Is the Kennedy name enough to get a person a seat in the U.S. Senate?
The simple answer obviously is yes, but with the name also comes more scrutiny, if not controversy.
For Caroline Kennedy, that scrutiny doesn't include the same criticism or objections that some of her cousins would face and have faced, nor has she warranted it.
Of the legitimate criticism that she does face is her lack of public service - or at least public office.
She has never sought public office before and never appeared interested in public office until recently, saying that 9/11 and working to help select a vice-presidential candidate for Barack Obama has motivated her to join what is practically the family business.
For years, people speculated that her late brother, John Kennedy Jr., would eventually be the one to make the leap into politics. After his death, it appeared that their father's legacy would have to be carried out by his nieces or nephews, but with Caroline Kennedy's new found interest in public office, that could change.
And a welcome "change" it could be.
At 51, she has the life experience. She is also well educated and does have an impressive resume.
Aside from the constitutional requirements to hold a Senate seat, the most important requirement is that a senator must be an advocate or voice for their state in the federal government. I'm tempted to make a joke about Fran Drescher at this point, but in all honesty, a lot of this could be applied to her as well as Kennedy. But in many ways Kennedy may be better suited for the job than a veteran politician who has served in other offices.
I can't help but to also think she's not the first person to seek such a lofty and prestigious office as that of a senator while lacking those credentials.
Business and community leaders and especially actors who never held public office have made the jump to a senator seat or the governor's office without problem. California Gov. Arnold Swarzenegger - who married into the Kennedy family - comes to mind. Comedian Al Franken could very well become the next senator from Minnesota, and his political experience so far seems limited to satire. At least for Kennedy, her family background, upbringing and non-political career do at least steer her in the right direction to hold office.
The difference with Franken and Swarzenegger is, they have both had to run for the offices that are either now in or still trying to claim.
If New York Gov. David Paterson does appoint her, a question for Democrats in that state will likely be whether or not she can win in an election.
She certainly wouldn't have any problem winning over the support of the rank-and-file in her own party, and likely the public at first.
What she doesn't appear to have, at least not yet, is the same charisma or speaking ability that her father and brother had. In fact, she comes off as being a little bit nervous on camera.
On the campaign trail and during debates, that could be a problem, but it is also something she could become more comfortable with as time goes on.
Then, not being as charismatic could be helpful. Not coming off as a rabble-rouser on the campaign trail or on the floor of the senate could be a stronger attribute that would show the public that she is a person who would focus on issues (hopefully the legitimate issues) and debates facing the nation.
Schuler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.