Notes on Gillibrand

The Washington Post covers Kirsten Gillibrand’s entrance into the presidential race with this report by Jenna Johnson. I have several observations.

First, Johnson quotes Gillibrand as saying, “I’m going to run for president of the United States because, as a young mom, I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own.” (Emphasis added) Gillibrand is 52 years old.

Gillibrand’s wishful thinking aside, anyone who says she would fight for other people’s kids as hard as for her own is either a liar or a bad parent.

Second, Johnson notes that, when running for the Senate last year, Gillibrand promised that, if elected, she would serve her six-year term and not challenge President Trump in 2020. Two days after being elected, she said she was considering a run.

Third, Johnson reports that during the 1990s, Gillibrand, then a corporate lawyer in New York, helped represent Phillip Morris amid a federal investigation. The New York Times discussed her significant role in the representation of the tobacco company giant here.

Johnson says that Gillibrand has “struggled to defend” this representation. Based on the Times’ article, I think the characterization is fair.

I don’t have a problem with lawyers representing unsavory clients. During the 1990s, I worked on a team that defended an accused (and later convicted) war criminal from Bosnia.

During the same period, the law firm I was with at the time represented Phillip Morris, perhaps in matters related to the one Gillibrand handled. In 1999, I was asked, as I had been with less urgency before, to join the Phillip Morris defense team.

I declined. I was willing to defend a guy who may have been responsible for serious crimes as he tried to defend his community in an embattled Croat enclave in Bosnia during a civil war, but unwilling to defend corporate executives who sat in fancy suites trying to figure out how to get my kids to start smoking.

Gillibrand was willing to defend them. I don’t hold it against her, any more than I held it against my friends and colleagues at the firm that they were on the Phillip Morris team. My decision not to join was based on personal considerations.

I just find it amusing that Gillibrand, according to the Post, is “struggling” to defend her representation of Phillip Morris. She shouldn’t have to defend it, any more than I should have to defend my decision to help represent the Bosnian Croat.

But Gillibrand is an ambitious member of what may be the world’s most sanctimonious political party. Thus, she will have to tie herself in knots defending her innocent decision to represent Phillip Morris.

The defense can’t be “I had no choice.” Corporate lawyers always have a choice.


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