When New York. Gov. David Paterson picked Rep. Kristen Gillibrand (a gun-rights-favoring Democrat) instead of Caroline Kennedy to take Hillary Clinton’s place in the Senate, many liberals howled. Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift unloaded an editorial at NPR.org on Tuesday that used that nasty P-word to insult Gillibrand: Palin.
Gillibrand is to Kennedy what Sarah Palin was to Clinton: a very different political package. Women who supported Clinton did not flock to Palin once they knew what she stood for. Gillibrand is pro-choice and she won't be gunning down wolves from a helicopter like Palin, but her pro-gun position is at odds with every other Democrat in the New York delegation, men and women alike. Maintaining the Senate's gender balance won't be much consolation to New Yorkers who back gun control.
After the Palin slap, Clift hoped: "Now that Gillibrand has the entire state to represent, she may moderate her views." But she certainly worries about them:
[S]he is no Caroline Kennedy. Kirsten Gillibrand has a 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association, and in her previous life as a corporate lawyer, she defended Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris. Critics complained they didn't know what Kennedy stood for. News flash: She didn't stand for the NRA or Big Tobacco. Progressive politics are in Kennedy's DNA; Gillibrand plays both sides of the aisle, a fashionable formula in the post-partisan Obama era.
Clift seems to be writing on behalf of all liberal Democrats. The editorial's title is "Show Us What You Got, Gillibrand." (Feel the warmth.) She wrapped up the editorial by trying to see the new Senator through Hillary Clinton’s eyes:
Winning depends on her ability to divide and conquer and bring along enough Republican support to offset angry liberals. She was an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton during the presidential primaries. Her effusive praise of Clinton upon being named her successor should help her tap into Clinton's money people. Gillibrand is no Clinton when it comes to her policies, but the fact that she's not a Kennedy goes a long way in the dueling dynasties. It would have been a far more bitter pill for Clinton to see her seat go to someone whose endorsement of Barack Obama helped doom her presidential chances.
The filling of this seat is personal as much as it is about policies. Kennedy will get over the way she was slighted and find her revenge, perhaps in a future race when she is more prepared. Clinton is surely relieved.
Clift's first reaction to Palin last year was to tell her fellow panelists at The McLaughlin Group that her selection caused a lot of laughter in newsrooms. Eleanor is not the first to compare Gillibrand to Palin. In early December, I noted that at the liberal Daily Beast website, Benjamin Sarlin called Gillibrand the 95-percent liberal a "bizarro version of Sarah Palin," despite her endorsement by NARAL Pro-Choice New York and liberal voting scores from both sides of the aisle (8 percent from the American Conservative Union, 95 percent from the libs at Americans for Democratic Action).