As the world waits breathlessly for the word from Hillary. As the demurrals by Elizabeth Warren mount. As the passion stirs in the likes of Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb. In other words, as the Democratic landscape darkens with doubt, which political warrior could stand up to the survivor of the oncoming GOP slugfest in 2016?
Sure, there’s hardly time to think of such things, what with Super Bowl ads to watch.
But a thought occurred on Thursday as I fielded a stream of press releases — six of them over the course of the day — issued by the office of Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
Just a week ago, McCaskill was painstakingly touting her new leadership role — albeit in the minority — on an important Senate oversight committee. This panel was once known as the Truman Committee, in the 1940s, when, yes, the man from Independence was in the Senate and shining a spotlight on waste in military contracts. And, yes, Harry Truman soon leapt from the Senate to the vice presidency, and then, of course, to the Oval Office. Truman’s legacy went far beyond Show-Me; it was quite a record of Missouri Can-Do.
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So Thursday’s inbox became an exercise in wondering whether McCaskill was channeling the Truman factor.
▪ “NY Times on McCaskill blasting the withholding of information in Afghanistan,” read the headline on the first release of the day. McCaskill’s office highlighted her appearance in a New York Times story, lambasting Gen. John F. Campbell for suddenly classifying information about U.S. troops and spending in Afghanistan.
This is McCaskill speaking up for the American people’s right to know how their money is being used. And remember that thing about Truman and military spending?
▪ “McCaskill: Eliminating Pentagon Budget Cuts ‘most imperative bipartisan challenge we have.’” McCaskill argues to end sequestration in military spending, as President Barack Obama proposed.
Another show of military expertise.
▪ “Weeks After Paris Attacks, Republicans’ Threatened Homeland Security Shutdown is ‘irresponsible’ — McCaskill.” McCaskill joined a chorus of Democrats seeking to remove an immigration debate from a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security.
McCaskill plays partisan card but seems like reasonable defender of nation’s security.
▪ “Continuing Longstanding Support, McCaskill Votes to Approve Keystone.” The Senator aligns with the Republican effort to duel with the president over the long-debated pipeline. In a follow-up, McCaskill submits an OpEd piece explaining her position.
McCaskill displays her bipartisanship, her independence and, though she might very well be wrong on the issue, her consistency.
▪ “Ex-DHS secretaries warn Congress not to ‘risk funding for the operations that protect every American.’” McCaskill’s office circulates a Washington Post story that buttresses her support for a “clean” bill to fund Homeland Security without the GOP’s effort to torpedo Obama’s immigration action.
See, McCaskill emphasizes, I’m on the side of reason.
This would all be speculative nonsense had, later the same day, McCaskill not appeared on Rachel Maddow’s show and received a teasing introduction that suggested our Democratic senator from Missouri would be hands-down the party’s best presidential alternative if Hillary Clinton decided not to run.
When Maddow pressed her on whether she would consider it, McCaskill’s response was a meager, “I doubt it.”
McCaskill bowed out of a run for Missouri governor in 2016. With her party out of power in the Senate, she certainly has not let up on the pedal of her outspokenness or the level of her attention-getting legislative activities. Perhaps, in this season of trial balloons and political jockeying, other options will present themselves.