31 aug. 2008

For a Kennedy, an Unexpected Role in the Veep Choice


CHICAGO — Yes, Caroline Kennedy says, she was taken aback when Senator Barack Obama asked her in the late spring to play a primary role on his vice-presidential search team.
“I was surprised and really honored,” she said Sunday in a telephone interview. “I thought it would be incredibly interesting and obviously important.”
When Ms. Kennedy endorsed Mr. Obama in January, making a considerable foray onto a political stage she has sought to avoid, she thought her announcement would be the extent of her public role in his campaign.
But for the past two months, she has been a detective, gathering information, asking questions and learning exhaustive details about some of the nation’s top Democrats. (No, she said, she would not share anything.) Either alone or with her co-chairman of the search team, Eric Holder, she talked with senators and members of Congress, governors and other party leaders.
She said Mr. Obama cast a wide net. “His goals and values were really clear from the way he approached it. He wanted somebody who was an independent thinker.”
They presented the information to Mr. Obama in a handful of private sessions, Ms. Kennedy said, and she watched Mr. Obama work his way to selecting Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr.
She said the search showed her another side of Mr. Obama.
“I’ve campaigned with him and seen him in large settings,” Ms. Kennedy said, “but to see the way he asked questions, listened, brought people together, with his leadership style and the kind of judgments he was making, really made me think he was even better than I thought he was.”