January 23, 2009


Kirsten Gillibrand. Really?: Why New York Gov. David Paterson chose a senator with conservative views that clash with his own. (Joe Conason, Jan. 23, 2009, Salon)

Whether New York's rank-and-file Democrats are pleased, puzzled or apoplectic about the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton, they cannot fault their new United States senator for being who she is -- an ordinary upstate politician, largely defined by poll-driven issues that fit the right-wing rural district she represented in Congress. The sole responsibility for choosing an avowed conservative Democrat belongs to Gov. David Paterson, who seems to have relied heavily upon the advice of Charles Schumer, the state's senior senator. [...]

Family and partisan liabilities aside, the new junior senator is energetic, telegenic, youthful and combative, qualities that may yet transform her into a Washington star. Yet she has displayed little of the independence and intellect that marked the legendary occupants of that seat, such as Robert F. Kennedy or Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

On the economic issues that ought to be uppermost in the mind of the man who chose her, Gillibrand has taken positions precisely opposed to his; as Paterson might observe, positions that were inimical to the interests of her state if not her district. Last year, she voted against the Wall Street bailout bill, presumably because that legislation polled poorly. Her Web site boasts that she has been "a strong supporter of the Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) rule, which bans deficit spending." That mindless notion would dictate a vote against the stimulus bill proposed by President Barack Obama and supported by the Democratic leadership in both houses, which will create the biggest budget deficit since World War II. And unlike most Democrats, she continues to support the Bush tax cuts.

Gillibrand is supple enough to earn high ratings from both the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union. Her position on immigration reform hews to Republican orthodoxy ("no amnesty for illegal immigrants"), and although she claims to have supported "redeployment of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan," she voted with the Bush administration and against her own party leadership on funding the war. At the same time, she has strongly defended Social Security and Medicare against Republican incursions, endorses universal health insurance, and has worked hard to promote family farms, organic agriculture and alternative energy programs. She is, in short, a hybrid politician who has remained conservative enough to keep her seat while appearing progressive enough to raise money downstate.

Gillibrand conducted oppo research on self (GLENN THRUSH, 1/23/09, Politico)
“[A]ny attack on Gillibrand will likely focus on… her family and commitment to the region [and] her law firm work,” concluded the unnamed authors of the December 2005 document, obtained by Politico from a New York Democrat.

“Kirsten's family could cause her some political headaches. While her relatives have endured individual problems… the most likely attack she will face is that she is a product of Albany's political machine. The more voters learn about Kirsten’s family, the more they may not believe that she is a true political outsider, as she claims.”

The report flags a host of nagging, non-fatal problems. At the top of the list — Gillibrand’s work as a white-shoe lawyer representing corporations like Qwest Communications, which had been accused of financial misdeeds, followed by “headaches” stemming from her father’s lobbying work and his romantic involvement with a top aide to former Gov. George Pataki and also carpetbagger charges that might arise from her longtime residence in Manhattan.

There was even a passing mention of Gillibrand’s Montana hunting license, hinting at a Palin-esque penchant for sport shooting, and her $895,000 house in affluent Hudson, N.Y.

Gillibrand unpopular among peers (PATRICK O'CONNOR & GLENN THRUSH, 1/23/09, Politico)
Within the high school gossip circle that is New York’s congressional delegation, Kirsten Gillibrand’s nickname is “Tracy Flick” — a not-so-flattering reference to the over-eager, blonde, bubbly and viciously competitive Reese Witherspoon character from “Election.” [...]

“Nobody really likes her,” sniped one New York City-area member, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“She's smart and capable, but she's rubbed people the wrong the way,” said another.

“I think she's going to get a serious primary in 2010,” opined a longtime state Democratic operative who supports Gillibrand.

Many members of the state’s congressional delegation skipped Gillibrand’s announcement in Albany, mostly citing other commitments.

And one notable absentee was sending a message: Pro-gun control Long Island Rep. Carolyn McCarthy says she’ll run against Gillibrand to protest the new senator’s pro-gun record and perfect NRA rating.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2009 8:20 PM
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