At New York University, professor Mitchell Moss, who teaches urban policy, falls into the opposite camp. He calls Kennedy an attractive woman with brains—she's no Sarah Palin, he quips—and a New York icon. But he can't see this habitué of the Upper East Side taking on two grueling campaigns that would require her to press the flesh in the state's 62 counties, not to mention tasting corn and talking agricultural policy at county fairs, summer after summer. "Getting selected is up to one man," he says, "but getting elected is up to millions of people."
"And being a senator in New York takes an enormous willingness to give up your life. You'd be in D.C. for four days and around the state the other three."
A acquaintance of hers, Bill Cunningham, a former aide to New York Mayor Bloomberg and the late Sen. Daniel Moynihan, remarks: "This would be a totally different stage for her. Of all the Kennedys, she's perhaps been the least political up until this presidential election. You have to give up your private life to some extent to serve, and that [privacy] has been very important to her."
Cunningham points out that the faltering economy makes serving now a particular challenge, and her marquee name guarantees that she would be asked by any number of Democrats to help raise campaign dollars for them. "The state is short of cash. The economy is struggling. Your job in Washington would be to carry the torch for New York and its needs, while there are national issues involving healthcare and the federal budget, and because of who you are, you'd be asked to help other senators. You are really putting yourself into the maelstrom."
But the Kennedy friend counters that if anyone can handle a maelstrom, it's Caroline Kennedy, who has endured high-profile family tragedies and, this friend says, remained grounded, beloved, and a "class act." "Despite being at the center of attention for her entire life—she's grown up under klieg lights—she has never become a diva. She is a warm and caring and thoughtful and nice, nice person."
As for shouldering the weight of family legacy, the friend observes that Senate service, while it might seem like the family business, is far from her only avenue for service. With a 24-karat name and sterling reputation, she can pick up the phone and make big things happen.
The country's democratic traditions notwithstanding, dynasties aren't unique in American politics or the Senate. But while joining the world's most exclusive club is surely a temptation, particularly with a pal in the White House and an uncle poised to tutor her, she'll remain a citizen of the world, whatever she decides.