The ‘idea’ of a candidate

THE ‘IDEA’ OF A CANDIDATE…. I’m still trying to keep an open mind about Caroline Kennedy possibly filling New York’s Senate vacancy, left by Hillary Clinton, but she’s not giving me a lot to work with. Kennedy sat down for her first interview with the New York Times as a potential Senate appointee, and it didn’t go especially well.

Caroline Kennedy, the woman who would be New York’s next senator, is sure of one thing. Among all the hopefuls seeking to succeed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, she said on Saturday, there is no better choice.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I would be the best,” Ms. Kennedy said, sitting in the back room of an Upper East Side diner around the corner from her home.

After weeks of criticism that she had not opened up to the public or the press, Ms. Kennedy has embarked on a series of interviews. But in an extensive sit-down discussion Saturday morning with The New York Times, she still seemed less like a candidate than an idea of one: forceful but vague, largely undefined and seemingly determined to remain that way.

Asked how she might improve on Clinton’s tenure in the Senate, Kennedy demurred. Asked about how the recession has affected her personally, Kennedy didn’t want to talk about her finances. She was similarly vague in response to questions about education policy, healthcare policy, and Democratic Party orthodoxy.

If the tone of the article is accurate, Kennedy didn’t even seem particularly interested in the interview itself. She “seemed irritated” when asked to talk about the moment she decided to seek the Senate seat. “Have you guys ever thought about writing for, like, a woman’s magazine or something?” Kennedy asked the reporters. “I thought you were the crack political team.”

As the interview was wrapping up, one NYT reporter tried to pose one last question, but Kennedy interrupted him. “I think we’re done,” she said.

I know Kennedy has begun hiring some consultants for this process. They may need to redouble their efforts on media prep.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.