a dominant role in determining our abilities, and so there may be something to the argument that the apple never falls far from the tree, though that’s hardly the apple’s fault, is it?  Yet the notion of a hereditary mathematician or a hereditary politician is still a profoundly silly one to our republican ears. What great figure has emerged from the British House of Lords in recent memory? Do we believe that any beamish member of the young Windsor clan is fit to manage a night club in Southhampton, much less govern a people?  What I mean to say was much better said by a founding father of the United States:

The more aristocracy appeared, the more it was despised; there was a visible imbecility and want of intellects in the majority, a sort of je ne sais quoi, that while it affected to be more than citizen, was less than man. It lost ground from contempt more than from hatred; and was rather jeered at as an ass, than dreaded as a lion. This is the general character of aristocracy, or what are called Nobles or Nobility, or rather No-ability, in all countries.

Thomas Paine didn’t have Google, where terms like "American Royalty" and "Camelot" spring right up whenever the query is the name of one of the most mediocre and over-indulged families to ever sully these fine shores. How is it that, in an age where a mixed-race man from a broken home, the product of international upbringing and no inherited fortune, can be elected president, we are still talking about the fucking Kennedys?

Former first daughter Caroline’s latest bid for the New York senate seat soon to be vacated by Hillary Clinton is at least being subjected the kind of real-time scrutiny and audible whisper campaign her father’s White House never was. That deserves the title of progress. But there’s one holdout institution which seems intent on making the society philanthropist’s assumption of office as painless as possible: the New York Times. "Kennedy, Touring Upstate, Gets Less and Less Low-Key" was the title of the Times‘ Thursday piece on Caroline’s image-doctoring, except that it actually hit the paper’s website on Wednesday afternoon. If you bothered to read it then, the lede you got was as follows:

In a carefully controlled strategy reminiscent of the vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, aides to Caroline Kennedy interrupted her on Wednesday and whisked her away when she was asked what her qualifications are to be a United States senator. 

Which is surely one way to stamp "Not Ready" on the dauphiness’ forehead. Well, the Times will do many things, apparently, such as run letters from fake French mayors in aggrieved reaction to America’s aristo tilt. But one thing it won’t do is allow a comparison between Sweet Caroline and the Wasilla Wehrmacht. By Thursday, in the print edition, the lede had been scotched, replaced with the much more copacetic:

The first day of Caroline Kennedy’s tour through upstate New York on Wednesday was meant to be a low-key, decorous excursion, mindful of the skepticism surrounding her bid to be appointed the state’s next United States senator. Fat chance.

Gone too was any mention of her being "whisked" away from the inquisitive throng by her handlers, lest she embarrass herself by explaining why she deserved to be a senator without even being elected one.

How to explain this watering-down other than in terms of blatant bias from on high?  

Pinch Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, was shamelessly for Hillary Clinton when she still had a chance to be president. He more or less forced the editorial board of his paper to endorse her. And what do you know: he’s also great good friends with Caroline, who spoke at a roast of Sulzberger years ago, and whose company with him grew so frequent that it prompted rumors in New York about the nature of their relationship (he had left his wife, she’s still married). Would a bracketed "full disclosure" line in coverage of Kennedy’s political aspirations be too distracting? Isn’t that news fit to print, maybe only in tiny little letters at the bottom?

In a way it’s heartening to see that with Democrats on the ascendant, the same old Tammany-style crap wastes no time in bubbling to the surface. It’s also heartening that most liberals and Democrats I’ve spoken with think this appointment would be a very bad idea, fusing all the populist bilge of the Palin pick with the species of noxious cultural elitism Palin got so horribly confused on the stump. One way to erect a tombstone on the Bush years is with the epitaph: Here Endeth the Family Business. It has universal appeal.

And to think, Teddy has also intimated that he wants his permanent perch in Massachusetts to go to…his wife, Victoria. I say, why not? Bourgeois financiers rob us blind, and the dissipated heirs of a degenerate, lace-curtain second estate bequeath Congress to themselves.

See you at the next Tennis Court Oath.

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