Ethics Dunce: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Oh, nice: class act, Senator.

OK, its safe: tell him off now, Senator.

OK, it’s safe: tell him off now, Senator.

Having used a broad anonymous brush to tar the entire group of male Senators as sexist pigs while being unwilling to risk the enmity and loss of trust by her colleagues by naming names (and wisely so), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) cravenly caved to media and pundit hectoring by naming a dead man. Yes, ancient Senator Daniel Inouye, Hawaian icon, relic of an earlier era (and its sexist norms), war hero, and conveniently in his grave so he can’t defend himself, was the one Gillibrand fingered today as the elder Democrat who told Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand  not to “lose too much weight now” because “I like my girls chubby,” as she related in her book.

Sen. Gillibrand didn’t have the courage to explain to the old man, who undoubtedly thought he was being nice, that he needed to learn what collegial respect to women means in the 21st Century. That might have done him some good. That would have been kind. But no, she decided to mar his reputation and dignity to extract herself from a controversy of her own making, and get even with him for his clueless remark postmortem.  Don’t worry, boys: I’m sure she won’t out any other Senate sexists until they are similarly helpless.

Senator Inouye was behind the times in his understanding of how to treat women in the workplace, but he was, by most accounts,  a gentleman. Given the chance, he could have taught the junior New York Senator a lot about the ethical treatment of dead colleagues.

40 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

  1. Unless the esteemed Senator can prove such allegations she should be considered a liar and wholly unfit to serve in office.

    If she thinks that by making a broad sweeping allegation about comments made by her unnamed male colleagues makes her a courageous fighter in the cause of women’s rights she is sadly mistaken. If you are going to level an accusation then be prepared to prove it and deal with the consequences. Courage does not exist until one has to make a choice between doing what is right and facing the wrath of the wrongdoer.

    It is far too easy to make a false claim when you are unwilling to back it up by naming names. It is wholly unethical to smear a person that is deceased with an accusation of misogyny. How in the world can he defend his legacy and good name.

    I view these allegations as complete fictions, consciously devised to assuage those that demanded that she “put up or shut up”. How convenient it was to pick out a dead man. Perhaps she just needed a scapegoat because had she named Harry Reid who is still the ranking Senator she might really suffer. I might be willing to accept the broader claim of sexist and marginalizing behavior by her colleagues because it is plausible. But, it is far too convenient to simply pick an unassuming deceased war hero and Senator with an impeccable record of service instead of the more likely candidates such as Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, or Charlie Rangel. I know Ted Kennedy died before Gillibrand took office so he is off the hook – for this at least.

  2. I had the honor of working with Senator Inouye, and I suspect that if he is accurately quoted by his very junior colleague, Sen. Gillibrand, the comment was most likely just a failed attempt at harmless flattery from an old man from another era. At the risk of sounding sexist myself, I note that US senators from New York used to have thicker skin than the hyper-sensitive junior senator who seems more interested in passing gossip than in passing legislation.

  3. Hmm, so if she tries to avoid naming names, she is a liar, and when she names someone, she is being impolite. If the senator quote is true, then no, he is no gentleman.

    Sen. Gillibrand didn’t have the courage to explain to the old man, who undoubtedly thought he was being nice, that he needed to learn what collegial respect to women means in the 21st Century. That might have done him some good. That would have been kind. But no, she decided to mar his reputation and dignity to extract herself from a controversy of her own making, and get even with him for his clueless remark postmortem. Don’t worry, boys: I’m sure she won’t out any other Senate sexists until they are similarly helpless.

    Way to put the onus on the victim. It is incumbent upon the old man to keep up with the times, not someone else who he just insulted to take him under her wing and renovate him. If he couldn’t do that, then he should probably have just retired. Why is telling the truth on the part of Gilibrand some unethical act? She seemed to be just telling some general anecdotes about some of the challenges she has faced in the Senate. If she wanted to name names, the shame, as such, is not on the person who had to endure the insults and sexist atmosphere, but the practioners of it, no?

      • Well, it’s not like Gilibrand attacked him. It was more of, “hey this happened, still get these comments as a woman”, type things, then the Republicans decided to go on a witch hunt to get her to name names, or be known as a liar. She (wisely imo) names someone that was pretty old at the time, and that the Republicans will have difficulty using in an attack ad. Nothing much to see.

        • If you make such anonymous accusations, you’re asking to be accused of lying. I think the initial anecdotes were wrong; naming names would have been worse, and attacking a dead man to get the critics off her back was the worst of all. And I DO doubt that part of it. It’s too easy. Sure, impugn the old Asian-American whose supporters live on a distant island. Yeccch.

          • If you make such anonymous accusations, you’re asking to be accused of lying. I think the initial anecdotes were wrong; naming names would have been worse, and attacking a dead man to get the critics off her back was the worst of all.

            So the solution would be to shut up and never say anything about any sexism or sexist statements one may have ever had? Brilliant. So then people can turn around and say that since no one ever talks about it, it obviously doesn’t exist, and women are just whiners. Got it.

            If it is the truth, then I do think it is important to get those stories out there. If she is lying, that’s another thing altogether, but on a different ethical level then simply a woman stating some of the things which have happened to her.

            • She can talk in general regarding the conduct in the Senate. She should not cit specific incidents if she isn’t ready to back them up with names, dates and places, or she courts disbelief. She smears every man in the Senate by doing that. Seriously: you can’t see this? It’s unfair. It’s like a sportswriter saying “I saw a player using steroids in the Yankee dressing room,” but refusing to say who.

            • ” So the solution would be to shut up and never say anything about any sexism or sexist statements one may have ever had? ”

              Why not deal with it like an adult, by talking to the person directly, and if that fails, talking to someone who can do something about the situation directly? I see women do this all the time, they put up with or smile through comments they don’t like and then either go public or just talk about people behind their backs. Someone who’s dead can’t learn to act differently, it will not be a learning experience!

    • 1. I think the previous post explained this, unless you are just ignoring it.
      2. Using the term “victim” to describe the recipient of an awkward, minimally objectionable remark typical of octogenarians is so silly and hyperbolic that I’m going to be kind and act as if you didn’t say it.

      Yes, not having the guts to confront the living offenders while conveniently impugning a dead man is lousy, cowardly, suspicious, and wrong. Chris gets it. You don’t. Too bad.

      • I agree that victim was not the exact word I was searching for, but I was writing quickly. “The offended”? Not that important, people get the gist.

        She still probably has to work with most of the offenders, so I can see why she avoided naming most of the names. She still has to get co-sponsors for her bills, and get her projects out of committee. She may feel those things are more important than satisfying all the right-wing witch hunt’s demands on this subject. She named a name. It wasn’t a satisfying name? Oh well, too bad.

        • Yeah, e-mail “too bad” to Inouye’s family. I think its too bad that Gillibrand proved herself a coward, a weenie, and a poor friend. She claims that she “adored” the Hawaiian Senator. Funny, when I adore someone, or even respect them enough to give them the benefit of the Golden Rule, I don’t ambush them with an old grievance when they can’t defend themselves.

          • “Ambush”? Who is being hyperbolic now? I don’t think Inouye’s family will weep too much to acknowledge that he might have liked the chubby girls. Out of all the anecdotes, that was the weakest one.

            • A US Senator, years after his death, makes an unprovable and impossible to rebut accusation? Ambush is exactly what it is. And if that’s the weakest one (It’s Not The Worst Thing), why is the least of the offenders the only one identified, hence attacked? Because he’s dead. Can’t fight back.

              She’s despicable.

    • No Deery. If she is going to name names then do it when it happens. The idea that you can throw out a blanket accusation and when confronted about it you pick a dead man is pure BS.

      I think Gillibrand wanted to ride the victim train in her book to give her street cred with all of her oppressed sisters to help it sell and simply made up the story. A liar is not a victim.

      Why do you instantly believe Senator Gillibrand and not give the benefit of the doubt to Inyoue who cannot defend himself. Pure bias on your part.

      Women have a duty and obligation to make their claims of inequity or inappropriate treatment when it happens not years after the fact when the witnesses are no longer available to testify. I don’t want to hear about her feeling that she could not come forward, she is a U.S. Senator for crying out loud. She is the boss of her office not a female clerk in an office with no power to affect change.

  4. Well, Gillibrand is despicable, except for her looks. But I doubt that she is going to hurt the feelings of the late senator from Hawaii. I wish she would show up for a debate on the Senate floor wearing a bikini. That would raise viewership on C-SPAN, at least – maybe even win more votes for her.

  5. “I don’t think Inouye’s family will weep too much to acknowledge that he might</b have liked the chubby girls."

    "If it is the truth, then I do think it is important to get those stories out there”

    If the senator quote is true, then no, he is no gentleman.”

    It hits me that even the most staunch defenders of Senator Gillibrand don’t believe her, or at the very least accept that she could be lying. Those are just quotes from deery on this thread, emphasis added by me, but they are indicative of the average defender I’ve read. I wonder whether people are just getting more skeptical of unproven allegations or if throwing a dead man under the bus is just a little bit too sketchy even for that group, but I find it telling that the group coaching their statements with a paraphrased “I know the person I’m talking about might be a dirty, rotten liar” goes on to defend her as thoroughly as possible. “But she’s OUR possibly dirty rotten liar.”

    • Actually, there are two different issues being (purposefully?) conflated here, and I was trying to be careful to separate the two.

      1. Sen. Gilibrand is a liar when she talks about what happened between her and the Hawaiian senator. In which case I don’t think anyone is confused, this would be a serious ethical breach, but not much controversy, as there is really no defense.

      2. Sen. Gilibrand is telling the truth about what happened, but she shouldn’t have told the truth because:
      a. the Senator is dead, and cant defend himself (in which case we can only tell good stories about dead people)

      b. It would hurt the dead senator’s family’s feelings (ridiculous)

      c. When the dead Senator was alive she should have either confronted and yelled at him then, and/or gently taught him the error of his ways. Because she failed to do so, she is now estopped from ever mentioning the incident again. (lunancy, and also assuming facts not in evidence).

      d. Because she only mentioned the dead Senator, and not everyone who insulted her, she cant single out just the one guy, she must throw in everyone, or be branded a liar. (The incident is either true, or not. Bringing in other people does nothing to prove or disprove the incident mentioned.)

      • Well, first off, by glossing over point one you miss the most important and obvious. What Gillibrand said might not be true. And if it isn’t true, then the rest of the conversation is moot, because it’s all bull.

        So the focus should be on verifiability. Gillibrand had the opportunity to air these issues while Inouye was alive. She didn’t. And so it appears, that in the moment she most needed a scapegoat to avoid responsibility for smearing an entire group of men, her colleagues, she picked the most opportune, least damaging to the party, and least likely to fight back name out of the group. It smacks of bullshit. The optics are horrible, even if it’s true.

        Because Inouye can’t discuss what happened, and because the discussion only happened between the two, the conversation is unverifiable, it’s the Schrodinger’s Cat of politics. How do we verify? One more name. One name of someone who can corroborate or deny. One person who moves the level of evidence past ‘take my word for it.’

        TL|DR: Your second point is completely irrelevant until you deal with the first, if you can’t deal with the first.

        • Eh. The first point is of little interest to me. If she is a liar, then she is per se unethical. On an ethics blog, what is there to debate?

          The only thing that interests me is the intimation that even if she is telling the truth, she is still unethical, because: reasons.

          In regard to your last point that she names someone else who can confirm or deny, it only really works if she has someone who will confirm. A denial puts us back at the same spot. And how many politicians are going to confirm a he said/she said incident like this? In the end, you either believe her, or you don’t. Jack has said previously that he does tend to believe her, so I was interested in his take that even if she was telling the truth, she was still unethical, a stance I disagree with.

          • “The first point is of little interest to me. If she is a liar, then she is per se unethical. On an ethics blog, what is there to debate?”

            If it’s true, it’s irrelevant. It wasn’t enough of a problem when it occurred for her to do something about it. He’s dead, so he can’t make amends, can’t be held responsible in any material way. So what’s the angle? What did naming him accomplish?

            But we can’t treat it like it’s true, because the unverifiable accusation cannot be used as proof. We can’t let that stand. Not in a court of law, not in the court of public opinion, not while people’s livelihoods and good names are in the balance. And it’s especially unacceptable when they can’t defend themselves.

            • This isn’t a court case. Gilibrand was talking about some of the challenges and microagressions she has faced as a woman senator, and gave some examples. I doubt very much most women would “confront” the maker of such statements that she alleges, lest she be accused of hypersensitivity. It wasn’t any one statement in isolation, but the aggregate which shows what a woman might have to endure.

              Even if the dead Senator was alive, and acknowledged that it was true, then what? Should he apologize for liking chubby women? Telling her that he liked chubby women? Comparing her to something he liked? Like most microagressions, the statement is slightly questionable by itself, but taken with other things adds up to something.

              • I doubt very much most women would “confront” the maker of such statements that she alleges, lest she be accused of hypersensitivity.

                If so, they waive the right to complain the next time. If you don’t tell the offensive they are and why, then they cannot learn, or change, and you are enabling and endorsing.

              • “Microagressions”. For fucks sake. The red squiggly line under your bullshit should alert you to when the people you get your Koolaid from are just making up terms, and if those terms aren’t mainstream enough to be readily understood, you’re being dishonest in using them. “Microagression” is a term used by third wave feminism to describe things like a situation where a woman feels uncomfortable when seeing a man sitting with his thighs apart. Not only is the whole theory bunk, you’re misusing it referring to something as overt as a conversation.

      • 2e Start with 2a, but throw in a lack of evidence to support the accusation. Until she provides supporting evidece I assume she is lying, because she was unwilling to give him a chance to defend himself.

        The no-win situation she finds herself in now is entirely of her own making, so I have no sympathy for her whatsoever.

      • You really are being unusually obtuse on this one. Since she cannot prove it, since it was a private conversation, since she should have addressed it when it happened (thus prompting an apology on the spot), since her target is dead, the only thing this breach of taste, fairness and privacy accomplishes is (she thinks) to ge HER off the hook for digging her own hole to sell books at the expense of the U.S. Senate. It’s not ridiculous to be concerned with the feelings of the late Senator’s family–it is, in fact, consideration, the Golden Rule, and fairness. I know how I would feel if a random former colleague suddenly went public with an accusation regarding misconduct by my Dad from ten years ago. Inouye can’t be hurt, but his family can and will be—what did they ever do to Gillibrand?

      • ” When the dead Senator was alive she should have either confronted and yelled at him then, and/or gently taught him the error of his ways. Because she failed to do so, she is now estopped from ever mentioning the incident again (lunancy, and also assuming facts not in evidence)”

        It’s not lunacy. I come from a family where we have a few who can’t express their emotions/hold grudges, and until they make their grand announcement of the wrong done to them 12 years ago at So-and-So’s birthday party, and how much it hurt, and the tears start flowing, no one ever knew they were offended at the time, nor that they stayed offended. They wait long enough that whomever is in their sights is temporarily at a disadvantage, sitting there trying to recall the event in question, which gives the Affronted a rousing head start. A good donnybrook will usually ensue.

        It’s underhanded, sneaky and a bid for attention. It also makes those listening, and those who are the target, feel that they’ve been lied to for years.

        Adults address issues as they occur, and they talk over issues with the people who offended them.

  6. Anyone else think a presumption of falsehood is the way to go when accusations are made against someone who is incapable of defending themselves? Until she proves her case to at least a preponderance of the evidence, assume she is a liar who was trying to take advantage of the “war on women” nonsense.

    • I think that’s a fair presumption. For all we know, she encouraged the late senator’s advances. THERE! FINALLY! Open season for victim-blaming. Seriously, I do think that generally, doubting, if not completely dismissing, an accusation made against someone who is incapable of defending himself is absolutely fair – with the same factors as caveats Jack stated.

  7. You may need to redirect this complaint at someone else. As near as I can tell, neither she nor her aides have said he was the one, only the New York Times, and unnamed “people familiar with the incident”.

    • I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, and presumably neither did you. The incident as described by the New York Senator was not witnessed by any third parties as originally related in the book, and I know a “leak from a camp” pretty well by now, having lived around DC for decades. If you don’t think Inouye’s name was intentionally sent out there by Gillibrand’s operatives, I have a nice bridge to sell you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.