Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Tuesday, where she announced, “I’m filing an exploratory committee for president of the United States — tonight!” The New York senator, 52, told Colbertt, “As a young mom, I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own.”
For all of the hand-wringing that was done in the wake of 2016 about the unique challenges that face female candidates, Gillibrand — whose PAC, Off the Sidelines, supports women running for office — made it clear that she would not shy away from her femininity, and in fact, would use it to contrast herself with President Trump. After calling attention to the fact that she was a mother, Gillibrand painted Trump as a whiney toddler.
“He’s created this crisis himself,” she said of the government shutdown. “And he shouldn’t be having a temper tantrum because he can’t get what he wants. What he should be doing is speaking to the Democrats and Republicans in Congress and saying what his vision is for immigration reform and what he wants to accomplish. But shutting down the government is hurting people. Right now he’s doing it because he’s wants his way. If you’re gonna do something like that, you better be fighting for other people, not for yourself.”
Gillibrand has voted with Trump the least of any of her colleagues — according to calculations by 538, she has voted with the president just 11.9 percent of the time. On the Late Show, though, she sought to emphasize her ability to work with Republicans. “I have a bipartisan bill with nearly every Republican member of the Senate,” she said — even “Ted Cruz!” The pair worked together to craft legislation to combat sexual harassment in Congress.
Gillibrand was outspoken when, in 2017, one of her own colleagues in Congress, former Sen. Al Franken, was accused of sexual misconduct. Eight women accused Franken of forcibly kissing or groping them, allegations that surfaced as the Democratic Party was fighting to stake out a moral high ground in the #MeToo movement, in contrast with the Republican Party and its then-candidate for Alabama Senate, Roy Moore. Her call for Franken’s resignation was issued only split seconds earlier than her colleagues in the Senate, but Gillibrand has been saddled with a disproportionate amount of the blame by some Democratic donors. George Soros told the Washington Post last year he believed Gillibrand called for Franken’s ouster “in order to improve her chances.”
The New York senator, who has focused her career on championing issues that impact women, may end up spending a disproportionate amount of the early stages of her campaign debating a man’s behavior. As one reporter pointed out, the words “Al Franken” were trending on Twitter in New York as Gillibrand’s episode of Late Show aired on Tuesday.