If the Kennedy mystique and money do not overwhelm New York Gov. David Paterson and persuade him to appoint Caroline Kennedy for the two remaining years of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s term, a former Catholic priest just might.
The (former) Rev. Charles O’Byrne is the hidden player who will broker this deal.
O’Byrne is unusually close to the Kennedy family and to Paterson. He was Paterson’s chief of staff (labeled secretary in New York political parlance) for the past year until it was revealed that he had not filed tax returns for five years. That scandal forced him to quit his job. But he remains an extraordinarily influential Paterson adviser.
O’Byrne also has served as a spiritual adviser to the Kennedy family for years, including presiding at several weddings for them.
This behind-the-scenes, two-way connection is the real reason Paterson will appoint Caroline Kennedy to the Senate.
Of course, it is a farce that she would even be considered for this Senate seat. Despite the spin that she has been involved in issues for years, the plain fact of the matter is that she has been a Park Avenue Society wife and mother — and has had nada to do with any public issues.
If her name were just Caroline Schlossberg, like it was until that married name suddenly disappeared, with the same resume, who would possibly think she should, or could, be appointed to this soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat?
Ironically, Clinton’s ascendancy to this seat in 2000 actually helps Kennedy by creating a recent precedent for a liberal female rookie to parachute into New York state, replete with instant entourage and a pre-packaged “listening tour.”
Kennedy has started traveling to foreign lands (for her): upstate New York. And the aides and handlers surrounding her have one assignment: Do not let her suffer the fate of Gov. Sarah Palin and talk herself into trouble. Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo have seen this circus this week.
You can bet that Team Paterson is watching and waiting – for a mistake or a reason not to pick her. Paterson, who has not been elected statewide on his own, is acutely aware that an angry electorate could blame him for the rotten condition of the New York economy, although economic troubles pervade the global scene. And, even though it seems unimaginable today, it is possible that the New York GOP could field a candidate to take him on in 2008.
So, Paterson probably is thinking that a Kennedy-Paterson ticket in 2010 would be almost unbeatable.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has called Paterson and urged him to appoint Kennedy. Obviously President-elect Obama owes her big time for her timely endorsement and her vice-presidential vetting work.
Paterson needs federal money to flow into the state, as the Wall Street meltdown has deprived the state and New York City of billions in tax revenue. Who better to go to Reid and Obama and plead for it than Caroline Kennedy?
On the other side of the ledger, Paterson is hearing from every other Democratic politician in New York, and they are all aghast at the thought of this dilettante’s cutting the line and getting this plum job.
State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the son of the former governor and a former first cousin of Caroline’s by marriage, is the other most prominent name rumored for this Senate slot.
Several female representatives and upstaters also want the job.
If Paterson picks Kennedy, it might help him get re-elected/elected in 2010, but it will infuriate virtually every elected Democrat in the state.
So Paterson will wait a while for the U.S. Senate to confirm Clinton for secretary of state, sometime in late January or early February. She then will resign the Senate seat. And Paterson will have to make his decision.
Does he deny the Kennedys, and Harry Reid, and Barack Obama?
Or does he tell members of his own party in New York that he is bypassing them all just to pick a Big Name?
When decision day comes, Paterson will not be alone in his deliberations; his long-time mentor and aide, O’Byrne, will be brokering this deal to help both the Kennedys and the governor.
Look for Caroline Kennedy to get the appointment, thanks to O’Byrne.
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