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Jewish World Review
Dec. 30, 2008
/ 3 Teves 5769
Not Ready for SNL: Caroline Kennedy's 168 you knows
John H. Fund
When Sarah Palin gave a disastrous interview to CBS's Katie Couric, the national news media quickly jumped on the Alaska governor to declare her "not ready for prime time." Her verbal tics unusual sentence construction and a broad accent were skewered week after week on "Saturday Night Live."
Caroline Kennedy has largely avoided such ridicule in her quest to be appointed to replace Hillary Clinton as New York's Senator. The 51-year-old author and fundraiser has studiously ducked the media for years. Finally, barraged by criticism that she wasn't answering questions, she surfaced over the weekend to give a series of media interviews. They didn't go well. In fact, if the Palin standard were applied, Ms. Kennedy would be roundly judged unsuited for the national political stage.
Ms. Kennedy told the cable channel New York One that much of what makes a U.S. Senator effective are skills at "communication." But she utterly failed to articulate a reasonable case for why she should be placed in the U.S. Senate with no elective experience. "It's really, you know, it's not about just the Kennedy name," she said. "It's about my own work and what I've done with those values. . . . I just hope everybody understands that. . . . I have a lifelong devotion to public service."
But what raised the eyebrows of many people were Ms. Kennedy's verbal tics. In the space of the 30-minute NY One interview, she used the words "you know" a total of 168 times. In some sentences, she would employ that "filler" phrase three times.
A speaking problem such as hers can be cured and it's nothing to be made fun of. But as speech specialist Susan Ward notes: "Using excessive fillers is the most irritating speech habit. . . . They distract your listener often to the point that he doesn't hear anything you say. Your message is entirely lost."
Nor was her NY One interview an exception. Both the New York Daily News and the New York Times, which published reports on interviews with her on Sunday, noted her excessive use of "you know" and "um." But columnist Michael Goodwin of the Daily News was one of the few media analysts to report clearly on the problems surrounding her candidacy: "Her quest is becoming a cringe-inducing experience, as painful to watch as it must be to endure. Because she is the only survivor of that dreamy time nearly 50 years ago, she remains an iconic figure. But in the last few days, her mini-campaign has proved she has little to offer New Yorkers except her name."
Although critics have largely tiptoed around her liabilities, the general public is catching on that Camelot's Empress is underdressed for her role. The Web site InTrade, which takes bets on the likelihood of political events, had her odds of being appointed by Governor Paterson at 85% just ten days ago. Now they are listed at just over 50%.
Ms. Kennedy is lucky that her status has spared her most of the verbal abuse that was heaped on Sarah Palin, but her qualification problems are big enough that she must now realize that the level of criticism especially from resentful New York Democrats is about to ramp up dramatically.
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JWR contributor John H. Fund is author, most recently, of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
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© 2006, John H. Fund