The latest issue of the Dartmouth alumni magazine features CNN host and Dartmouth graduate Jake Tapper interviewing senator and Dartmouth graduate Kirsten Gillibrand. The interview yielded plenty of eyebrow-raising bits—including Gillibrand admitting that she voted to confirm Nikki Haley as UN ambassador solely because she pulled down the Confederate flag when she was governor of South Carolina.
But first, this truly cursed entry in today’s Politico Playbook, which alerted even state school graduates like me to this newsworthy item in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine:
CNN’S JAKE TAPPER (Dartmouth class of ‘91) interviews NEW YORK SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (Dartmouth class of ‘88) in DARTMOUTH ALUMNI MAGAZINE: TAPPER: “You talk about reaching across the aisle. You voted against almost every single Trump appointee.”
Every one of those proper nouns gets a little worse—only to be bested by Gilliabrand’s response to that non-question (emphasis added throughout):
I didn’t vote against [former Veterans Affairs Secretary David] Shulkin, and I didn’t vote against [U.S. Ambassador to the UN] Nikki Haley. I voted for Haley because she stood up and took down the flag as governor [of South Carolina, where the state legislature passed a bill in 2015 mandating removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol]. That was meaningful leadership when it was really needed. I voted for Shulkin because his record under President Obama wasn’t horrible.
Shulkin “wasn’t horrible”—a ringing endorsement if I’ve ever heard one—and Haley, who’s now wreaking havoc as one of the most low-key effective members of the Trump administration, took down the bad flag, solving racism! That’s true leadership “when it was really needed,” as Gillibrand put it, which seems to leave plenty of room for Haley to be bad now.
If you were hoping that this interview might somehow transform Gillibrand’s not-entirely-unearned reputation as a preening opportunist, your fears would not have been assuaged as the interview continued:
TAPPER: Do you think your push to change the way sexual assault and rape are reported in the military is your most important mission, so far, as a legislator?
GILLIBRAND: I don’t think it’s the most important. Some of the early things I had to do as senator were vital for my state. Getting the 9/11 health bill passed, protecting first responders who literally answered the call of duty, raced up towers when everybody was racing down—that was probably the most significant piece of legislation I’ve ever passed. I think working on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time. Fighting for LGBTQ equality in all spaces in all ways will be a lifelong goal of mine because I really believe in equality for all.
Probably not the way I would’ve started my response! But it gave her the opportunity to highlight her other legislative achievements, ones that might appeal more to an audience of Dartmouth alums.
Tapper also asked Gillibrand, who’s been out front in the #MeToo era—she was the first senator to call for Al Franken’s resignation over misconduct allegations and introduced legislation, now stalled, to reform Congress’ broken system for reporting of harassment—if she’d “ever been sexually harassed.”
Gillibrand replied: “I’ve certainly been treated poorly. I don’t know if it would rise to the level of harassment. Some people might have considered it harassment. I didn’t.”
While, to her credit, Gillibrand goes on to say she doesn’t “think the #MeToo movement has gone far enough,” that last answer feeds into the slippery narrative that sexual harassment is something undefinable—and an offense the strongest, most career-driven women withstand without breaking a sweat.