After all the speculation, rumor, and outright lies that buzzed around Caroline Kennedy in the days after she told Governor Paterson she didn’t want Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat after all, Vanity Fair finally gets to the true reason she did it: Her kids, Jack, Rose, and Tatiana, saw how miserable the process of seeking the seat had made her, and told her she needed to drop out. Apparently, it was as simple as that. Of course, little did the young people know that by pulling the plug on their mother’s ad hoc campaign, they’d send Paterson into a tailspin of blame, leaks, and innuendo that would help bring his approval ratings in the state below 20 percent. Those Kennedys, so careless with their power!
According to a family friend who spoke with Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died author Edward Klein (whose book is excerpted in VF this month), Caroline so strongly expected that Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat — vacated when the former presidential candidate was appointed secretary of State by Barack Obama — would be handed to her easily that when it wasn’t, she became enraged and humiliated. It turned her into an angry, tough person that her family didn’t like. In the end, her daughters Rose and Tatiana, son Jack, and husband Ed sat her down.
“One night, Caroline and Ed Schlossberg were dressing to go out to a dinner party when her daughters, Rose and Tatiana, came into her bedroom to confront her about the situation. Caroline was putting on her makeup and was a few minutes from leaving when they sat down on her bed and told her what they were thinking. When they knew they had her attention, Rose, the eldest, ran out and got her brother, Jack, to join them so that their mother would know they were unanimous.
“Jack is actually the most emotional of the kids, and he was the most upset. This was totally uncharted territory for them. Mom had always been in charge. Their family is very matrilineal. Caroline calls the shots. Rebellion is not something that happens. For that reason Caroline was stunned. She stopped what she was doing and gave them 100 percent attention, shushing and waving Ed out of the room when he ducked in and pointed to his watch to indicate that they were running late. “Rose pleaded, saying, ‘Mom, you are above this.’ That was a wake-up call. It jerked Caroline back to reality. What would her mother [Jackie] think of all this tabloid attention she was getting? Her mother wouldn’t have liked it.
According to the Kennedy source, had Paterson offered her the job before this conversation, she would have taken it. Afterward, there was no going back.
The VF excerpt is also interesting for the machinations among Kennedys it reveals regarding Ted’s brain cancer and the quest to take over family and political leadership from him when he dies. But it’s this portion we imagine most people in New York will be gossiping about this week. Somebody ought to get that Rose Kennedy into politics — anybody who can so deftly outmaneuver state and national politicians with one simple, heartstring-pulling conversation clearly has a future in Democratic politics.