F&L: Amy Klobuchar and the Klobucharmy

Our second-most-famous Slovenian-American is running for president, and I happen to think she’d do a fine job.  She’s intelligent, witty, thoughtful, and has scads of policy expertise.  She also, and quite famously, does not suffer fools gladly.

Perhaps you can see why I like her.

In the Not Fake News 2020 Scorecard, I accuse Klobuchar of deliberately using a shallow vocabulary.  Upon further examination, I find this to be true:  She usually talks like her audience is eight years old.  It’s in stark contrast to policy wonks like Yang and Warren, who talk a mile above the audience’s heads to enthusiastic applause, and it’s sharply unlike the wooden doggedness of Sanders.

But I’m no longer convinced that this is a result of deliberate choice.  She isn’t ashamed of her intellect; she isn’t working to conceal her brilliance.  She’s just being Midwest-polite; out of habit, she talks so her audience can understand her.  Make no mistake, though: beneath that friendly smile hides the razor-sharp mind of a Juris Doctor and former prosecutor for her home state of Minnesota.

Her entry into politics came at an unusual time:  when, as a new mother, she was forced to leave the hospital 24 hours after giving birth, regardless of complications with her child.  Many would have meekly obeyed; some would have complained.  Amy Klobuchar appeared before the Minnesota State Legislature championing a new bill that would correct this; her drive and passion helped ensure it became law, first in the state and then across the country.  (And yes, her daughter has turned out just fine.)

Since then she’s served in elected roles as County Attorney (equivalent to a District or State’s Attorney elsewhere) and then as Senator.  Her career has been remarkable; she helped write or sponsor far more legislation than most of her colleagues, and she’s popular both with her constituency and her party.  She’s also one of those rare politicians that’s willing to vote against the party line if pragmatism or conscience demands it; it’s unusual to find that trait in anyone that remains popular.

Her positions are much as one might expect, though far more numerous; the Issues page on her website apparently took far longer to write than it might have because she insisted it be complete.  Nothing is insanely radical; nothing is impracticable.  She doesn’t make any promises that can’t be delivered on.  When her opponents include Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang, that’s remarkable.  And, given her tendency to act quickly, she’s likely to accomplish more using incremental yet sensible change in her first hundred days than any other president during their entire tenure.

Against her is the accusation, often levied, that she’s “not nice”.  In 2019, the HuffPost published a scathing condemnation of her, accusing her of bursts of cruelty toward her staffers.  In response, 61 of her former staffers composed an open letter affirming that she was instead a friend and caring mentor.

It’s undeniable that she has high staff turnover; Politico reported that it was the highest among all sitting Senators.  But this is not at all a bad thing; she removes the incompetent swiftly, and she forces those who are working beneath their capacity to move onward to more challenging jobs.  Widely reported early in her campaign was an incident where, delivered a salad without utensils, she sacked the incompetent staffer and proceeded to adapt a comb to the task — to my mind an excellent indicator of her character, demonstrating fine executive ability alongside inventiveness.

(There are those whose stomach turns at the thought of using a comb as an eating utensil.  These people should not be in politics.  My only real criticism is that she was eating a salad in the first place, but I’m aware not everyone shares my biases, the fools.)

With all this, we find she’s also not lacking in a certain self-deprecating sense of humor.  When speaking of Melania Trump, she remarked, “She was born an hour away from where my relatives were from in Slovenia.  And every time I look at her, it’s like looking in the mirror.”

Detractors will point out that she’s not polling well outside her home state as an indication that she’ll be unable to defeat Trump.  This has been echoed so loud and for so long that major media is believing it — despite that she’s one of only three Democratic contenders with strong cross-party appeal:  her, Tulsi Gabbard, and Bernie Sanders.  It’s also true that we aren’t even at New Hampshire yet.  McCarthy went into New Hampshire in 1968 polling at 8% and came out with 42% — and as a result, Johnson dropped out of the race.  So we don’t know anything yet.

And the bottom line is and remains that Amy Klobuchar is a highly sensible and effective legislator, vastly competent and experienced both in domestic and foreign policy.

 

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