- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The unsightly wrangling over President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s notorious coarse language. A history of crude humor from Al Franken, whose Minnesota Senate win is in the courts.

If ever politics needed a healthy dose of good breeding, it’s now.

Could Caroline Kennedy, sole survivor of the world’s most famous class act, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, be just what the doctor ordered? Will Michelle Obama channel her predecessor’s iconic influence?

Nearly 15 years after her death, Jackie is making a fashionably late entrance as the arbiter of gracious behavior in the new era of change and hope.

“Caroline will bring a new Kennedy presence to the Senate. She’s our royal equivalent. People will behave in a different way around her. They will be more civilized on both sides of the aisle,” says Shelly Branch, co-author of “What Would Jackie Do? An Inspired Guide to Distinctive Living.”

Ms. Kennedy is expected by many political insiders to replace Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, in the Senate if Mrs. Clinton steps into Mr. Obama’s Cabinet as secretary of state.

Ms. Branch says Jackie would “most definitely encourage” her daughter to enter politics by taking the Senate seat once held by her uncle Robert F. Kennedy and also would impart pearls of political wisdom that could be clasped by incoming first lady Michelle Obama.

For starters, Ms. Branch says, the late first lady would tell her daughter not to fret over poor reviews. Ms. Kennedy was roundly panned in the press last month for a series of interviews laden with “ums” and “you knows.”

“She would tell her to not pay attention to political noise. Instead, she would have her focus on her purpose and cause,” Ms. Branch explains.

Jackie biographers such as Vicky Moon, who wrote “The Private Passion of Jackie Kennedy Onassis: Portrait of a Rider,” say Ms. Kennedy’s accomplishments speak for themselves and have been absent in press coverage of her background.

“In addition to an impressive education in law and impeccable list of public-service accomplishments, Caroline will bring together the very same grace when handling political matters as her mother, as well as compassion as a mother herself,” Ms. Moon says.

Jackie’s chin-up, shoulders-back elan has been the inspiration for other high-profile women in politics.

In the early 1990s, then-first lady Mrs. Clinton leaned on Jackie’s elegant shoulders after she was pilloried for unflattering fashion choices.

“You are fine the way you are. You don’t have to get yourself all gussied up,” Ms. Branch says Jackie advised Mrs. Clinton.

Maura Moynihan, a friend of Ms. Kennedy’s and the daughter of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, says Ms. Kennedy will set a Jackie-esque example among jackallike Capitol Hill types.

“She is shy like her mother. She has never sought the limelight, and has this charm and modesty. She’s also very funny.”

Ms. Moynihan says Ms. Kennedy also will carry the eternal flame of Jackie’s most endearing legacy — her polished wardrobe.

“Caroline will up the style quotient of Washington just by walking down the halls of Congress. She knows who she is, so she won’t have to hire a stylist. There are plenty of examples of women in New York who have help, but that doesn’t mean they have good taste.”

Good taste and manners were important to the late first lady and were instilled in her daughter.

Ms. Kennedy “is her mother’s daughter. That is illustrated in her courtesy and grace, and those are welcome qualities in these times,” says George Stevens Jr., the Kennedy Center Honors producer, who remained friends with Jackie after working with President Kennedy in the early 1960s.

Mr. Stevens says he expects both Ms. Kennedy and Mrs. Obama to be “advocates for the arts” in their new roles in Washington. “They both seem to have wide-ranging interests they would like to implement, like Jackie did.”

Ms. Kennedy has hosted the Kennedy Center Honors since 2003.

“I’m sure [Jackie] would be thrilled and moved by this couple,” says Mr. Stevens, referring to the Obamas.

Although Mrs. Obama is often compared to Jackie Kennedy Onassis , Mr. Stevens says the public should not expect Mrs. Obama to run around in pillbox hats and pink Chanel suits.

“Be yourself. That’s the only advice I think Jackie would give her,” he says.

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