A Personal Perspective
BY MARCIA MOXAM COMRIE
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York’s junior U.S. senator, has been MIA from our state ever since then-governor David Paterson handed her the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton.
Gillibrand, a Democrat from upstate New York, was always anti-gun control. In other words, she was a darling of the NRA. But this past week, she told 60 Minutes that she is embarrassed that for years she had seen the state—and indeed the country—through the prism of her upstate New York experience.
There have also been widespread whispers that the senator, who is running for reelection this year, is a possible presidential candidate for 2020. So, now she is changing her tune on guns, and showed up in New York for MLK events this year.
And speaking of her home state, Gillibrand does not live here. She moved her family to the Washington, D.C. area long ago when she became senator. There is no law against that. U.S. senators are free to live outside the state they represent. It just doesn’t seem to be the best thing.
Sen. Gillibrand has represented us remotely for years. She is an overall good senator, but she has almost no visibility in New York. Our gregarious senior senator, Charles “Chuck” Schumer, is everywhere. He never misses a college graduation, political swearing-in, Black, Hispanic and Asian Caucus Weekend or any other big event in the state if he can help it.
Schumer probably knows every elected official in his state by name and sight. It is doubtful that we could say the same for Gillibrand. She does not attend our college commencements, inaugurations or other important events.
We can admire her for joining forces with U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney in standing up our 9/11 first-responders. As we all know, many died on that day—and many continue to die due to the toxic dust they inhaled. These heroes—as well as the office workers, construction workers and others affected by the toxins—deserve the best healthcare in the world. And yet, they were being denied by the federal government. But Gillibrand, Maloney and the rest of our downstate delegation stood up for them and got the Zadroga Compensation Act passed.
She has also stood firmly against sexual assault and harassment in the military. That helped her make a name for herself and positioned her to be one of Washington’s loudest voices for the #MeToo movement.
That is all good stuff. But she took flack for immediately calling on U.S. Sen. Al Franken to step down when he was accused of groping a woman that he once appeared with in a show for veterans. This happened before Franken was a senator.
With that on record, several other women also came out to accuse Franken of groping them. And while one cannot condone what Franken did, losing a good Democratic senator when we are already in the minority was crushing.
Asked—in light of this—if President Bill Clinton should also have stepped down for the Monica Lewinsky affair, Gillibrand, trying not to be a hypocrite, said “yes”—he should have stepped down.
We had already litigated the Clinton affair.
The scandal brought his presidency to its knees. There was no need for that question and no need for that answer. In trying not to be a hypocrite, the senator still came off as a hypocrite because she has enjoyed the good graces of the Clintons, in spite of the former president’s tawdry affair with the hot-to-trot intern.
Gillibrand’s shift on gun control is a good thing. Her excuse for not doing it sooner doesn’t fly.