Monday, November 14, 2011
There's going to be an avalanche of information about Gabrielle Giffords this week, from the 20/20 interview tonight to tomorrow's release of Mark Kelly's memoir Gabby, but Steve Fishman's feature in the November 21st issue of New York magazine (but online now) jumps out for me personally, partially because it discusses Giffords' internal conflict over staying in politics, even before the January 8th shooting. However, what will probably be the most notable portion of the story involves the question no one seems to want to address, Giffords' political future (and by extension, Mark Kelly's):
The fact that Giffords hasn’t yet declared her intentions is itself an element of her political power. No one dares declare a candidacy or raise campaign funds while this courageous woman fights against the odds. A website, giffordsislying.com, that had backed her opponent now shows a single page, a prayer for her swift recovery.
The book changes this equation. No doubt, it will generate positive feeling toward Giffords, but it could also limit her options. “It will draw attention to her ability to run,” said one staffer.
And her recovery, impressive as it has been, is not over. “If she had to declare today, she couldn’t run,” said a longtime friend.
For some, reclaiming her old seat has become the sine qua non of her recovery, part of its definition. In the book she offers a simple, heartfelt declaration: “I will get stronger. I will return.” But there are other options if it takes longer than expected. One of the daydreams floating through the corridors of Washington these days is that Kelly will step in. “He’s really accomplished. And there’s the popularity that both of them enjoy. Plus his biography would make him compelling,” said an influential Democrat. Kelly was already speaking for her, endorsing candidates on her behalf, which led to media reports like “Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords support …” It was a version of Bill Clinton’s buy-one-get-one-free boast about Hillary.
The Democratic Establishment reached out to Kelly when Republican senator John Kyl decided not to seek reelection. Kelly rebuffed them at that point. (Now Dr. Richard Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general and close Giffords ally, is going to run for the seat.) “She’s the politician in the family,” he said recently. “I’m the space guy. And I see no reason to change that …”—he left the door open—“… now.”