The New York Times penned an earnest hymn to the Democrats’ latest feminist presidential hope, the newly “progressive” heroine Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Shane Goldmacher, recently of Politico, and Matt Flegenheimer, a familiar byline at NewsBusters, launched Gillibrand’s potential 2020 campaign (joining previous Times feminist presidential hopefuls, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren) from the front of the Sunday National section, under the large-type, incredibly sycophantic headline “Senator’s Star Shines as Nation Unites Behind Her Cause -- Gillibrand, Long a Champion of Women, Stays Out Front in a Cultural Reckoning.”
Keep in mind that’s a headline in the paper’s News section:
For much of the year, Kirsten Gillibrand’s critics -- sensing a presidential aspirant in their midst -- had assumed that the New York senator could not hear enough about herself. For one day at least, it appeared she had.
The reporters were quick to make Gillibrnd a feminist martyr (and a relatable mother) after Trump made a reference to her in a tweet:
It had been about 10 hours since President Trump accused her of “begging” for campaign contributions that she “would do anything” to secure, and Ms. Gillibrand, driving with her 14-year-old son on Tuesday evening, flipped on the radio looking for an update on the Senate race in Alabama. The top story, instead, was her. The radio went off again.
What, exactly, had the president said about her? her son asked.
“He thinks mommy is doing a bad job,” she recalled telling him, taking care to censor.
After a Senate career spent elevating victims of sexual harassment and assault as a defining political focus, Ms. Gillibrand has assumed her place at the head table of the Democrats’ anti-Trump movement. The reason is simple: Her cause became the country’s. And she has made sure to stay out front in the reckoning.
Ms. Gillibrand was the first in her caucus to say Senator Al Franken of Minnesota should resign. She was the first prominent Democrat to say President Bill Clinton should have left office for his own sexual misconduct in the 1990s. She called for Mr. Trump to step down, citing his “numerous” and “credible” accusers. Then came Mr. Trump’s Twitter counterpunch, which was widely viewed as innuendo-laden and which Ms. Gillibrand denounced as a “sexist smear.”
What about the donations and support she received from the Clintons? That topic was on hold until much later in the piece:
....While Ms. Gillibrand and her political team play down all talk of 2020, saying she is focused on her own 2018 re-election and those of her fellow Senate Democrats, she has for months been doing the type of spadework endemic to past presidential candidates: expanding her fund-raising network, courting key constituencies like black voters and polishing her image nationally.
.... She has cursed freely in public venues, a recurring tic in her career -- registering more recently as a brashness to match these Trumpian times.
Long a talented fund-raiser, Ms. Gillibrand has cultivated a flourishing network of small donors, raising nearly $3 million in the first three quarters of 2017 from people who gave less than $200, more than she had in the previous eight years combined from such donors. Google searches for “Gillibrand 2020” are sometimes topped by ads for her campaign website reading, “Join the Resistance -- Stand with Kirsten Gillibrand.”
The Times made sure to shore up her moderate bona fides:
Her Twitter response, which she drafted in a minuteslong phone call with her aides as she stepped out of a bipartisan Bible study (“You cannot silence me,” it began), became the most widely shared missive of her career.
And here's brief discouraging note:
Ms. Gillibrand is not universally beloved in the Capitol, where her near-blanket opposition to even uncontroversial Trump administration nominees was met with eye rolls from some peers.
The Times then detoured to boost the profiles of some other potential Democratic senator saviors, all female:
Senator Kamala Harris of California has enjoyed several high-profile moments in hearings on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Her pointed questions and interjections have at times attracted uncommon interruptions from Republican colleagues, leaving supporters to wonder if a male senator would be treated the same way.
(Flegenheimer has fostered the myth of the “interrupted” feminist Harris (never mind that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos gets interrupted by male Democrats without triggering any comparative handwringing).
Goldmacher and Flegenheimer set Gillibrand up as both savior and Trump victim.
That Ms. Gillibrand would become the latest female lawmaker with an elevated profile in the Trump age is little surprise to Democrats.
“Misogyny is such a core aspect of Trump,” said Brian Fallon, a former top aide to Mrs. Clinton and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “It makes it quite natural for female politicians on the left to be his foil because standing up to him on those issues is so core to taking him on in general. Male politicians are trying to keep up.”
“There have been some criticisms of her for being opportunistic,” said Michele Jawando, a former chief counsel to Ms. Gillibrand in the Senate. “But she lives her life with deep empathy and compassion for other people. It’s not a farce. It’s not a fake thing.”
Finally, the reporters briefly circled back to the Clintons’ controversy:
Her latest flourish: saying Mr. Clinton should have resigned as president, despite the fact that he has campaigned and raised money for her and that Mrs. Clinton wrote the forward to Ms. Gillibrand’s book.
But don’t worry, they quickly assured Gillibrand’s fans:
Her fans do not much care. She keynoted the anti-Trump Women’s Convention in Detroit this October. The late-night comedian Samantha Bee wrote on Twitter that she hoped Mr. Trump’s tweet would be Ms. Gillibrand’s “superhero origin story and ignite her 2020 campaign.” (Later, Ms. Gillibrand filmed a brief segment for Ms. Bee’s show.)
“I’ve been stopped by people on the street, like, literally nonstop in the last 48 hours,” she said in the interview.
Then came the relatable, humanizing conclusion, all the better to position her for the 2020 Democratic campaign:
She also became friendly with emergency workers like John Feal, who lost part of his foot after helping to clear debris at ground zero. In 2016, Mr. Feal was Ms. Gillibrand’s guest at the State of the Union address, joining her at a reception that evening.
With a glass of wine in her hand, Mr. Feal recalled, Ms. Gillibrand looked back at him, plainly bored by her elected company. She had not smoked since she became a mother, she told him. And yet.
“I need a cigarette,” Ms. Gillibrand joked, adding an expletive her sons are not supposed to hear.