"This is an important issue to me, as the first woman to be nursing while a senator in the history of America."
Our junior senator made this statement at last week's first-ever "Summit on Breastfeeding" in Washington. The nature of the event explains her graphic candor, but the fact that she was so eager to speak there in the first place highlights the key to her public-relations strategy ahead of next year's election: She is the Senator Who Is a Working Mother.
Examine Gillibrand's public statements and page through her press release archive, and you'll find the same dependent cause used over and over: "As a working mother of two…" Often, it has little obvious relationship to the main clause of the sentence.
When she participated in a round-table discussion hosted by a nonprofit education group in Syracuse, her press release read: "As a working mother of two, Senator Gillibrand is a strong voice for New York schools and students." For an agricultural summit in Ithaca, her press release informed us that "as a working mother of two, Senator Gillibrand understands what families and businesses are up against in these challenging economic times."
The same clause pops up in press releases about a speech to the U.S Chamber of Commerce and abortion legislation.
Tactically, this is smart. Her message is predicated on the notion that everyone loves a mother. And in politics, you're not delivering your message unless you repeat it over and over and over.
George Wallace, the old Alabama segregationist, responded to any reporter's question on any subject during his presidential campaign in 1972 by talking only about forced busing. Reporters finally thought they had Wallace cornered after Richard Nixon's historic meeting with Mao Zedong.
Wallace's response: "I'll bet you that when he was in Red China, he and Mao talked more about busing than anything else."