The saga of how Kirsten Gillibrand, a right-wing Dem with all of two years experience in the House, got to replace Hillary and become the new US Sen from NY is making its way into the press and it's about what you'd expect: the OBC in action, except that nowadays it isn't the Old Boys' Club, it's the FREC - Friends of Rahm Emanuel Club.
First there was long-time Democrat political lackey and party propagandist Paul Begala fawning over Kirsten in his CNN column. I mean, gushing.
[T]he big news -- and for Democrats, the good news -- is that Gov. David Paterson has put another crack in the glass ceiling by appointing Kirsten Gillibrand to the Senate.
Gillibrand has it all. She moves with equal ease among Manhattan high-rollers and Delaware County dairymen.
I've seen Gillibrand in action. My father has a small farm in her district, near the village of Andes, New York. Every summer I bring my boys to Andes to fish in a pristine mountain trout pond, and at night we feast on fresh-caught fish with my dad's neighbors.
Those farmers and schoolteachers see Gillibrand as one of their own; someone who shares their values, who respects and protects the rugged beauty of their mountains even as she fights to bring jobs to the region.
And so on. Why, Kirsten is just perfect! A saint! WonderWoman and Clara Barton rolled into one! Wow!!
In the wake of her withdrawal, the governor immediately shifted to Gillibrand, a figure whose brief record in the House scarcely accords with his own perspectives and priorities. What she offers Paterson is her own formidable fundraising capacity, augmented in the past two election cycles by the Clinton organization, and her ties to the state Republican Party through her father, Doug Rutnik, a longtime lobbyist in Albany with powerful GOP connections. She is a veteran campaigner, dogged and highly skilled, whose female name above Paterson's on the Democratic ticket may well draw votes to him come November 2010.
While Gillibrand herself has supported lobbying reform in Congress, her family connections have raised troubling issues...
You might say that. Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who is currently facing indictment on - say it with me, children - corruption charges, is (ahem) Gillibrand's father's business partner. Her father, Doug Rutnik, is and has been for years a Big Time GOP lobbyist.
Federal prosecutors, according to numerous news accounts, are poised to indict former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and no one knows if that possible indictment will contain allegations about a real estate deal that involved Bruno and Gillibrand's father, Albany lobbyist and power broker Doug Rutnik.
What we do know is that prosecutors subpoenaed all the records of this complex transaction which, at the very least, raise stark ethical questions about Rutnik's awkward business relationship with a powerful public official he lobbied. No one familiar with Gillibrand's rapid political ascent would question the pivotal role that Rutnik has played in it, milking his wide-ranging political connections for his daughter.
So why run as a Democrat? The seat was open and John Sweeney was becoming an embarrassment, besides which Kirsten had ties to Emanuel and Hillary Clinton through some of her father's friends and being a staunch conservative has never mattered much to either of them next to one's ability to raise money. In fact, since they're both conservatives themselves, they're more at home with conservatives than with liberals.
So somebody - Hillary? - got (Ta-Da!) Wall Street's BFF Chuck Shumer to call Paterson, or maybe Paterson called Shumer, and the deal was done in the usual Emanuel/Clinton way: quietly, through inermediaries, by the back door. Not exactly a midnight meeting in a smoke-filled room but hardly the high light of the noonday sun, either.
But we're not to worry because though Kirsten's sudden liberality (which happened, like, yesterday; Conason writes, "If she has always thought that gay marriage should be legislated, she kept that opinion to herself during her last two campaigns for Congress.") may not be too impressive, she's against privatizing SocSec (for now) and iac, Chuck himself is going to see to her education, promising her "views will evolve".
Look, it isn't Gillibrand that's the problem, it's the loading up of the Democratic party with corporate-friendly conservatives like her, the apparent intention being for the party to do to itself what the GOP couldn't do to it in 50 years: dismantle FDR's populist coalition and turn all power over to corporations who won't then care who wins elections because both parties will work for them. America will then become a permanently conservative oligarchy pretending to be a democracy with a subsequent loss of liberty and a population of economic serfs.
But maybe that's what we want. Maybe not being a torturer is enough. What do we need all that freedom for when a class system puts everybody in their place and the rich get to do well? A Blue Dog of my acquaintance keeps asking me waspishly, don't I think we're better off than we were under Bush? and no matter how many times I tell him that's a mighty low target to shoot for, he doesn't get it. That, he insists, is the best we will ever do and it's just not realistic to expect any more.
He could have taken the words right out of Gillibrand's mouth. As long as Rahm is recruiting, you might as well kiss a populist Democratic party Good-Bye cause it ain't never gonna happen. The below-minimum cellar-rating "better than George Bush" (which is like saying "King George III is better than Attilla the Hun so call the Revolution off!") is the best they think we can do. (Translation: the best the corporations they work for are going to allow us to do.)
So will Obama the post-partisan peacemaker fight his own party? Cause that's what it's going to take as Rahm and the rest of the Democrat corporate conservatives take FDR's party apart piece by Gillibrand-lovin' piece and hand it over to Wall Street to flush down the East River.