Amy Klobuchar: Beloved locally, exposed nationally

Amy Klobuchar wanted to hear the noise of the crowd that showed up for her announcement. She was probably less eager to hear questions about staffers' (plural) awful experiences in her office.

Amy Klobuchar wanted to hear the noise of the crowd that showed up for her announcement. She was probably less eager to hear questions about staffers' (plural) awful experiences in her office. Steve Cohen

Amy Klobuchar's running for president.

You probably already knew that. Actually you probably could've guessed it some months ago, when Klobuchar's fierce prosecutorial dissection of Brett Kavanaugh left him red in the face and panting for breath. That moment was Amy's star turn: she got national plaudits, even a Saturday Night Live impression, and made clear she's a formidable thinker and asker of questions.

She's also incredibly popular in Minnesota, approved by some 58 percent of us, as of January. Polls and election results prove Klobuchar's reach-across-the-aisle, aw-shucks persona is a near-perfect fit for this state's electorate. She's unbeatable here. Had she been on the ballot for president in 2016 instead of Hillary Clinton, Klobuchar would've trounced Donald Trump so bad he would've tried selling this state to the French in exchange for one year of free flights to Paris for Melania.

Klobuchar could probably win against Trump in 2020, too -- maybe nationally, even. She's savvy enough to offer love and attention to neighboring Wisconsin, a state Hillary's campaign overlooked, despite its status as something of a "rival" to Minnesota. Clinton infamously took Wisconsin for granted, whereas Klobuchar is starting things off there.

But first, she held a gloriously snowy speech announcement in Minneapolis yesterday, telling a cold but enthused audience she was "running for this job for every person who wants their work recognized and rewarded," per the Star Tribune.

She pledged to work hard and "look you in the eye," if elected. Let's assume this is true.


She was also asked about a recent BuzzFeed story, which explored in detail stories of staff unhappiness and turnover. This is no small matter. The headline contained the words "wrath toward her aides." The anecdotes included were troubling.

Klobuchar's response Sunday was to admit she's "tough." No kidding; she proved it by boldly giving a 20-minute speech while getting snowed on in cold weather.

But there's a difference between toughness and "wrath," isn't there? Here's some of what BuzzFeed found:

Behind the doors of her Washington, DC, office, the Minnesota Democrat ran a workplace controlled by fear, anger, and shame, according to interviews with eight former staffers, one that many employees found intolerably cruel. She demeaned and berated her staff almost daily, subjecting them to bouts of explosive rage and regular humiliation within the office, according to interviews and dozens of emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News...

“I cried. I cried, like, all the time,” said one former staffer.
In the emails seen by BuzzFeed, often sent between 1 and 4 in the morning, Klobuchar regularly berated employees, often in all capital letters, over minor mistakes, misunderstandings, and misplaced commas. Klobuchar, in the emails, which were mostly sent over the past few years, referred to her staff’s work as “the worst in ...years,” and “the worst in my life.”
When staffers made mistakes, the emails show, she reamed them out — and sometimes, emails show, threatened to fire them — over threads that included many of their colleagues...

“I've always been taught that your true character shows in how you treat those with less power than you, especially behind closed doors,” said a third former staffer. “The way Sen. Klobuchar behaves in private with her staff is very different than when she’s in the public eye, and that kind of cruelty shouldn't be acceptable for anyone.”
HuffPost reported this week that at least three people had declined to take jobs on the senator’s potential presidential campaign because of her reputation with her staff.

That sounds bad, doesn't it?

Is it not a troubling sign if multiple people who've worked with you closely complain not that you're "tough," but... abusive? If the word "wrath" is invoked to describe your working relationship with younger, less powerful employees, who felt like you might be trying to hurt their careers -- and/or: will no longer work for you -- isn't that... a sign of something that needs to be addressed?

The current president is a terrible employer. That's obvious based on the turnover within his cabinet. (Plus, just, like, his whole despicable career as a "boss.") But if this country's looking to replace him with someone who could get more done and get more out of her staff, it's not clear Amy Klobuchar is the woman for the job.

If she'd had clashes with just one staffer over the years, maybe two or three, we could make excuses. (And as Minnesotans, would feel obligated to.) It's a high pressure job, and she was trying to build a reputation as the most effective U.S. Senator in the country and most popular politician in her state.

But if a number of them tell tales of your mistreatment, and if you lead the pack  in the Senate for turnover rate (36 percent annually, or roughly 8-9 people quitting every year off a staff of 20-plus) you've got something to answer for. 

No one ever said the former Hennepin County Attorney isn't "tough." (Ask that arrested development frat boy Brett Kavanaugh; he'll show you the wounds he's still nursing.) What we're led to wonder is: Is she as nice behind closed doors as she seems on television? Would the right people sign up to work for her? 

And, maybe most troubling of all: Did Buzzfeed's story contain every managerial sin Klobuchar's ever committed, or are there other shoes that may still be ready to drop? This state just ousted a defiant U.S. Senator over allegations he'd been untoward with women. What should it think of one whose behavior regularly left an employee crying at work?

Anyway: Go, Amy, go! And please come up with a better response to these questions than bragging about the "many great stories of our staff, who have been with me for years, that have gone on to do incredible things."

You know better than anyone that some of your staff could not stand to be there "for years," and if they've gone on to do "incredible things," it wasn't because of your embarrassing late-night/early-morning emails or the objects you threw while in their presence.