This will be a rather brief post as I prepare to welcome in 2009 (already a fact in some distant places ), but as I find myself in the somewhat strange position of opposing the appointment of Caroline Kennedy, whom I greatly admire, to fill the U.S. Senate seat (New York) that Hillary Clinton will vacate on becoming Secretary of State, while supporting Rick Warren of Saddleback Church to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration on January 20, I wanted to comment at least briefly on my reasoning.
First, I think Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, is immensely talented and gifted and would surpass the service of many already serving in the Senate. As well, it is not that she has held no elected office. Many others, including Sen. Clinton hadn’t, either. Nor do I resent the fact that she comes from a wealthy and powerful family. I’ve contributed to political campaigns or organizations related to her uncle Sen. Edward Kennedy and to her cousins, Joe Kennedy II and Patrick Kennedy (U.S. House: D-Rhode Island). I’ve exchanged e-mails with her cousin Kathleen Kennedy Townsend regarding the former Maryland Lt. Gov.’s book Failing America’s Faithful: How Today’s Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way, about which I have been planning to post for a long time. At a fundraiser for Patrick Kennedy in 1995, I engaged him in conversation, rather briefly, in asking him if he had ever been to Oklahoma. He answered “once, I think, when my father (Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass) was running for president. At the end of the fundraiser, I shared an elevator ride with Joe Kennedy (former U.S. representavive, D-Massachusetts). Notwithstanding my little name-dropping here, none of the Kennedys would “know me from Adam.”
No, my concern here is that she has never shown a great taste for public life overall (though she has on many occasions engaged in great public service) nor has she been tested in the public forum. Her uncle, Sen. Robert Kennedy had never held elective office when he ran for the U.S. Senate from New York in 1964. He had, though, engaged greatly in the give-and-take of public life and been exposed to significant questioning from the American media.
With respect to Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life greatly exceeds the drivel written by so many other Southern Baptists and religious conservatives in general, represents a significant part of the electorate and its religious thinking. Further, the inaugural ceremonies and speech are not for the purpose of advancing a particular theology or faith. That does not mean that I have no concern about Pastor Warren’s views on inclusivity (his denomination, the Southern Baptists, do not recognize the authority of women to be pastors, for instance). Rather, it is Obama’s task to set a moral tone and ethical course for the direction of U.S. national and international policies over the next four years within the context of leading a politically and theologically diverse nation. I would not want to see Warren appointed to fill a vacant Senate seat.
Yes, to Rick Warren (with some apprehension), and no to Caroline Kennedy (with regrets).
Disclosure: I contributed $970 to Obama’s presidential campaign, with most of it directed toward the primaries, as I saw Obama with more than sufficient funds for the general election. By way of comparison, I made $3,992 in charitable contributions, mostly to my church.