Gillibrand: Missing a Compelling Case for Running? By J.E. Dean


This morning I watched Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Morning Joe. I was unimpressed. Her practiced answers to even softball questions were disingenuous.  She is a fast-talker, which some dictionaries define as someone talking quickly, often to trick someone or persuade them to buy something.  I was not buying this morning. I also cannot remember any details of any policy position she referenced. There was too much chaff for me to find wheat.

Gillibrand is clearly an intelligent woman, but has yet to make a compelling, or even attractive, case as to why she should be President.   I suspect that Gillibrand believes she is a logical heir to the political empire of Hillary Clinton. Not a bad thing given that Clinton easily won the popular vote and was arguably robbed of the Presidency by the Russians, Trump or both.   Gillibrand has described Clinton as a mentor. She brands herself as something of a policy wonk, just like Clinton (although without evidence of conviction on individual issues except in the broadest of outlines). And she is a woman, standing ready to be the candidate of the millions of voters, not all of them women, who were excited about Clinton because of her gender, obvious intelligence, and, her resume.

The Clinton comparison gets complicated on what I suspect Gillibrand views as dissimilarities.   So far, she has no baggage similar to Clinton’s problems with emails, Whitewater, how she handled the Lewinsky scandal, and the Clinton Foundation.  This is an unambiguous plus. There is nothing to fuel chants of “Lock her Up” and, as someone younger than Clinton, she can credibly hope to appeal to younger voters in a way that Clinton didn’t.   Nobody doubts she has the stamina necessary for two years on the campaign trail.

Is Gillibrand Clinton without the negatives?   In 1988, Democratic Vice Presidential hopeful Lloyd Bentsen ridiculed his rival, Dan Quayle, effectively after Quayle had the audacity to compare himself to John F. Kennedy.   Bentsen responded, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”  The quip is memorable to this day and, if Gillibrand were to compare herself openly to Hillary, a similar rebuttal would be justified and likely offered by a chorus of her competitors.

Some observers have noted that Gillibrand is an opportunist.  Her positions have changed radically as her political career has progressed.  She once had an A rating from the National Rifle Association and claims to have shot her own Thanksgiving turkey.    Then, after she was elected to the Senate, she became “a rabid supporter of gun control.” This is only one example.  Gillibrand explains the flip-flopping away by noting that she always fights for her constituents. Her constituents used to be conservative upstate New Yorkers.  Today they are the Democratic base.

Gillibrand will do whatever it takes to win.  For some, she is “too transparently opportunistic to be a viable candidate,” as Ciro Spotti said in an op-ed.  Maybe that’s why she muddies her policy positions—so most voters will give up trying to figure them out and focus on gender, youth, and enthusiasm.  It’s difficult to sort through her policu machinations. She will be well-served if she is never forced beyond aspirational truisms mixed into a slew of no-brainer positions such as support for the middle-class, better schools, and “bravery” and questionable positions like her endorsement of the Green New Deal.

With each passing day the case for Gillibrand gets weaker.  Why would anyone contribute to her long-shot campaign? She has yet to have a media appearance or TV interview (including announcing the formation of her “exploratory committee” to run on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)  that could be described as “impressive” or “inspiring.”   I sincerely doubt that this is likely to change. Gillibrand is a struggling candidate who believes that she will emerge as the victor in the coming royal rumble called the Democratic primary season.

J.E. Dean writes on policy and politics based on more than 30 years working with nonprofits and others interested in domestic policy.  Dean is an advocate for the environment, civil public debate, and good government. He resides in Oxford.


Letters to Editor

  1. Joan Wetmore says

    When Gillibrand forced Sen. Al Franken’s resignation, she lost any hope of going further politically.

    Joan Wetmore

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