Three years ago, I wrote a rough draft of a review of Kirsten E. Gillibrand’s book “Off The Sidelines” – a quasi-memoir which also fancies itself as a political self-help book for young women.
The savvy editor of my piece sent the review back to me, saying my evaluation needed a dose of more skepticism about New York’s junior senator. But if anything, the shelved review has aged very well since 2014.
Through the accidents of politics and the rise of Donald J. Trump, Kirsten Gillibrand has found herself as the perfect political foil to get national attention. Voting against all but one of the president’s cabinet appointments in January and ending the year by speaking out against Al Franken and Bill Clinton, Gillibrand has been rising to the top of a messy Democratic mosh pit. And then there was the president’s tweet yesterday, in which he responded to Gillibrand’s push for him to resign by calling her a “lightweight” who would “do anything” for a campaign contribution.
The only thing missing from Trump’s tweet was “And I mean ANYTHING” but it was more than enough for most of us to connect the sexist dots. Perhaps garbling modern terminology but understanding Trump’s message, Senator Elizabeth Warren accused the president of “slut shaming” Gillibrand. Other female senators quickly followed suit.
Intentionally or not, Gillibrand has successfully baited the president into a fight that’s giving her more attention than ever. Underestimated and criticized for most of her career, Gillibrand could serve as a formidable foe to Trump because she’s everything that he’s not.
A Democrat who successfully unseated Republican John Sweeney in an upstate House race in 2006, Gillibrand has already shown her ability to realize political crossover dreams. Dismissed even by some Democrats when she was appointed by Gov. David Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate in 2009, she has twice overwhelmingly won elections to hold the seat.
With her re-election campaign approaching next year, Gillibrand is surely thinking about reconsidering her pledge not to run for president in 2020. And, after all, who would you rather have a slice of pie with in a diner in Des Moines or Manchester: Kirsten Gillibrand or a certain New York governor or New York City mayor?
Meanwhile, as things get uglier every day, Gillibrand should hope that the president continues to have that itchy twitter finger.