It is tough to learn what kind of manager a Senator is. Even the most powerful Senators have fewer employees than a big city mayor or a Cabinet Member. Senators’ actual work with other people is rarely visible. Senators don’t implement policy, don’t manage a lot of employees. Nevertheless, everything they do involves managing other people.
Amy Klobuchar She was the inspiration for this series of notes on management. She was attacked for being mean to her staff. Yelling at one of them for neglecting to get utensils to use to eat a salad. Using a comb as a utensil, then sending the same staff member to wash the comb.
The complaints have increased her name recognition. That’s about it. When she wasn’t ignoring those complaints, she took them as a demonstration of her toughness.
She has, in fact, demonstrated personal toughness. She focused on her studies amidst family troubles, especially her father’s drinking. She went to Yale and excelled there, writing a senior thesis about the building of the Metrodome. She eventually turned that into a book. She turned her law degree from The University of Chicago into a ticket for corporate work.
Her political interests were heightened when she was limited to 24 hours in a maternity ward, even though her child had a life threatening condition. She helped with campaigns, began and withdrew from a race for County Attorney, and was later elected to that position.
Success as County Attorney helped her become a US Senator. Vox digital news did a feature report on her success as a tough on crime prosecutor. She put a lot of people in jail. She has not questioned or apologized for her approach. She did get praise from Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project for her support of improvements in eyewitness identification and the recording of police interviews.
She is not alone among the Democratic Presidential candidates to be questioned about their role in mass incarceration – Joe Biden for his legislative efforts, Cory Booker as an anti-crime mayor, Kamala Harris as another tough prosecutor.
Kirsten Gillibrand Look for a core set of political values.
- As the scion of a powerful Albany Democratic family (her grandmother headed the Albany Democratic Women’s Club for over 30 years), she practiced law in New York City and helped raise money the old fashioned way – from big donors. She chaired the Women’s Leadership Forum and was on the Board of the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee.
- As a Member of Congress, representing an upstate, Republican tilting district, she joined the Blue Dog caucus — conservative Democrats. She had a perfect rating from the NRA, opposed the 2008 bank bailout, but also supported universal health care. She was sufficiently well connected to be appointed US Senator to replace Hillary Clinton
- As a Senator, she became more liberal – on gun safety, for instance. A major focus has been sexual assault and harassment. She sought civilian control of investigations in the military. Her criticisms of sexual harassment by Senator Al Franken were crucial to his decision to resign from the Senate.
Political analysts do not talk about how pretty Kirsten Gillibrand is. A few Members of Congress have. She recalls harassment; particularly in the context of her having gained weight. Congressional colleagues telling her how much they liked her with that extra weight. She has lost the weight.
Was harassment new to her? After attending an all girls Catholic High School and an all girls Prep School, she went to Dartmouth – the Ivy League college that inspired Animal House. Would she have formed an opinion about sexual harassment there?
Looking for a core set of Kirsten Gillibrand’s political values? Look at women’s issues. Find her somewhere between the Eleanor Roosevelt’s Legacy Committee and the Me Too Movement.
Elizabeth Warren She was an academic. A rare one. She moved from weaker schools to stronger schools to Harvard. Few academics make those changes.
Her persistence and imagination was demonstrated in her research. She studied how laws actually affect people, how laws are implemented and how people following the law behave. She became a nationally known expert in bankruptcy, reviewing court records and interviewing lawyers, judges, and debtors.
Her persistence and determination led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB was ultimately a product of her role as advisor to the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act.
She made enemies. Republican Senators would not accept her as head of the CFPB. She went home to Massachusetts and ran for the Senate.
Twice during her career, she listed herself as a Native American. She doesn’t talk about it this way, but she seemed to be testing her identity for herself. There was nothing about her identifications that would have been fraudulent assistance in her career.
Donald Trump, however, got into her head. She does not acknowledge that. She explains the story about Native American blood was her mother’s story. She defended her announcement of DNA results by referring to her mother. Native Americans explained that DNA results were irrelevant for Native American heritage.
She Has mastered the issue. She received a standing ovation at a Native American Conference she attended with Congresswoman Deb Haaland, a newly elected Native American. As she could during her Senate campaign, she now seems capable of letting the Native American issue diminish and disappear – resembling Amy Klobuchar making her office staff issue disappear.
Joe Biden He’s not a candidate. Not yet. Maybe never. He is not able to make any of his issues disappear. Everyone likes him, despite the issues. Willy Loman would have envied him.
Joe Biden is criticized for leading Senate in passing the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act – an element of what is now seen as mass incarceration. He gets past that criticism by saying it was a big mistake.
He’s made his share of mistakes. His Presidential campaign in 1988 foundered on a speech he had taken, including gestures, from Britain’s Neil Kinnock. Other than the presidential campaign, he was forgiven. After all, he had given Kinnock credit previously.
He cannot get past personal interaction issues. His fulsome praise of Barack Obama during the Presidential primaries was not well received. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” Barack Obama was not put off, not much, at any rate. Obama liked him enough to chose him to be the Vice Presidential candidate.
Like a lot of politicians, he touches people. He literally touches them. No one suggests that that touching is sexual. Intrusive, perhaps. Recently, women have complained about his touching them. In the past, his enthusiastic gestures were endured or appreciated. No longer.
Will his candidacy founder on this expression of his buoyancy? If his candidacy does not founder, is his being liked enough? Patricia Murphy of Roll Call says there is one quality which is enough. Joe Biden, she says, learns from his mistakes. She addresses how badly he and his committee dealt with Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas. She describes how much better he dealt with women after that. She says he becomes a better person in office every time something went awry and he had to fix it. Let’s see how he does.