The Woman Who Got Hillary's Job

Kirsten Gillibrand's appointment to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate

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The Woman Who Got Hillary’s Job 

She’s not a bit like Caroline KennedyKirsten Gillibrand

-Myrna Blyth

Caroline’s out, Kirsten’s in. Instead of a choosing a Kennedy media star, New York’s Governor David Paterson picked a little-known congresswoman named Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vacant Senate seat. Yes, that’s the job that Caroline Kennedy, only a few short weeks ago, said she really, really wanted. But Caroline untidily withdrew from consideration on Wednesday evening. New York tabloids have reported that on that day Caroline first told the governor that she was “overwhelmed and unsure.” Then she called back to say she still wanted in. Several hours later, she bowed out. Her awkward exit strategy has started some ugly rumors swirling and proved again that she was not ready for primetime politics.

Some say she learned that Paterson wasn’t going to pick her and so she didn’t want it to look like she had been passed over. Others, some closer to Governor Paterson, have whispered that Caroline had some “problems”-possible tax issues or a potential Nannygate embarrassment. There were even rumors that her rarely discussed marriage was a problem and that she has a special friendship with a well-known New York publisher. Whatever the reason, Caroline, who has spent years trying to stay out of the glare of publicity, has taken a very public pratfall. Now will she slink back, once again, to a very quiet private life?

So who is Kirsten Gillibrand? A very different political animal. She’s a 42-year-old blond wife and mother of two whose colleagues in the House gave her a standing ovation for working right up to the day she delivered her younger son last summer. She went to Dartmouth, is a lawyer, and has great political connections in Albany. Even her grandmother was the girlfriend of a longtime Albany mayor and political boss. She beat a four-term Republican congressman for her current seat in a tough and nasty race in a very Republican district. She is also a lot more conservative than Hillary was or Caroline claimed she was. She voted against the government bailout and has a 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association. “My mother is a great hunter–she usually shoots our Thanksgiving turkey,” she has said.

Tough, smart, ambitious and a relentless self-promoter, Kirsten seems to have a lot less in common with the diffident Caroline and a lot more in common with Sarah Palin.

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