August 2 2012

Kirsten Gillibrand: Sideline Senator Oprah

National Review Online

Lisa Schiffren

New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, is one busy lady. In the middle of an election, and a recession where unemployment in parts of New York City and the state is at 14 percent, the woman Harry Reid called “our hottest senator” is holding a meeting of her online book club tonight, at 6 p.m. She’s a United States senator, but she has a book club — like Oprah used to! Just like Oprah, her book club is all about empowering women. She’s obviously serious about it, because it’s paid for by her re-election campaign.

Kirsten’s book club (people use first names in book clubs) is part of her Off the Sidelines project. Staffer Lillian Choi explained in a previous email that joining Kirsten’s club was a way for women to feel as if we are part of . . . well, something important about women’s lives and being involved. So we can be heard. I’m sure she didn’t mean to imply that most of her constituents are living unimportant lives, on the sidelines. Even if we do just go to work, take care of our families, and try to get the bills paid, which is harder than it used to be.

Maybe she started this club for all of the unemployed women in our state, who really are kind of sidelined, and she wants them to have something important to look forward to, since there aren’t any jobs. Something really intellectual and fun! Especially for all the new college grads who can’t get jobs in New York, and are back at home waiting to get off the unemployment lines. They’re available at 6 p.m.!

So, tonight they’re reading a book called How Great Women Lead: A Mother-Daughter Adventure into the Lives of Women Shaping the World. It’s nice that Gilly wants to showcase women leaders. Because . . . well, obviously she is a woman leader: She was profiled in Vogue when she lost her baby weight! Even if she does kind of follow Chuck Schumer’s instructions . . . But that isn’t quite fair — since she has the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate. She’s a leader among liberals!

Too many books about leadership discuss paths, methods, and goals of people who build businesses or organizations, which can be a little technical. This one is probably more . . . inspiring. Especially for those unemployed college grads. I know Kirsten isn’t so interested in business, or the economy, or things like finance, which matter in New York, but I wonder if maybe it would be a good idea to read about that next week. I bet even she could learn something about how higher taxes and heavy-handed regulations on major industries like banking  don’t really help women — or men — start businesses or hire more people.

But, even if building a stronger economy isn’t her top priority, I know she cares about unemployment. She likes to help when people are already unemployed. Senator Gillibrand is very proud of getting more food stamps and other benefits for all the unemployed people. Especially women. I almost cried when I got her email saying that the worst thing any mother could face was her kids going to bed hungry. It’s important for women to get even more food stamps, I guess. Even if they don’t know they need them. Though childhood obesity is bad too, of course.

Oh, and her other big issue is marriage. Not that she’d ever tell all those struggling single moms that marriage is important. She is much too compassionate to do that. She’s solved their problems anyway — with food stamps or free abortions. But Senator Gillibrand is really passionate about gay marriage! Yesterday she sent an e-mail telling us how exciting it is that the Democrats were the First Party Ever! to put marriage equality in their platform. It’s pretty exciting. I do wonder why a U.S. senator spends so much time on “marriage equality” when governors and state legislatures are in charge. The thing is, I’m pretty sure that, married or not, gays and lesbians need jobs too. Or maybe they want to start businesses. They need to earn a living way more than they need free birth control — which they don’t need, of course, because . . . you know. And it’s hard to see how more abortions help them, either. But it’s good to know she cares!

I’m kind of curious why a U.S. Senator only wants women in her book club? There are so many unemployed men. I’m sure they want to be heard, too. Maybe Senator Schumer has a book club for men? I guess she deals with women’s stuff, and he deals with men’s stuff. I guess fixing the economy is still men’s stuff? Terrorism, too, presumably.

A Republican friend of mine suggested that Gilly wants a book club of her own because people don’t take her seriously. How can that be? She’s a senator! And there’s nothing wrong with getting to be senator by using your dad’s Albany connections to get an unelected governor to appoint you. My friend, who’s kind of snobby, thinks Kirsten needs to prove that she is as smart and serious as the men and women who previously held her seat: James Buckley and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who were both genuine intellectuals, who contributed serious ideas to the nation’s political discourse and affected national policy — as should be the case with a U.S. senator from New York. My friend, who hates Hillary Clinton, now thinks that by comparison, even Hillary looks like an intellectual giant. Or, anyway, a serious politician. So, yes! A book club definitely shows that Gillibrand’s a serious person. And she cares.

 Lisa Schiffren is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

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