Gillibrand: I will restore moral integrity

MILFORD – U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand put her opposition to President Donald Trump front and center in a speech to a packed crowd at the home of state Rep. Joelle Martin (D-Milford) Saturday.

Gillibrand, a junior senator from upstate New York, is one of 20 Democrats vying for the Democratic nomination for president.

“We need a president who will restore moral integrity to the United States,” she said, calling Trump a spreader of fear who has “walked away from leadership on the world stage,” has undermined freedom of the press and clouded the image of America as a country that cares for others and who “tries to divide us along racial, and religious lines.”

Gillibrand appeared confident and unfazed that her candidacy is a long shot and poll numbers have her at about 1 percent.

She talked about being elected to the House of Representatives in 2006, representing New York’s 20th congressional district – a long shot race in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats 2 to 1 – where she managed to get 53 percent of the vote.

Gillibrand was first elected to the Senate in 2012 and in 2018 she won in 18 New York counties that went for Donald Trump, she said, garnering more votes “than any senator or governor in the history of New York.”

“I listened to the people I represented, and I solve problems and I work with everyone to find common ground,” she said.

In her talk, she mentioned several legislative efforts she is proud of, including a bill co-sponsored by Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz that would have removed sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.

The bill failed to gain enough votes to break a filibuster.

She talked about helping lead the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy regarding gay and lesbian service members, a policy she called “one of the most corrosive.”

She is also known as a leader of the MeToo movement and has criticized fellow Democrats President Bill Clinton and Senator Al Franken for sexual misconduct.

In late 2010 the House passed a bill to make permanent care for the first responders and other survivors suffering from 9/11-related illnesses, and Gillibrand talked about her role in the bill’s passage. When Fox News failed to support for the bill, she met privately with then-network head Roger Ailes. With support from Fox as well as from comedian Jon Stewart, she said, there was no way it could have failed.

“I will go through fire to do what’s right,” she told her audience.

Considered a moderate to conservative Democrat noted for voting against the bank bailout and writing a portion of the STOCK Act, which extended limitations on insider trading by members of Congress, Gillibrand voted in opposition to the president more than any other senator, including voting against many of his nominees.

She supports paid family leave, the abolition and replacement of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

During the question and answer session, Gillibrand was asked how she would pay for Medicare for All. We should tax capital gains the same as we tax work income and we should also set a stronger estate tax, was her answer. A transaction tax – a tax imposed every time a stock is bought and sold – would gain the federal government $770 billion a year, she said.

The president’s “tax cuts are so poorly invested – there is no reinvestment in the economy,” she said.

Asked about how her policies differ from other Democratic candidates, she talked about student debt “racking America” and a plan to refinance all federal student debt at the lowest rate and start a national public service program – comparing it to the GI Bill – for education and nursing that “will change the character of the United States in a generation.”

Rep. Martin’s sister-in-law, Dr. Donna Brezinski, a pediatric newborn specialist, told Gillibrand how she sees a general lack of stewardship damaging the well-being of children on the U.S. — shown by gun wounds, lead poisoning from poor housing and the lack of health care for poor pregnant women.

In response, Gillibrand talked about institutional racism resulting in a high maternal death rate for black women and the need for better housing, cleaner water, universal pre-kindergarten and affordable day care.

A man in the audience asked about the millions of dollars Trump spends on trips to his Florida retreat, and Gillibrand agreed “taxpayers are left holding the bag.”

In regard to the Mueller report, she said the American public is entitled to the same top-secret information as Congress and that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Attorney General William Barr should all testify before Congress.

One man, a German citizen, said he is concerned about America’s fractured relationship with the rest of the world and Gillibrand said that on her first day as president she would “restore moral leadership,” including re-engaging in the Paris climate accords. She called the president’s failure “to stand up to Putin and the Saudis disgraceful” and so is his failure to support the Violence Against Women Act.

One woman complained that the press is giving male candidates more attention than female ones. Of the 20 Democrats officially running, six of them are women.

“I share your frustration, but it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said the candidate, who said she will campaign “living room to living room,” the same way “I won the Senate race – with town halls, not television.”

This was her second visit to New Hampshire and Friday she visited a Nashua brewery.

Kathy Cleveland may be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.