Gabrielle Giffords' extraordinary recovery has achieved new milestones: Speaking full sentences and mouthing the words to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby." It's clearly time to talk about her running for Senate next year now that Jon Kyl has announced retirement.
That's what Politico reports Democrats are doing behind closed doors, and even on the record. In fact, even Republicans are talking, glowingly, about it on the record — it turns out that getting shot is basically the only thing that ensures no one will say anything negative about you, at least for now.
The other frontrunner, should she be interested, would be Janet Napolitano. (How's that for frontier women, however checkered Arizona politics can otherwise be?)
On the one hand, it would be disrespectful to Giffords to make any assumptions that automatically count her out of politics. On the other, doesn't this seem like an awful lot of pressure, given the complexities of major head injuries? It turns out all of those glowing pieces about her recovery are helping grease the path:
The idea that Giffords might ever run for office again - let alone run statewide in 2012 — was practically unthinkable just a month ago, when alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on a constituent event Giffords was holding, killing six people and leaving Giffords critically wounded.
But since then, almost every week has brought a remarkable new update about Giffords's medical condition.
Like this week! Here's a piece in the Times today with a wealth of such updates, including the song-mouthing. Giffords is doing rehabilitation exercises and speaking in full sentences. Kirsten Gillibrand slept over, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz left very optimistic. Her chief of staff said, "It's not like she's speaking the way she spoke, but she is vocalizing and making progress every day. She's working very hard. She's determined. It's a tight schedule. A copy of it is hanging on her door."
Because her own doctors are protecting Giffords' privacy beyond what announcements there have been, the Times is forced to interview other specialists, who, like the plastic surgeons and psychiatrists in Us Weekly, have not treated Giffords.
But we do know she's been told of Kyl's pending retirement. "We tell her everything that's going on," the spokeswoman said. "Don't get the idea she's speaking in paragraphs, but she definitely understands what we're saying and she's verbalizing."
Speaking in paragraphs is clearly a more immediate goal than running for Senate, though who knows what things will look like a year from now. Still, it's useful to caution against, as Daily Intel's Chris Rovzar did, almost a month ago, spinning or buying media narratives that set Giffords up as an almost-martyr and then a savior: "it would be an additional, needless tragedy if the breathless coverage of her rehabilitation eventually turned sour, or if the inevitable setbacks and delays made her already amazing recovery seem any less like a miracle. Hopefully, in rehab, she'll be able to recover away from the scrutiny of the 24-hour news cycle, and when she does emerge, we will still be surprised by something wonderful."
The subsequent weeks have proved that it's too much to wish away the scrutiny, and the cliches it brings. Even Politico's inside-baseball story is unable to approach Giffords' future without the meaningless platitudes of tragedy. Says a Republican mayoral candidate: "She's alive today because she's a good person." And if Loughner had succeeded in killing her, would that have obviated her goodness?
Obviously not. (That would have ushered in a different set of cliches). And yeah, we would love Giffords to emerge from the tragedy and you know, become president. But let's hold off.