Sen. Gillibrand: The Gravel, She’ll Cavil, Was Ended Mainly by the Gavel


Warren HardingThe not-so-heightened drama called the confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor began yesterday, and it fell upon New York’s junior senator, the palpably not-ready-for-prime-time Kirsten Gillibrand, to follow New York’s more polished senior senator, Charles Schumer, in introducing the nominee.

Schumer, whom I adore but who, let’s be perfectly honest, never met a microphone he didn’t want to French kiss, at least delivered a compact, appropriately high-praising introduction of Sotomayor, who quite understandably radiated exquisite pride.

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Alas, though, Senator Gillibrand unintentionally stole the spotlight when her remarks began to channel the style of President Warren G. Harding, arguably most famous for his love of bloviation. (Bloviate is a word. Read this.)

Were Gillibrand an actress, not a senator, one might offer some advice. For example, touting the virtue of self-editing. In addition, her voice doesn’t really suit her face — now, that’s not her fault, but when you look at her, you expect a fairly high pitch. Instead, she speaks with a hint of a rasp, a kind of lunch-bucket-humor trumpet that would not be out of place at the local diner.

Watching Gillibrand read her remarks, it also seemed to me that either some senators simply don’t make enough time to rehearse their remarks in order to deliver them smoothly, decisively and engagingly — I mean, this is, after all, the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate — or fail to think comprehensively about their oratorical abilities in the first place, and I just find that difficult to imagine.

If you want to watch this entire video, do. If you’re in a bit of a rush, however, skip to around 11:00. You’ll be amused by how Sen. Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary Committee and is amusing himself in that his voice is a profound rasp, persuades Senator Gillibrand to wrap it up.

  • Hello Leonard,

    It’s a bit difficult for me to believe that you’ve actually fallen for one media moment as somehow equating to the full accomplishments and capabilities of the junior senator from NY. Other senators were just as bloviated, but they got ten minutes to bloviate, while Sen. Gillibrand only received five minutes due to a last-minute rule change. She clearly had prepared for the 10 she thought she was going to get. Leahy was picking on her because she was an easy target for him.

    I quote the following from the comment section of an article in the NYT on the same incident:

    “I’m watching the NY Times in disbelief as they consistently hatchet Kirsten Gillibrand. What is it that she does right, if you please? Maybe you could mention that she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Dartmouth before completing UCLA law school – perhaps you could say that she was a tireless worker for her previous constituents who re-elected her with a 62% majority. I believe you forgot to enlighten your readers that Senator Gillibrand has been endorsed by Emily’s List, the Sierra Club, NARAL, as well as the AFL-CIO. Only one example of Senator Gillibrand’s many progressive stances is her determination to pass a public option for health care. Perhaps it might interest your readers that Senator Gillibrand can speak fluent Mandarin when addressing New Yorkers of Chinese heritage.”

    And perhaps – just perhaps – the downstate bias in NYC against upstate legislators continues unabated. New York State will never be represented properly if upstate legislators such as Gillibrand continue to be slammed in the press on such an unrelenting basis.

    • No, it isn’t about a media moment, Tom. I simply think the woman isn’t to be trusted. Look, if she was pro-gun, fine, let her be pro-gun. Or anti-marriage equality. Now, I wouldn’t vote for someone espousing those views, but at least she’d be consistent. That her views appear to be so fungible makes me disinclined to like her. Plus, I think she spoke in a not-impressive way.