Note to readers: I have been ill - nothing serious but not well enough to write and even now will have to be brief - thank you for your patience during the lull.
In early December, I stated my own preference for Kirsten Gillibrand for appointment to the New York State Senate seat opened by Secretary of State Clinton's decision to move to the Executive branch. As I wrote recently, Gillibrand was neither the only woman suitable for a gubernatorial appointment nor the only suitable person. But kudos to Governor Paterson, who is taking all sorts of heat for the appointment (not surprising in the snakes nest of New York state politics), for sticking to his word and his principles about a) filling the seat with a woman, especially so that the 2010 ticket of state-wide office runners in New York would definitely include a woman incumbent (that's the 51 Percent spirit) and b) using his own judgment and not being jockeyed by New York state dynastic politicians (whether the dynasty be Kennedy or Cuomo).
I cannot know all the reasons Governor Paterson chose Gillibrand, and surely many were "political" - e.g. related to his belief that selecting her would be good for his chances for reelection; or for New York State Democrats in general. Even if one went into 2008 with a less jaded view of politics (which I did not) nobody could come out of it with such a naive one as to think that such factors played no roll in his choice.
Indeed, this is part of why I applaud the choice of Gillibrand. A Democrat who has twice won in a majority Republican congressional district, this is no untested politician (note to those complaining about her "lack of experience" - see e.g. our just-elected President; were you raising that complaint about him, either when he ran for Senate or for President?)
Gillibrand is more conservative than I am on a number of issues: her take on the Second Amendment, in particular, commits her to a view about individual rights to own guns with which I disagree, although on the relevant vote in Congress in which she has participated she voted for improved background checks on gun purchasers with a history of mental illness. But on other issues, including reproductive rights, her voting record makes me smile at the prospect of eliminating the domestic versions of the gag rule that President Obama has eliminated in the international context. On still other issues, I am, as is so often the cases in democratic politics (small "d", please note) in partial agreement or partial disagreement, but can easily comprehend the reasonableness of Gillibrand's view. For example, in the absence of an extension of the precedent of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that recognized the unconstitutionality of laws prohibiting interracial marriage to to same sex couples, Gillibrand is for a federal law permitting same-sex civil union and leaving the issue to states as to what to term this union. What I like about Gillibrand is that she takes her own position seriously: while I might prefer a champion of legislation for same sex-sex marriage, a liberal committed to federalism, can, in the absence of a Supreme Court decision mandating the extension of the institution of marriage, coherently maintain a preference for the a federal law permitting civil unions, while leaving to the states the question of what to call these unions.
Kirsten Gillibrand is a nuanced politician. And she's a young woman by political standards, at 42 the youngest member of the Senate. As we have seen, youth favors rising politicians, especially those who would be President. Kirsten Gillibrand may or may not develop politically in ways that would make enough of her positions strongly appealing to me to get behind her as a rising contender for the Presidency. But the idea is not far-fetched. So, for the first time in many weeks my heart is unequivocally warmed by a development on the national political scene.
Read this news article to get a wellrounded characterization of Kirsten Gillibrand.