What could have been a softball Daily Show interview about Kristen Gillibrand’s campaign to reform military sexual assault got adversarial last night when John Oliver pressed the New York senator on her campaign donations from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. But Gillibrand held her own, and the results were pretty spectacular! In the second interview segment, she told Oliver she would prefer publicly financed elections, too, but for now she thinks her pro-financial-regulation voting record — the finer points of which Gillibrand, a former securities lawyer, happily explained to Oliver — speaks to her political independence.
And she did more than just survive an awkward back and forth. Gillibrand answered Oliver’s questions and went on to sympathetically tap into our national exasperation with income inequality (including giving some airtime to the unsexy but important-to-women issues included in Pelosi and DeRosa’s women’s economic agenda). “If you are working 40 hours a week, and you are earning $15,000, and you have two kids at home, that means you are $3,000 below the poverty line,” Gillibrand said. “We’re a country that rewards work, but no, instead it’s protecting banks, business as usual, and trying to make sure women can’t take contraceptives. I mean, honestly what’s wrong with this country?” She looked like someone who was running for president — and winning.