Friday, December 24, 2010

The Power Brokeress

Much as we like to bemoan the state of politics in the State of New York, when it comes to the people we have sent to the US Senate over the last few decades, the Empire State can take a bow.

Like most New Yorkers, our senators have been some of the smartest and most hardworking people to take the floor of the world greatest delibrative body. Whether they be Republicans or Democrats, we can be proud of senators like Jacob Javits, Ernest Lehman, Bobby Kennedy, and Kenneth Keating who were giants in their day. In the last thirty years we had have Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the intellectual heavy of the senate from 1976-2001, as well as Al D'Amato (1981-1999), "senator pothole", widely considered one of the best constituent services senators ever.

More recently we have had Hillary Clinton (2001-2009), who has probably done more for upstate New York than any senator in recent memory. And we have had and still have Chuck Schumer, another great constituent services senator as well as a great legislator, who is shaping up to be perhaps the single greatest senator New York has ever produced.

Less than two years ago, Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to fill Clinton's vacated senate seat. Expectations for her was low since she had only been in the House since 2007 and had no great record of legislative achievement. Also, the messiness of her appointment by the unpopular Governor David Paterson cast a pall over her appointment. Many thought she was a lightweight, vulnerable to challenge in either a Democratic primary or by a decent enough Republican candidate in the general election. She managed to shut down her primary opposition in 2010 and her Republican opponent was weak that she won easily in 2010. But she has to run again in 2012 and many people were believing until recently that she'd be politically DOA. 

People aren't saying that now. In this last week, she has assured that in 2012 she will win reelection in a landslide. Her work in repealing the awful "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, as well as her leadership in getting the 9/11 Health Responders Bill passed over virulent Republican opposition, has won her plaudits and kudos in this state and the country.

These were great, historic victories. Few veteran legislators can boast such achievements.

Senator Gillibrand is no longer an accidental senator but a real player and, if her recent work is any sign of things to come, she may very well be a senator (or more?) for years to come. 

On WNYC today, someone made a very good point that Senator Gillibrand is shaping up to be the Un-Palin. Like Sarah Palin, Gillibrand is a female professional politician who is, to put it mildly, very easy on the eyes. And like Ms. Palin, she is a mother of young children.  But unlike Ms. Palin, our Kirsten is no quitter -- she works like a demon. And unlike Ms. Gillibrand, she is not an us vs. them polarizer -- she knows how to win people over and influence them. And unlike Ms. Palin, Senator Gillibrand has actually accomplished more in her less than two years in the senate than Sarah did in her 2 1/2 years as Governor.

So New York now has another great Senator and hopefully she'll keep up the great work. Bravo! 

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