Sunday, October 31, 2010

Open Thread 10-31-10 Fear and/or Sanity Edition

  • Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had a rally yesterday down on the Mall, in case you missed it. Crowd estimates vary, but 150,000 seems to be the consensus, or, as Jon put it, “I can see we have over 10 million people.” It was civil, funny, and sent a message to the media:

In his closing remarks, Jon became more earnest. He said that he wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for coming, even though it’s certain he’ll be criticized for it tomorrow: “I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do.”

“But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies,” Stewart continued. “But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but it’s existence makes solving them that much harder.”

‘If we amplify everything, we hear nothing,” he said, adding: “Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate.”

  • There’s a poll out from Colorado which predicts that Tancredo will win the Governor’s race. No, seriously.
  • Hurricane Tomas is in the Caribbean, hiting St Lucia and St Vincent, moving towards Haiti.

The Siem Reap center received a $336,0000 grant from the State Department last year to fund its operating costs and Clinton said she would make sure money continued to flow.

“I wanted to come here today to see you for myself,” Clinton said.

  • Sharron Angle, AKA “The gift that keeps on giving,” has banned two television stations from her election party for, I kid you not, “asking questions without permission.”

Friday, October 29, 2010

Open Thread 10-29-10

  • In case you were interested, the Drudge Report breathlessly promotes it’s “exclusive” snippets of George W. Bush’s new book, Decision Points.

From 911′s “Day of Fire” to “Katrina” to “Financial Crisis”, Bush explains how he returned to his faith, time and time again.

And the faith of others.

The president details how he bonded with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia — and a magical bird!

Arriving angry at Bush’s Texas ranch over the president’s position on Israel and Ramallah, Abdullah quickly decided he wanted to leave.

But the prince spots a turkey on the road — and takes it as a good omen, a sign from Allah!

No, I can’t make this stuff up. I’m sure that anyone reading this book is going to be wondering “Just how did this guy get elected?”

  • Carl Paladino opens mouth and inserts foot – again. Note to Carl, you don’t call the junior Senator from the state a “little girl.” Although I’m sure that it’s much cleaner than what you were probably going to say.
  • In the irony is dead department, MSNBC’s “First Read” has Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg pontificating on President Obama’s appearance on The Daily Show.

Rather, what was remarkable was that it served as the president’s most vigorous defense of his agenda, particularly health care — against his liberal critics. Host Jon Stewart, who was polite but also aggressive in his questions, noted, “You ran, if I may, with such audacity … yet legislatively it’s felt timid at times.”

Isn’t that what they were supposed to have been doing all along? Maybe it’s just me, but I find it rather disturbing that the most informative recent interview with the President is one done by a comedian on a comedy network.

  • Lisa Murkowski gets a reprieve, sort of. Alaska’s Supreme Court issue a stay of a lower court’s injunction against the Alaska Division of Elections’ effort to give voters lists of write-in candidates. In “this is news?”, it seems that Sarah Palin really doesn’t like Murkowski, calling her an “out of touch liberal.”
  • Kendrick Meek is denying that Bill Clinton asked him to step aside and endorse Crist. Politico is saying it happened, but the actual statements by Clinton seem to relate a discussion on hypotheticals, not an actual arm-twisting.
  • Santorum Redux: Wisconsin Republican Rebecca Kleefisch, the nominee for lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, is now apologizing for remarks she made on Christian radio, in which she opposed domestic partner benefits for gay state employees by saying gay marriage could lead to a person marrying inanimate objects and dogs.
  • Stephen Colbert talks about the Rand Paul head-stomping incident:
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Rand Paul Supporter Stomps on Liberal Activist’s Head
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election March to Keep Fear Alive

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sharron Angle: Turn From Our Wicked Ways – Abortion, Welfare, Gay Marriage – And God Will Heal Our Land

Sharron Angle wants America to be a theocracy. It’s that simple.

She wants us “as a nation” to turn to God – her God, Sharron Angle’s perception of the Christian God described in the bible – and away from our “wicked ways.” If we do this, she says, God will fix everything that’s wrong with this country.

There’s just one problem with this prescription, of course: Not everyone in America is a Christian. A lot of Americans don’t even believe in God. In any god.

But I’m betting that Smilin’ Sharron doesn’t see that as an obstacle so much as an explanation for why the country needs fixing in the first place. And once you get that about her, you see that all her extremist ideas and creative interpretation of what some pastor must have told her the Constitution says (no way in hell did she actually read it herself) make a kind of funhouse sense. Smilin’ Sharron thinks that God is pissed at America for not worshiping him properly, and he has sent people like her to force us back into line.

Sharron Angle intends to get us right with God.

As Molly Ball of Politico reported yesterday, Angle made remarks on October 10 to a church group in Gardnerville, Nevada, in which she described our government as “controlling” and implied that Christians should be looking out for “the widow and the orphan” rather than relying on the government to do so through federal and state programs.

Now, to be honest, I have no problem with politicians – or anyone else – being people of faith. I don’t think it’s wrong for public servants to be guided by their religious views, as long as they don’t guide them to circumvent the law or trample the rights of others. So it’s not the fact that Angle spoke to a church group or that she spoke about her religious convictions that I’m questioning here.

What I most assuredly do have a problem with is the fact that this speech amounts to a call to Christians to “start sharing” their faith in order to “fix” the country. It was nothing short of an acknowledgment that the only way to “save” America is by subjecting ourselves, as a nation, to God’s will. Now, I don’t mind if Angle wants to submit to God’s will in her own life. I don’t mind if the entire population of Christians in America submit to God’s will. But I draw a big, fat, red line at being forced to submit to a God I don’t believe in. Because that’s the way Angle’s prescription for “healing the land” plays out.

And that’s just not the way we do things in this country. Not yet, anyway.

I’ve posted the audio of Angle’s church speech and a complete transcript below, but let’s hit a few of the highlights first.
  • America is “in a terrible fix” because we have strayed from “our duty as Christians.”
  • Christians now have an obligation to “step out” of the church and into public life “to share what it is that it’s gonna take to heal our land.”
  • In order for God to heal the country, we have to turn away from our “wicked ways.” Among the wicked ways: allowing abortions, allowing divorce, and legalizing same-sex marriage.
  • If we renounce the wicked ways and seek God, he will forgive our sin and “heal the land,” because Second Chronicles 7:14 says so.
If you believe at all in the principle that American citizens have the right to worship as they choose, or to not worship at all, Sharron Angle should scare you. If you are not a conservative Christian or a Christian at all, you should be very worried about the possibility of this woman going to the United States Senate. You should be scared to death of a Congress poisoned by the election of anyone so worshipful of a constitution that exists only in her mind, and in the creative interpretation of a small but overbearing religious minority.

If Sharron Angle has her way – and if elected, maybe she eventually will – religious freedom will be seriously compromised. Women’s reproductive freedom will be gradually eroded until there will effectively be none left. Federal and state “entitlement programs” will be whittled away, probably replaced by “faith-based” initiatives that prioritize proselytizing over giving concrete help. Same-sex marriage will face even steeper challenges than it already does.

Hell, who knows? Maybe God will heal us right into making divorce practically illegal.

None of this will happen immediately, of course. It won’t happen the first week Angle goes to Washington, or in her first year, or possibly in her term. But the seeds may get planted. They might get watered and fertilized. They could lie dormant for years, only to spring from the ground later, after a thousand other cuts have sufficiently weakened our strangely tenuous grasp on what the constitution actually means.

If you want a theocracy, then vote for Sharron Angle, or don’t work to defeat her. If you want America to continue to reject the establishment of a state religion, then do what you can to ensure this woman doesn’t become Senator Angle.

…practice that self-governance, and we would not need a controlling government to, um, to control us. We would be self-controlling, and that’s one of [inaudible], you know, self-control.

So we have… As we have walked further and further away from the precious promises of God as a nation, as we have walked further and further away from his teachings about our own duty as Christians, we find our nation in a terrible fix. And that fix has come because our light hasn’t so shone before men that they could see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven. We have stepped aside, in some ways, into our churches, instead of stepping out into the, ah, world, into the arena, and sharing our ideas, sharing what makes us, um, faithful. What keeps us from fearing and doubting and worrying and trying to figure things out. We stepped back from that, and I think we have a real call as a nation, and as a church, now, to step out and to begin to share what it is that it’s gonna take to heal our land.

We’re told, and it’s a promise, in second Chronicle 7:14: “if my people, who are called by my name” – us; that’s us, here in this church – will humble ourselves and pray, seek my face and turn from our wicked ways — And we do have some things that we need to be confessing.

I confess that we are a nation who has killed our children. I confess that we are a nation who has walked away from the family and allowed divorce, even among our ranks. Uh, we have walked away from the biblical definition of marriage: one man, one woman, the two become one flesh.

We as a nation have been walking away from our constitutional freedom and relying on government instead to take care of the widow and the orphan. Isn’t that what he says, true religion and undefiled before God is that you care for the widow and the orphan? Isn’t that the poor and needy among us? And yet we’re saying, ‘Well, the government, we have all these programs now. Aid for Families with Dependent Children and Medicare and Social Security.’ That’s fine, but isn’t it we that should be thinking about this, isn’t it us that should be caring in our community for those that the Lord has called us to? Didn’t he say you honor him, you love him if you’ve cared for these the least among you? So we do have a lot of wicked ways that we can confess as a church, and I think that’s what he’s calling us to now. So “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways”… here it come: “then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.”

What a great God he is. He keeps his promises, he gives them to us and he keeps his promises, and he never discourages us. I don’t know how encouraged you are, but people say to me all the time, “Sharron, you smile all the time. How come?” It’s because I know what Ronald Reagan knew: We as a nation are a city shining on that hill.

Monday, October 25, 2010

All Politics Is Local - A Lesson We (and Alan Grayson) Shouldn't Forget

One of the older sayings in politics is “All politics is local.” What it means is that while big, overarching national agendas, issues, and concerns factor into a political party’s platform, at the local and state level, it comes down to “what does it mean for me.” Politicians who focus on the “big picture” to the exclusion of their constituents often find themselves out of office. Successful politicians never forget that. While they may indeed be known for their roles in the big issues of the day, it’s their day-to-day attention to their constituents that keeps them in office.

For example, Chuck Schumer:

He’s known for vigorous travel schedule, visiting remote areas to announce federal money for local projects and holding Sunday news conferences. In July, he walked around a parking lot with a cup of beer shaking hands with people who had just run a 15-kilometer road race in Utica, tailed by an aide holding a “Meet Chuck Schumer” sign. He then flew to New York City for a news conference in Brooklyn.

Warren County Democratic Chairman Bill Montfort once said Schumer visited so often he couldn’t use him to headline fundraisers. “Chuck Schumer’s like horse” droppings, he said. “He’s everywhere.”

Speaking from personal experience, it’s quite true. I live in the least populated county in the state, and he’s up here several times a year. Have a concern or a problem? His staff takes notes, and yes, they jump on it. The same thing is true for Senator Gillibrand. While they may make the national press for their stands on various national issues, to the people of New York State, it’s their appearances and what they do for the state – and their constituents. The result? Both of them are far ahead in the polls:

A pair of Siena Research Institute surveys show Sen. Chuck Schumer leading Republican political consultant Jay Townsend 67-28 percent among likely voters, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also far ahead of ex-U.S. Rep. Joe DioGuardi at 60-31 percent.

There are those who have wondered why someone like Ron Paul can keep getting re-elected. After all, given his libertarian stances, and his appearances on the national stage, shouldn’t his constituents have bounced him out? Well, except that he pays attention to his district. His office is known as exceptional when it comes to constituent services, and he’s been known to “bend” his “no earmarks” stance when it comes to helping out people there.

Now let’s turn to two races that are going to shock the “progressive blogosphere.” There are two Democratic representatives up for re-election. One is wildly popular with the “progressive netroots,” often held up as a model of how Democrats should behave. The other is hated. He’s derided widely as a “ConservaDem,” who “traitorously” failed to vote for the health reform bill, antagonizing many of the progressive organizations. The first has massive support from the netroots, with lots of money being thrown his way. The second is being ignored. Guess which one is in trouble with his constituents?

In one of the most closely watched U.S. House races in the nation, Republican Daniel Webster now holds a 7-point lead over Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson in Central Florida’s 8th Congressional District, according to a new Sunshine State News Poll.

Digging deeper, the numbers look even worse for Grayson as 51 percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable view of the Orlando-area congressman.

The one who isn’t liked by the netroots? He’s doing fine:

In September, the results of Siena Research Institute poll were unveiled, and they showed Arcuri ahead of Hanna 48 percent to 40 percent.

On Wednesday, The Hill, a Washington, D.C., publication, released a poll showing Arcuri out in front with 47 percent to Hanna’s 37 percent.

Grayson has been playing to a national audience. He’s thrown out a lot of “red meat” which plays well with the progressive blogs, and have caused them to be wildly infatuated with him. The problem is that it isn’t playing well with his constituents. No matter how popular he is with the progressive netroots, no matter how much money they donate to him, they aren’t the ones who make the decision whether he stays in office. Arcuri isn’t popular with the netroots, but his constituents appear to be on their way to returning him to Congress.

The lesson? The oldest one. All politics are local. It doesn’t matter how popular a given politician is nationally. What matters is how popular they are locally. Someone can be beloved by the blogs, but the blogs aren’t their constituents. A lesson we shouldn’t forget.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Water and Climate Change: Ready to Move?

There’s a new study out which looks at the impact that climate change will have over the next century. What they’re predicting should be shocking, and a cause for action. What are they predicting? Serious, long-term droughts which will make the most recent droughts look mild.

To get an idea of how severe droughts might get, scientists use a measure called the Palmer Drought Severity Index, or PDSI. A positive score is wet, a negative score is dry and a score of zero is neither overly wet nor dry.

The most severe drought in recent history, in the Sahel region of western Africa in the 1970s, had a PDSI of -3 or -4.

By contrast, the study indicates that by 2100 some parts of the U.S. could see -8 to -10 PDSI, while Mediterranean areas could see drought in the -15 or -20 range.

Looking at their data, a disturbing picture emerges.

While regional climate projections are less certain than those for the globe as a whole, Dai’s study indicates that most of the western two-thirds of the United States will be significantly drier by the 2030s. Large parts of the nation may face an increasing risk of extreme drought during the century.

These are also the areas of the country that have experienced the most population growth over the past 50 years, as well as being significant agricultural areas. Some of the West is already experiencing a drought:

Mr. Nelson said that the 11-year drought, which has caused the Colorado River to deliver considerably less water than its users have been promised, “reflects weather patterns that are what climate models predict for an era of climate change.”

In other words, we’re already seeing some of the impacts. The demand is rapidly reaching – if it has not exceeded – the supply. Much of the Southwestern and Western states depend on the water that falls on the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains. Agriculture in the Plains States utilizes that, as well as “fossil water” from Ogallala Aquifer, which is being used at a rate which exceeds its recharge – there are some estimates that it will last only another 25 years. That’s in a “normal” or “stable” climate. In the much more severe droughts predicted for the near future because of climate change, things will get much worse. As they do, we will see population shifts.

Some migrations take place within countries, adding to a nation’s political stress, causing economic upheaval—positive and negative—and distracting from other issues. As a developed nation, the U.S. was able to absorb the displacement of people from the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina without suffering economic or political collapse, but not without considerable turmoil.

What it means is that water will become a limiting factor. As water supplies dry up, areas of the western US will be unable to adequately support their current populations, and there will be a migration to areas where water is not as limited. Which, looking at the maps, appears to be the “Rust Belt” states. The cities and areas that have lost population over the past few decades will see an increase, as people and industries move to them. At the same time, we can expect serious disruption in agriculture – with attendant changes in food availability and distribution. The “fresh vegetables” that are grown in many warm climate areas – particularly California – will no longer be available. They’re dependent on irrigated fields, and in severe drought conditions, those fields will no longer be usable. Grain production will also fall, as drought conditions take their toll on the Plains.

Climate change is happening. Even if the “worst case” predictions in the study do not happen, it’s apparent that there will be serious impacts, particularly in the southern and western parts of the country. Ironically, they’re also the areas with many of the biggest climate change deniers. Reality may soon be giving them a slap upside the head, as they watch their neighbors move away.

Open Thread 10-23-10

  • The White House announced Monday that President Barack Obama will award the first non-posthumous Medal of Honor since Vietnam in a ceremony Nov. 16. The nation’s top award for conspicuous gallantry in combat will go to Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, currently assigned to the Rear Detachment for Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Camp Ederle, Italy.
  • Apparently the idea of “defunding” whatever you don’t agree with is the new Republican theme. Now a Republican House candidate wants to defund the Supreme Court. Keith Rothfus, who is running for the House in PA-04, had this exchange:

However, Rothfus took his defund-mantra a step further. When asked by a constituent whether or not Congress can override the Supreme Court, Rothfus argued that Congress could simply strip funding from the Supreme Court if it makes a decision he disagrees with. Said Rothfus, “if the Supreme Court rules you have to do something, we’ll just take away funding for it”

  • In the “methinks thou dost protest too much” category, the Republicans are very, very concerned about “voter fraud.” They’re apparently hoping everyone will ignore their own questionable mailings.

These mailers claim that they are “vote by mail” applications. New York doesn’t have voting by mail last time I checked. They also include no “paid for” information and no return address, only the address of the local county Board of Elections.

  • Florida’s Attorney General has announced that he will not appeal last month’s ruling by a state appellate court striking down a state law barring gay people from adopting. Since the Governor and the Dept of Children and Families have already announced they will not challenge the ruling, this means that the law is now gone.
  • Yet another Tea Party candidate thinks that violent overthrow of the government is a valid option. Does it ever occur to them that such things cut both ways, and frequently do? That’s why it’s not a good idea.
  • He’s back! Yes, the Big Dog is out stumping for Democratic candidates, and doing it at a pace that has to be seen to be believed. Noticeably absent from the campaign trail are the two former Republican Presidents. There’s something to be said about that.
  • CAP48, a disability awareness campaign organization in Belgium, decided to do a version of the WonderBra ad – and it’s attracted international attention.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Appeals Court Issues Stay On DADT

Today, a 3 judge panel of the 9′th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on Judge Virginia Phillip’s order that the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was unconstitutional.

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the Pentagon may temporarily reinstate a ban on openly gay men and women in uniform while a challenge to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy continues working its way through the judicial system.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco added to the disarray surrounding a landmark legal battle that already has forced the U.S. military to welcome openly gay recruits for the first time.

The panel instructed lawyers for the gay rights group that brought the lawsuit challenging the policy to file arguments in response to its ruling by Monday.The judges would decide whether to extend the temporary stay while it considers the government’s appeal of an Oct. 12 order by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips or Riverside, Calif., that the policy was unconstitutional.

While this is disappointing to many advocates, particularly given the news that the military has instructed recruiters to start accepting openly gay recruits, albeit warning them that the policy may change, this ruling is not unexpected.

The House passed repeal legislation in January but it was stalled in the Senate by a Republican-led filibuster.

The measure would discard the law only after the Defense Department finished a study, due Dec. 1, of how the change would affect the armed forces. The Justice Department argued Wednesday that Phillips’ order to immediately halt enforcement thwarts the government’s “efforts to devise an orderly end to the statute,” the San Francisco Chronicle said.

It’s been widely expected that the December 1′st study will have many recommendations, including advising the repeal of DADT. One of the aspects that concerns the military’s leadership is changing the culture of the military.

Unlike most Americans who support allowing openly gay troops, the rank-and-file are suspected by their leaders to be considerably less permissive.

The men and women serving in the armed forces today represent less than 1 percent of the country’s total population, and come heavily from rural, conservative areas in the South and the mountain West.

Among their concerns was how to effectively implement new policies for sharing close quarters and living facilities.

Military officials say privately that the service chiefs worry most about a cultural backlash and displays of intolerance that would make the military look as if it had lost control of its troops.

However, surveys done of the troops show that the service chiefs may not have as much to worry about, but at the same time, it is a concern for them. What is clear is that President Obama has said that DADT will end on his watch, that as a policy, its time is coming to an end, either through the courts or through legislation. When the final determination is made, and it is repealed, the military will accept it. It may take them some work, but they’ll do it, and the military will be much the better for it in the long run.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Contrasting Senate Candidates - Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, & Kristen Gillibrand

The Republicans are running several female candidates for Senate, and among them are two who came out of the Tea Party movement: Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle. O’Donnell has run for office before – she was a Republican nominee for the Senate in 2008, losing badly to Joe Biden. Sharron Angle was a state legislator in Nevada. You would think that this would give them some preparation for public office, or at the very least, give them the experience of running a political campaign. As various news reports have shown, it turns out that this is not the case.

Case in point: In a recent debate with Chris Coons in front of law students, Christine O’Donnell had the following exchange:

Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that “religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools.”

“Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” O’Donnell asked him.

When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O’Donnell asked: “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”

This is just the latest in a series of outrageous statements from her. What’s particularly egregious about this is that she supposedly attended a seminar on the Constitution.

O’Donnell says the “deep analysis of the constitution” taught at Claremont Institute’s competitive Lincoln Fellowship program would help her make sound decisions in the Senate,

Apparently, the “deep analysis” didn’t cover the Bill of Rights. What comes through is not just that she’s unprepared, or that she holds extreme views. It’s that she’s intellectually lazy, and unwilling to develop the knowledge a Senator should have, beyond the ability to repeat talking points. Being unaware of what the First Amendment to the Constitution – which she would have to swear to “support and defend” if she won – is beyond ignorance. It’s willful stupidity.

Out West, Sharron Angle makes news, and not in a good way. She continues to open her mouth and insert foot.

Consider these remarks Angle made during her appearance.

“So that’s what we want is a secure and sovereign nation and, you know, I don’t know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me. I don’t know that. [Note: it's the Hispanic Student Union. The whole room is Hispanic teenagers.] What we know, what we know about ourselves is that we are a melting pot in this country. My grandchildren are evidence of that. I’m evidence of that. I’ve been called the first Asian legislator in our Nevada State Assembly.”

As Jon Ralston noted, no one’s ever called Angle, who is not Asian, the first Asian legislator in our Nevada State Assembly. She seems to have made this up.

That’s in addition to touting her fundraising prowess, raising 14 million dollars in the last quarter – except that she spent 12 million of that raising it. That’s not exactly responsible fundraising.

Contrast that with another female candidate for the Senate. New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand. There’s a new profile of her today in Vogue.

As the crowd files out of the barn, I express admiration to one of the senator’s aides for his boss’s ability to charm a roomful of Republicans, and he says, “She can do the same thing on derivatives, comfortably rapping about financial markets. She walks into these huge churches in Brooklyn and Queens and starts talking about the asthma rates and the environmental-justice movement. It’s just her comfort level with so many subjects.” This reminds me of something Tina Brown, the editor in chief of The Daily Beast, told me: “People underestimate how smart Senator Gillibrand is. I hosted a dinner for her to meet a number of CEOs and media figures, and in conversation she was brilliant in her analysis of the economic meltdown.

She was appointed to the Senate when Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, and her appointment was not a popular one with some segments of the New York political establishment and progressive blogosphere. She was a relative “unknown,” and a number of people wanted Caroline Kennedy to get the appointment. A number of candidates, including Harold Ford, announced their “exploration” of running against her, and all of them backed out. Which didn’t surprise those of us who did know her. We kept telling people “you don’t know how good she is.” Kirsten Gillibrand is the woman who took on a long-term, powerful Republican representative, in a heavily Republican district, and won. It was a tough, downright nasty race. Two years later she won again by 10 points against another well-funded and well-known opponent. She increased her margin of victory by doing the same thing she has done as a Senator:

“I think a lot of people conflated her being picked with the chaos that went around the pick,” says New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. “She was tossed right into that maelstrom, but she handled it the way she has done a lot of things in her career and, from what I gather, in her life: She said, ‘I’m going to try to wear people down by being a good senator and a good person.’ She’s basically outlasted her critics.

The Tea Parties are picking female candidates who are photogenic, but aren’t very bright. Their sole ability seems to be to reliably repeat the right wing talking points. Independent thinking, intellectual curiosity are not a high-value items to them. Democrats picked a smart candidate, who works hard at her job and for her constituents. The contrast couldn’t be greater. They value stupid. Democrats value intelligence.

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