Gabrielle Giffords Steals the Show

August 2, 2011

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Last night was supposed to be all about the House voting on the bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.  A compromise had been reached, and the Republican House and the Democratic Senate were poised to pass a bill and send it to the President for his quick signature.  Crisis averted, economy back on track, cue the chorus of Hallelujah.  The United State of America could once again return to what we do best – spending money!

Suddenly, in a moment, the political wrangling had been shoved to the side.  The politicians put their ideological differences aside and welcomed back one of their own.  Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), still in recovery from a January assassination attempt, entered the chamber and cast her vote.

It’s worth noting that Giffords, a Democrat, did not return on Friday to help her party defeat the Boehner.v3 bill – which squeaked through with a 218-210 vote.  Instead, she returned to support a bipartisan effort last night.  In truth, her vote wasn’t necessary to secure passage of the bill, as it sailed through by a 269-161 margin.  There’s much to be learned from Giffords’ actions – it is a time to work together, rather than being quite so adversarial.

What does the future hold for congresswoman Giffords?  I hope this is a sign that she will be able to resume her full duties before long.  One of many unfortunate effects of Jared Loughner’s rampage is that her constituents have been without representation in congress.  (A sidebar – perhaps we need to prevent this situation from occurring in the future?  Allow a temporary replacement to be appointed in situations where a legislator is temporarily incapacitated.)

Will she run for re-election in 2012?  I think House Democratic leaders will strongly urge her to do so.  If there was ever a candidate who was a slam-dunk for re-election, it’s Giffords.  Short of a major scandal (along the lines of embezzlement), I’m not sure she can lose.  Her opponents may point out ideological differences, but will this be enough to outweigh public sentiment in her favor?

The fact of the matter is that it’s quite easy to paint Giffords as a martyr for democracy.  She wasn’t shot as she was lounging around the pool or eating filet mignon at an upscale restaurant.  She was shot in the line of duty.  Not even at some mundane committee meeting in a far away building in D.C. – but at an event (Congress on Your Corner) where she was actively soliciting feedback from her constituents.  It wouldn’t take a spin master to turn this to her great advantage.

Is it wrong to play on the sympathy of the public for political gain?  Of course not.  This is politics, where you push every advantage and the game is no holds barred.


(Let us not forget the six people that died in the January shooting – Christina-Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, Judge Roll, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard, and Giffords staffer Gabe Zimmerman.)

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