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.