Primary Source: Gillibrand returns to Dartmouth, this time for 2020 campaign

  • John P. Gregg. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand walks Columbia’s Main Street farmers market ahead of a women’s luncheon Reed hosted for her in Columbia, S.C, on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. The New York Democrat is spending three days in the critical early-voting state of South Carolina as she explores a 2020 run for president. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard) Meg Kinnard

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/13/2019 9:00:47 PM
Modified: 2/14/2019 8:45:01 AM

Dartmouth College Democrats will have a familiar face on their turf on Saturday, as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand comes to campus as part of her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Gillibrand, a 1988 Dartmouth graduate, will speak at Alumni Hall at 3 p.m. in an event open to students and the general public.

It’s part of a two-day campaign swing that also includes stops in Concord, Keene, Dover and Exeter.

Gillibrand is one of five U.S. senators already in the race, along with Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Cory Booker, D-N.J., and the Democratic field is likely to wind up with more than a dozen major candidates.

Look for Gillibrand, who majored in Asian studies and was known then as Tina Rutnik, to emphasize that she is the first female graduate of Dartmouth to have been elected to Congress, a point her campaign made in a news release earlier this week.

Gillibrand campaigned in South Carolina last weekend and is slated to return to Iowa after her New Hampshire trip.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was campaigning in New Hampshire on Wednesday, and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, will be making his first trip to New Hampshire this weekend.

Some big questions at this point are whether former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders enter the race. Sanders has a large base of support from his 2016 run, of course, but must now split that progressive vote with several other candidates, including, possibly, a longtime ally, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Biden enjoys wide name recognition and is generally popular with Democrats, but he’ll turn 78 in 2020 and has run poorly as a presidential candidate before.

Montpelier resident Ken Dean, a longtime Democratic activist who worked for the presidential campaigns of Gary Hart and Jerry Brown, suggests that U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, could do well in the Iowa caucuses and use that as a springboard.

While a candidate like Biden might be expected to get around 26 percent of the vote, with Sanders around 20 percent, Dean said Gabbard, who served in Iraq with the Army National Guard, could be a “parfait” candidate whose slice of the caucus hits enough layers of the electorate — including centrists, millennials and veterans — to finish a breakout third in Iowa.

Yes, it’s a long year away, but Dean predicted Donald Trump’s win in 2016.

On the flip side

Earlier this week, one of Dartmouth’s most notorious graduates, conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza, paid a visit to campus. He pleaded guilty in 2014 to illegally using straw donors to give money to the campaign of Republican candidate Wendy Long, a friend from Dartmouth who had earlier challenged Gillibrand.

D’Souza, who was pardoned last year by Trump, graduated from Dartmouth in 1983 and was an early editor of the flame-throwing Dartmouth Review. A later book, The Enemy at Home, suggested that the “cultural left” was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And he wrote about Barack Obama and his Kenyan father in a way many regarded as racist.

In an appearance on Monday sponsored by Dartmouth Republicans and Young America’s Foundation, D’Souza opened with a line the college is unlikely to banner in any publicity campaign: “Quite truly,” D’Souza said of his Dartmouth days, “it changed my life. A lot of who I am and a lot of the way I think was, believe it or not, shaped here.”

Later in the speech, according to a video of the event, when asked about his rhetoric against illegal immigration, D’Souza said it was inexact to suggest immigrants created America. It was settlers, he said, or “colonizers,” as an antagonist suggested. “Colonizers create the country that immigrants want to come to,” D’Souza said. “Think of that paradox right there. In other words, if the colonizers were such horrible guys and have done such a botched-up job of creating this country, why on Earth today do immigrants from all over the world still want to come here?”

Much of the audience applauded his remarks, but a protester also held up a sign that read, “Outing you as a bigot.”

As D’Souza, who was accompanied by his daughter, Danielle D’Souza Gill, a 2017 Dartmouth graduate, left the hall, he walked past about a dozen protesters chanting, “Go home, racist,” according to a video Gill took and later discussed on Fox News Channel, a favorite outlet for her father.

Leahy vows a no vote on Barr

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Wednesday that he will vote against the nomination of William Barr to be attorney general.

Leahy supported Barr 28 years ago when he held the post in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, but recently said he was wary of Barr’s views on executive power, especially given Trump’s relentless attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation.

“Ultimately, I fear that Mr. Barr’s long-held views on executive power would essentially be weaponized by President Trump — a man who derides any limits on his authority,” Leahy said on the Senate floor.

“Let me be clear: I respect Mr. Barr. I do not doubt that he, as attorney general, would stand faithfully by his genuinely held convictions. But I do fear that this particular administration may simply need a much tighter leash.”

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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