Caroline Kennedy in the Senate? An historic perspective


I am getting a ton of calls from journalists wanting some historical context for Caroline Kennedy’s likely appointment to the U. S. Senate.   Even one of the presidential historian – talking heads has checked in, asking for example, if there have been other children of presidents who have served in the Senate.  “Just Adams and Taft, right?” one famous historian wanted to know.  Gotta make sure before going onto TV to tell the world.

Yep, just Adams and Taft.  Caroline Kennedy would make three.  Although there have been eight who served in the House of Representatives, four in the cabinet, five ambassadors and two governors, both Bushes.

Of course, Kennedy is not in yet.  Presumably she would be appointed to finish the term of Hillary Clinton, whom President Elect Obama is going to make his Secretary of State.  A lot of history there.  Clinton will be the first former first lady to serve in the cabinet, although Eleanor Roosevelt was Ambassador to the United Nations and Edith Galt Wilson practically ran the whole country for her incapacitated husband.


U. S. Senators who were children of presidents

1.) John Quincy Adams was the first son born to an American president.  Born in 1767 to John and Abigail Adams, he was a bit of a child prodigy, who accompanied his father on foreign trips and was serving at the ambassadorial level for the new United Sates in his twenties. He served as a U. S. Senator from Massachusetts from 1803 – 1808.  He would later be an ambassador again, secretary of state, and president before returning to the House of Representatives in his later years.

2.) Robert Taft, son of the 27th president, William Howard Taft, served as a Senator from Ohio from 1939 – 1953.  He ran for president three times, and for awhile, was considered a front runner in the 1952 election.  Although a Republican, Taft was named one of the five greatest senators of all time by a committee chaired by Caroline Kennedy’s own father, then Senator John F. Kennedy.

Referred to as “Mr. Republican,” Bob Taft was the father of the modern conservative movement.

If Caroline Kennedy becomes the third presidents’ kid to serve in the U. S. Senate, there were three others who tried and failed, two of them ran for the elusive California seat.


The other candidates for the U. S. Senate who were children of presidents

1.) U. S. “Buck” Grant, Jr. was at the heart of a major scandal, talking his father, the former president, into joining the ill fated Grant and Ward brokerage firm.  Some concluded that the only thing that saved the young Grant from prison was the conclusion that he was more incompetent than culpable.  Years later, when he tried for a comeback by entering into the race for the U. S. Senate from California, the old charges resurfaced along with new ones, including bribery.  The new charges were eventually proven to be false, the product of “dirty politics.”  But the race was lost.

2.) Maureen Reagan ran for the Senate from California in 1982.  Her own father, who was then president, refused to break his pledge of remaining neutral in primary battles and wouldn’t endorse her.  Maureen lost.  She tried again for the House of Representatives and lost.  But Maureen is the only child of a president to serve as the Chairman of a major political party.  During her father’s second term, and in spite of White House aides trying to shoot down the idea, thinking that her public persona was only a reminder to the masses that Reagan had been married and divorced, she was elected the Republican National Co-Chairman.

3.) John William “Jack” Carter, a millionaire investment consultant, and eldest son of President Jimmy Carter, ran for the Senate from Nevada in 2006.  Carter won the primary and might have pulled off an upset against a well heeled opponent but Carter became gravely ill in the last months of the campaign and was hospitalized.  Most say he has a political future if he wants it.


Published by Doug Wead

Doug Wead is a New York Times bestselling author whose latest book, Game of Thorns, is about the Trump-Clinton 2016 election. He served as an adviser to two American presidents and was a special assistant to the president in the George H.W. Bush White House.

3 thoughts on “Caroline Kennedy in the Senate? An historic perspective

  1. It’s pretty neat to be the expert in a particular field. They say if you read five books on any subject you can be an expert. I find that to be a half truth. Plus I hate it when my mom says “you know they say”. You read five books about anything and you’ll be an invisible expert. It’s good to see someone who is an expert because they have studied, and read, and written about, and researched a topic their entire life as you have.

    You have what Seth Godin would deem a “Tribe” here on your blog.

  2. “Neat,” raleyb? Did you grow up in a Norman Rockwell painting or something?

    The startling realization that another member of this damned family may serve in our government is difficult to bear.

    Can someone explain what qualifications she has to lead?

    Oh well, I can only only hope that the Kennedy curse continues for a long long time.

    Teddy the Swimmer can’t last too much longer, thankfully. He’s actually thr worst of all those still alive.

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