CAROLINE KENNEDY has a "you know" problem.

Who knew?

Probably not the gaggle of opinion- makers who swooned at the thought of America's Sweetheart circa 1962 becoming New York's (Senate) Sweetheart, circa February - or whenever the state's current junior senator, Hillary Clinton, is confirmed as secretary of state.

Away from a teleprompter, it turns out that Kennedy punctuates her political platitudes with "you knows" - a dozen in one 49-second response in a New York Times interview last week. She makes your typical Valley Girl sound like, you know, Hillary.

Then again, there's a lot we didn't know about Caroline Kennedy when she announced publicly only two weeks ago that she wants New York Gov. David Paterson to appoint her to the Senate seat.

For example, she's not much of a (Democratic) party animal. Not only did she skip voting in several local Democratic primaries, she has given only $1,000 to local Democratic candidates and refused, at first, to say she'd support the Democratic candidate for mayor this year against her buddy Michael Bloomberg. And we won't know about her finances, or any conflicts of interest, unless she's appointed.

She refuses to say.

At the same time, there were some things Caroline Kennedy apparently didn't know and the professionals advising her didn't tell her: For example, even the old media is the new media now. Printed reports of Kennedy's interviews last week vacuumed out the "you knows," as well as a snarky rejoinder about women's magazines. But now newspapers print full transcrips and make videos. And now there's YouTube.com.

These are relatively small issues, of course, things that a smart woman like Kennedy would have learned early on if only she'd entered politics the way most people do - by running for office.

As it is, she's managed to sink from beloved icon to late-night comic punchline in record time. Embarrassing for her, perhaps, but hopeful for Americans profoundly tired of political dynasties - the Clintons, the Cuomos, the Bushes. The U.S. Senate is not the House of Lords, after all. *