Desperately trying to think of something both positive and credible to say about New York State's accidental U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blurted out that Gillibrand is the Senate's "hottest" member.
Reid's remark, made on September 20 at a ritzy private Democratic Party fundraiser in Manhattan, was sufficiently unimportant to qualify for massive media coverage.
Unfortunately for Senator Gillibrand, part of the fallout from this particular instance of media pursuit of the trivia has been to make New York State residents more aware of her and curious about her record.
What they are now beginning to discover about their heretofore largely unknown senator, who was appointed by New York's scandal-tainted governor to fill the remainder of Hillary Clinton's unexpired term, is that her performance in office is not so hot.
And this is why the usually reliable SurveyUSA poll shows that Gillibrand's Republican-Conservative opponent, former Congressman Joseph DioGuardi, a Tea Party favorite who bucked the Republican establishment to get on the primary ballot and then beat them, is now running neck-and-neck with Gillibrand -- down only one point, 45-44.
Who would ever have thought that New York State might be the state that tips the US Senate into Republican control?
Start thinking it.
In the past few weeks, polls on this race have gone from 51-31 to 49-39 to 48-42 to 45-44. Being under 50 is always bad news for an incumbent -- especially this late in the game.
Look for Joe DioGuardi -- a shrewd, feisty, highly energetic professional accountant who has the numbers down pat and who can point to a very long, very solid record of sounding alarm bells about Washington's fiscal follies -- to turn the heat way, way up on Harry Reid's "hottest" senator.
In a year when character just might matter more than it usually does to voters, Gillibrand suffers from the fact that, as the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato put it, an analysis of her performance in office does not turn up any evidence of her having much in the way of principles.
This is a woman who could give John Kerry lessons in flip-flopping. Consider Gillibrand's string of major flip-flops:
- Against gay marriage as a member of the House -- For gay marriage since the day her appointment to the Senate was announced.
- For keeping "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in place while in House -- Against as senator.
- Against gun control while in the House (100% NRA rating) -- For gun control as a senator.
- Against any form of amnesty for illegal immigrants as a member of the House -- For as a senator.
- For withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities while in House -- Against as senator.
- For making English the official language while in the House -- Against as senator.
- For empowering local police to enforce federal immigration laws while in House -- Against as senator.
- Against the McCain- and Obama-endorsed Bush $700-billion TARP bank bailout in a vote in the House, calling it "fundamentally flawed" -- For the Obama $787-billion "stimulus" bill four months later as a senator.
You get my drift. You'd have a very tough time turning up any Gillibrand principles even if you had a search warrant for them.
And then there's the fact that her positions on the issues that matter most this year make her what the military likes to call "a target-rich environment."
The issue, of course, is the financial mess. Look for DioGuardi to soar as he begins educating New York voters about Gillibrand's key role in helping to cause the meltdown.
When that wacky wrecking crew of the Clinton administration, Chris Dodd in the Senate, Barney Frank in the House, and Andrew Cuomo as HUD Secretary were smashing the banking system by foisting destructive subprime mortgages on the banks, causing collapses, leading to massive bailouts and triggering financial pain and suffering for millions of Americans, right there in a key supporting role at Cuomo's side as HUD legal counsel was...Kristen Gillibrand.
Gillibrand was the person whom that gang tasked with promoting "new products" for HUD, a euphemism that means forcing banks to provide subprime mortgages to millions who could not afford them.
Now that Cuomo is running for governor on the same ticket with Gillibrand, watch what happens when Joe DioGuardi and Republican-Conservative-Taxpayers Party candidate for governor Carl Paladino expose the duo as the Bonnie & Clyde of the banking collapse. Unlike Bonnie & Clyde -- who John Dillinger said gave bank-robbing a bad name -- the team of Gillibrand & Cuomo stuck up not just banks, but all of us.
That old "I feel your pain" line liberals love to use won't work for Gillibrand. She and her husband profited really big-time by selling short companies heavily into subprimes. This is something not very many New York voters are aware of -- but they soon will be.
DioGuardi may well be able to send Gillibrand packing just by fully exposing her role in the financial meltdown.
But she's also a defender of ObamaCare and other policies just as unpopular with voters, including job-destroying "cap-and-trade" and the wildly disliked idea of denying workers the right to a secret ballot when deciding whether to unionize, something even George McGovern has denounced as un-American.
Gillibrand is prone to falsifying her record on issues and even her résumé, alleging, for example, that this or that flip-flop was no change and that during the period when she was performing questionable lawyering for Big Tobacco that she's been caught lying about, she was somehow engaged in "public interest" legal work. She also suffers under the delusion that she could and should be president.
Currently, DioGuardi has a 7-point advantage among independents and a two-to-one advantage among younger voters and leads everywhere in the state -- except in the five boroughs of New York City.
But wait until it really sinks in with voters in those five NYC boroughs where Gillibrand stands regarding the matter of the wisdom of inflicting upon New York and all America a giant Muslim mosque next to Ground Zero. She's joined Mayor Bloomberg as a cheerleader for it. Bloomberg's approval ratings plummeted to a five-year low when he took up that cause with such self-congratulatory scorn for those of us who do not share his wild enthusiasm for it. Most New York City residents now disapprove of him.
The Ground Zero mosque issue just may play a deciding role in this race.
So Gillibrand needs to go -- but what about DioGuardi? Well, I know Joe DioGuardi. Joe DioGuardi is a friend of mine (served with him in Congress). And Joe DioGuardi not only is no Kristen Gillibrand, but he's her complete opposite -- a conservative who understands what's gone wrong and who will stand up and vote right to fix things.
Joe DioGuardi can win, possibly being the upset that tips the U.S. Senate into Republican hands -- if conservatives and Republicans across the country pitch in and make sure he has the resources necessary to communicate to New Yorkers the clear and compelling difference in both content and character between him and that "hot" senator with the not-so-hot record.
Fred J. Eckert is a former conservative Republican congressman from New York and twice served as a U.S. Ambassador (to the U.N. and to Fiji) under President Reagan, who called him "a good friend and valuable advisor."