Amy K., giant of the Senate

Former funnyman Al Franken titled his poorly timed memoir Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, just before Chuck Schumer shoved him and Franken resigned. Franken posed for the self-mocking cover of his memoir. The title and the photograph made a small concession to self-awareness, or to the public relations value of pretending self-awareness, but he deserved credit for the thought. It was a joke.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar pretends no such self-awareness. With the active assistance of her hometown newspaper and its equally lame counterparts on the national stage, Klobuchar holds herself out as a giant of the Senate. She has a certain genius for avoiding outspoken stands on important issues and leading the way on trivial matters calculated to garner broad public support. If she secures a favorable headline or two in the process, it’s no coincidence. It is the object of her efforts.

Senator Klobuchar is a reliable vote for the Democratic Party line, but she is quiet about it. She doesn’t want to upset anybody. She wants the reputation of a problem-solver who is above nasty partisanship. She wants to be deemed a giant of the Senate, without the irony.

Klobuchar wants more than anything else to preside over an era of good feelings — of good feelings about Amy Klobuchar. Senator Klobuchar has frequently had the assistance of the Star Tribune in her efforts. The Star Tribune isn’t about to relent now that Klobuchar is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Star Tribune reporter Patrick Condon examines one of Klobuchar’s old talking points in “Amy Klobuchar’s Senate bills steer clear of the partisan divide.” Klobuchar brags about her success in getting legislation through the Senate. Condon finds that Klobuchar’s bragging is not just hot air, although he does quote Republican spokesman Preya Samsundar to the contrary: “She always tried to avoid anything controversial. But if a dog dies on an airplane, she’s the first one to step up.”

Having examined the merits of Klobuchar’s legislative braggadocio myself a while back, I concur with Preya. Senator Klobuchar attaches her name to many bills that don’t amount to much, such as (my personal favorite) the proposed 2015 bill to resolve the crisis of the detergent pod. It represents the reductio ad absurdum of the vacuity to which Klobuchar has reduced herself in the service of self-promotion. Klobuchar relies on such vacuity to present herself as the true giant of the Senate.

In 2017 Senator Klobuchar appeared on the Comedy Channel’s Daily Show. “Daily Show host Trevor Noah gave [her] a gushing welcome Tuesday night,” according to the Star Tribune’s Maya Rao. So you know it must have been bad (video excerpt below from local news coverage). Warning: Viewing may induce nausea.

Noah pointed out that Senator Klobuchar had been ranked as the most productive senator in terms of getting bills passed into law. That’s supposed to be a good thing.

Noah had no idea what he was talking about. He was relying on data compiled by Medill News Service from the tracking website GovTrack for the 114th Congress (Jan 6, 2015-Jan 3, 2017). Klobuchar was found to have sponsored or co-sponsored 27 bills that had been enacted into law in the session.

Klobuchar touted her accomplishment in a December 2016 press release. The Star Tribune dutifully followed up in a story by Allison Sherry entirely lacking in analysis.

In terms of “productivity,” Franken ranked right up there with Klobuchar. Perhaps Franken really was a giant of the Senate.

Klobuchar earned recognition with 27 bills that she sponsored or co-sponsored. They were set forth here. Five of the 27 bills concerned naming or renaming federal facilities. The late 18-term Eighth District Congressman Jim Oberstar loomed large in Klobuchar’s accomplishment, such as it was. Most of the rest of the bills carrying Klobuchar’s name amounted to little more than nothing. Even so, Klobuchar’s bill to resolve the crisis of the detergent pod apparently didn’t make it. (She claimed credit for action taken by Procter & Gamble on its own.)

In his story today, Condon provides a current review Klobuchar’s legislative accomplishments and finds more substance and less humor in them than I do. You be the judge.