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“Raise Your Voice, Change Your World”

September 29, 2014

The scribe had doubts about what he’d written. Yes, the words in front of him represented the consensus of the group. Everyone, including women members, had wanted to weigh in on Kirsten Gillibrand in a way that would be a bit more critical than complimentary.

The gist of the piece was that she has been so much of an opportunist and chameleon in her public life that it’s not unfair to wonder about certain aspects of her new book championing the cause of women in the work place.

“Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World” is supposed to be part-memoir and part self-help book to inspire women to use life experiences to their advantage.

Nice. Poignant in a way, but about that backstory. Tina Rutnick, as she was known for the first part of her life, was the daughter of a prominent Republican operative and lobbyist. She interned with Al D’Amato. She represented Phillip Morris as a tobacco lobbyist.

Rutnik became Mrs. Gillbrand and upset a sitting Congressman on the strength of opposition research that was akin to KGB wet work.  Remember? A state police account of a 911 call came out in the middle of the race, forcing the incumbent to answer the question: “Are you still beating your wife?”

She eked out a victory and adopted the stance of perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the Northeast. She was pro-gun, anti-gay and anti-immigrant.

But all that changed when David Paterson stunned everyone and picked her to replace Hillary Clinton in the US Senate. In the history of US politics, a more obscure and inexperienced person had never been chosen. But there she was. And all of a sudden, on the big stage, under the tutelage of Chuck Schumer, she began to morph into a liberal.

The National Journal chronicled this change in an article in March of 2013: “How Kirstin Gillibrand Shed Her Past to Become a Liberal Star.”

“Multiple personalities” is the phrase in the National Journal piece and it’s what Paterson later said about her, too.

Gillibrand was quick to turn on Paterson in the middle of a controversy about an aide accused of domestic violence. Early in the process, while the case was still being investigated, Gillibrand said Paterson should resign because of reports that he interfered in the case.

Gillibrand was quick to turn on Spitzer, as well.

And she turned on Daniel Inouye. He was the unnamed senator who, in Gillibrand’s book, told her not to lose too much weight because he “likes his girls chubby.”

Inouye, WWII Congressional Medal of Honor winner and champion of civil rights and fellow Democrat, was a doddering 87 when he made the comment.

Not that there wasn’t some truth there.  Inouye had made improper comments to other women. And Spitzer, Paterson and Sweeney – well, the subsequent record speaks for itself.

It’s just that to our group, Gillibrand’s warranted criticisms also seem incredibly calculated and opportunistic.

Summing it up, the scribe had written that Gillibrand, whom he saw in person in Albany over the weekend, had made it “glamorous” to out people for crude and sexist comments and behavior.

And that was the word he stumbled over. Glamorous.

Was it cheap to say that? Was it offensive? Was it Inouye-ish in any sense?

These questions he posed in a follow up call to one of the women members of the group.

And the response, after a pause, was this: “Using the word glamorous isn’t a problem. It’s exactly the image Kirstin has sought. She’s knows exactly what she’s doing – whether it’s a book signing or a fashion shoot in Vogue.”

“But how is she any different from any another politician, any other male politician, who seizes on an issue and runs with it. And why would you, individually, and why would we at the blog, be more off-put by a woman doing it than a man?”

The scribe then rewrote the headline of the post.

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