In the run-up to what will probably be an overwrought presidential election year, it has become received wisdom that Democrats are looking for a “moderate” candidate as a foil to all the far-left progressives who’ve been lining up to announce their candidacy. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders (assuming he pledges to run as a Democrat) — the list of immoderate leftists keeps growing.
So when Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced for president last week, some commentators seized hopefully on her reputation as a “moderate.” That’s not the message Klobuchar herself wanted to send. But pundits were suggesting it gave the party something to work with; i.e., some place to go, something to talk about, beyond stratospheric tax rates and the “Green New Deal.”
Others cautioned that Klobuchar is well known for something else, and that something is a bad temper. Both before and after her formal announcement on Monday, February 11, quite a number of left-wing media outlets (and a few on the right) were putting up pieces about how poorly she treated her staff. Anecdotes involved daunting reports like this one:
She yelled, threw papers, and sometimes even hurled objects; one aide was accidentally hit with a flying binder, according to someone who saw it happen, though the staffer said the senator did not intend to hit anyone with the binder when she threw it.
“I cried. I cried, like, all the time,” said one former staffer.
Klobuchar was reportedly even rebuked by the Democratic Senate leadership for this problematic pattern. As Graeme Wood says at The Atlantic, the evidence of “guilt” in this respect seems to be overwhelming.
He wonders if it’s disqualifying, however, observing that “politics ain’t beanbag.” Wood seems to have a certain respect for what Klobuchar accomplished in her questioning of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018; e.g., “As a matter of politics, her questions had sown the desired doubt about Kavanaugh’s temper, and like a good student of Sun Tzu, she knew better than to interrupt him while he was making a mistake.” Is it necessarily a bad thing if she throws a few binders, as long as she can knock political opponents off stride with combative repartee?
We may not get the answer to that particular question, largely because political reputations aren’t beanbag either. Throwing binders and berating staff sound kind of generic, like situations that may be exaggerated by whiners. But bizarre, unhygienic episodes really do gross voters out, and they tend to speak for themselves, and go viral.
Such is the report from the New York Times on Friday that in 2008, while she was on travel to South Carolina, Klobuchar had an aide get a salad for her before their flight. The aide was also dealing with her bags, and in his progress through the airport “fumbled” the set of plastic utensils for the salad. Once Klobuchar was on the aircraft with her salad, she discovered there was no cutlery to eat it with. Apparently, because it was a short flight, the cabin crew had nothing to offer her either.
According to the aide, Klobuchar took a hair comb out of her purse, used it to scoop up the salad and eat it, and then told the aide to clean the comb for her.
One suspects this was a hair-pinning comb rather than one used for grooming. Either way, it presumably had a prior history with the senator’s hair. Perhaps it also had a subsequent history with her hair. The comb, and some amount of salad parts and dressing, certainly had a history with the aide’s fingers after this event.
The public can cruise past a lot of mental images in scrutinizing a presidential candidate. But this one is likely to stick in many a craw as … disqualifying.