Caroline Kennedy: A Fumbled Handoff of the Torch





In reality the Kennedys ceased long ago to be the nation’s “first” political family. For most of the last two decades the Clintons have dominated the Democratic Party as its power couple. And in scorekeeping terms the Republican Bushes have set a new standard for monopolizing high office — their string of victories now includes three presidential terms, two vice-presidential ones and a pair of governorships in two politically important states (Florida and Texas).

By contrast, the Kennedys’ hold on high elective office has been relatively modest — the 1,000 days of John F. Kennedy’s presidency, the Senate terms of his two younger brothers, Robert and Edward, along with the careers of other family members that stalled or peaked at lower levels.

And yet the Kennedys, and they alone, personify a uniquely American form of dynasty. The Clintons and Bushes may have secured the gaudiest political prizes, but even in better economic times it would be hard to imagine either family’s artifacts fetching the exorbitant sums — $574,500 for a humidor, $48,875 for a tape measure, $33,350 for a footstool — that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s White House memorabilia did when they were auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1996.



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